A ruling in June by a German court that the routine circumcision of male infants is tantamount to child abuse has reignited a long-standing controversy about the practice.

The removal of young boys’ foreskins is both a routine religious practice for devout followers of the tenets of Judaism and Islam, and a medical procedure recommended by a substantial number of doctors.

After the Cologne court’s verdict, which involved a Muslim defendant, a rabbi in Bavaria was charged with inflicting harm on an infant and the Danish goverment convened a panel to study making the practice illegal.

The court ruling was protested by Muslim and Jewish leaders, with the latter claiming that the decision represented more than a hint of historic antipathy to the Jewish faith.

However, the ruling was criticized by Chancellor Angela Merkel, and national legislation has been introduced to protect the practice.

Now the American Academy of Pediatrics, which represents pediatricians across the Unted States, has released a policy statement that says the health benefits of male circumcision far outweigh any risks it might offer.

The AAP formerly had refrained from recommending it, so this new stand is a significant change.

While the group stops short of saying the procedure should be universal, instead recommending that parents and doctors should concur before it is performed, the AAP says circumcision reduces chances of contracting HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases and lowers the odds of urinary tract infections and cancer of the penis.

About 1 million U.S. male babies are circumcised annually, half of the total who are born; but not all insurers cover the $200-to-$600 procedure, and Medicaid plans in 18 states have stopped funding it.

That’s no reason to prohibit it, however — especially since informed medical opinion and constitutional guarantees of religious freedom overlap.

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