Germany's parliament passed a resolution Thursday endorsing the right of Muslim and Jewish parents to have sons circumcised.
The resolution, passed by a large majority on a show of hands, has no binding legal effect.
It was aimed at calming an international outcry against a verdict last month in a Cologne court which ruled that the circumcision of a baby boy by a Muslim doctor was a bodily-harm offence.
The government is expected to draft legislation later this year to protect doctors performing male circumcisions from prosecution.
Although Chancellor Angela Merkel has warned that prohibiting the religious practice would make Germany a laughing stock, surveys show large numbers of Germans are hostile to circumcision and want it outlawed.
Christine Lambrecht, a Social Democratic legislator, said many Germans had written to her charging that a legal exemption for Jews and Muslims would also permit a practice in some African and Middle Eastern nations known as female circumcision.
"Genital mutilation has nothing to do with the circumcision of boys," she said. "That is a crime and it will stay that way."
The Left Party opposed infant circumcision on the grounds that a baby cannot consent. One of its legislators, Jens Petermann, told the parliament: "A decision by the parents cannot prevail over the consent of the child himself."
A survey by the YouGov polling company for dpa found 45 percent of Germans want circumcision to be outlawed, 42 percent want it kept legal and 13 percent had no opinion.
Some 55 percent said they did not believe a legal ban on circumcision would lead hostility to Germany abroad. The circumcision of boys for non-religious reasons is rare in Germany.
The parliamentary resolution was jointly drafted by legislators from Merkel's coalition and opposition Social Democrats and Greens.
"The Bundestag urges the government to propose a bill in autumn 2012 which, taking account of the constitutional values of child welfare, physical freedom from injury, religious freedom and parents' upbringing rights, ensures that the medically competent circumcision of boys without unnecessary pain remains basically permissible," it said.
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