There were two interesting circumcision stories yesterday. A new Johns Hopkins study argued that fewer circumcisions meant reduced male health and an extra $2.5 billion burden on the health care system. The Global Post reports:

Researchers at Johns Hopkins said that the 25 percent drop in circumcisions could cost the US health system upwards of $2.5 billion and rise from there.


“We find that each circumcision not performed will lead to $313 of increased expenditures over that lifetime,” said senior research Aaron Tobian, of the Johns Hopkins University team that conducted the study, reported AFP.

The AFP piece quotes Tobian further:

“If there were a vaccine to prevent HIV acquisition, genital herpes, HPV, penile and cervical cancer, bacterial vaginosis and trichomoniasis, the medical community would rally behind this intervention as a game-changing tool to reduce sexually transmitted infections.”


And that is just what circumcision, a procedure to remove the foreskin, does, according to three randomized trials, “the gold standard of medical evidence,” he maintained.

The other story is from Germany, where charges were filed against Rabbi David Goldberg for performing circumcisions, following a court ruling banning the circumcision of minors.

Rejecting a parents’ right to perform a brit milah rejects the following principles:

  • Religious rights should not be restricted for trivial reasons.
  • Commitment to God and connection to a community trump the penis’s perfection and pleasure.
  • The human male is created imperfect and his drive to sex and power must be restrained and directed.
  • Government power is limited.
  • Parents have responsibilities and rights in making decisions for their children.
  • There are significant benefits to maintaining our connections to our ancestors, our community, and our traditions.
A rite of passage and a basic human right. A circumcision ceremony in the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron (photo credit: Gershon Elinson/Flash90)

A rite of passage and a basic human right. A circumcision ceremony in the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron (photo credit: Gershon Elinson/Flash90)

The argument would be more complicated if the medical evidence clearly demonstrated that circumcision was harmful. But if anything, the medical evidence leans the other way. The major arguments against circumcision seem largely to come down to dubious claims regarding aesthetics, pleasure, and nature’s alleged perfection.

Denying parents the right to perform a brit milah on their son is a flagrant overreach of governmental power over parental and religious rights. It’s ironic that this overreach is precisely on an issue designed to remind us that man must curb his innate desire for absolute power and pleasure.

Of course it’s also possible that the ban is simply an attempt to get Muslims and Jews to not live in Germany. In which case, I applaud the judge for his restrained solution to the Muslim and Jewish problem.