"I'm a circumcised male, I expect that I have the right to become a Catholic or Protestant or Buddhist or atheist if I choose to today. But what the court is saying is that if I am circumcised I am a Jew," he said. "There's a very dark and very illiberal view of what this mark does on the individual."
Around 250,000 Jews live in Germany today, and about 4 million Muslims — the largest minority among Germany's 82 million population.
Spinner said the ruling has the potential of opening the door to even greater restrictions on religious freedom for minorities — a particularly sensitive issue in Germany given the years of state-imposed anti-Jewish measures under the Nazis that preceded the Holocaust.
"Germany needs to understand that if they want to tolerate Jews then they need to tolerate Judaism," Spinner said.
Chancellor Angela Merkel acknowledged the same concern behind closed doors in a meeting this week with her party leaders, saying "I don't want Germany to be the only country in the world in which Jews cannot perform their rituals," according to an official who was present.
Immediately following the court ruling, however, Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle was alone among top officials to speak out on the issue. He offered assurances that "the free exercise of religion is protected in Germany — that includes religious traditions."
In the past week, however, Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert has weighed in several times, promising that the government will come up with a solution that will allow the practice.
And in Parliament on Thursday, lawmakers from several parties adopted a resolution urging the government to draft a new law by the fall guaranteeing Muslims and Jews the right to continue circumcising their boys.
"Jewish and Muslim religious life must continue to be possible in Germany," the lawmakers said in the two-page resolution. "The circumcision of boys for Jews and Muslims has a central religious importance."
Had the government spoken out strongly sooner, said Goldberg, Germany may have managed to prevent the discussion from turning into an "us vs. them" embroilment.
"I get a lot of emails from non-Jewish Germans saying things like 'if you don't like it, leave Germany' — very anti-Semitic. It's a bad atmosphere," said the rabbi, who immigrated to Germany 19 years ago from Israel and now lives in the southeastern city of Hof.
"Nobody said anything aside from Westerwelle, so that is also partially the fault of the government."
Joerg van Essen, parliamentary chief whip of the Free Democrats, Merkel's junior coalition partner, said that drafting the resolution to protect circumcisions took time because lawmakers needed to carefully balance constitutionally guaranteed religious freedoms and parental rights with the safety of the child.
"It's a relatively small procedure for the child, but banning it would be a big encroachment on religious freedom and the right of the parents to decide how to raise their children," he said.
Furer said he hoped that the circumcision debate would be expose more Germans to other religious ideas.
"I think a lot of Germans don't understand our religion and our religious issues," he said.
Associated Press correspondent Frank Jordans contributed to this report.
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