Religion is secularized tradition: the case of Jewish and Muslim circumcisions in Germany

A distinctive feature of modern state public law is how it produces, rather than is preceded by, the category demarcated as “religion.” This paper explores how secular legal reasoning, at a broad and abstract level, regulates Islamic and Jewish traditions by limiting them within the three nodes of individual belief, a divinely ordained legal code, and public threat, which may be termed the “secularization triangle.” The secularization triangle signifies not the separation of state from religion; rather, quite to the contrary, the secularization triangle clarifies how state law construes (or rather misconstrues) traditions as “religions.” Instead of accommodating traditions, states control religions. The article’s case study is the recent controversy surrounding circumcision in Germany.