— by Steve Sheffey
Something is not right about a candidate for President of the United States ignoring a request from Elie Wiesel.
It’s now been more than eight months since Holocaust survivor and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Elie Wiesel asked Mitt Romney to “speak to his own church and say they should stop” performing posthumous proxy baptisms on Jews, including Jews who perished in the Holocaust.
The Huffington Post reported on February 14, 2012 that Wiesel, who has devoted his life to fighting intolerance, said that the posthumous baptisms were “not only objectionable” but “scandalous.” Said Wiesel:
“I wonder if as a candidate for the presidency Mitt Romney is aware of what his church is doing. I hope that if he hears about this that he will speak up.”
But as I wrote in April, Romney didn’t speak up. In an email accidentally sent to the Huffington Post reporter, Romney spokeswoman Gail Gitcho suggested that the campaign ignore the request. And so they have, for eight months.
Even after the Boston Globe reported on February 29, 2012 that members of the Mormon Church posthumously baptized Daniel Pearl, the reporter killed by Islamic terrorists whose last words were an affirmation of his Judaism, Romney said nothing in response to Wiesel’s request.
More after the jump.
The issue is not whether Romney is responsible for this Mormon practice, nor is the issue Romney’s religion. The issue is Romney’s insensitivity to other religious beliefs and concerns, as evidenced by his disrespect for Elie Wiesel, one of the leading moral voices of our time.
Romney can say Wiesel is right about the Mormon Church. Romney can say Wiesel is wrong about the Mormon Church. Romney can say it’s none of Wiesel’s business about the Mormon Church. Instead, Romney says nothing.
Elie Wiesel finds the practice objectionable and scandalous. It’s easy to see why. Some may think that these Mormons aren’t hurting anyone because they are baptizing dead people, but for many people, posthumous baptism is offensive for the same reason spitting on a grave is offensive.
The Boston Globe explained that
“Mormons baptize deceased Jews and members of other religions as part of a rite intended to give them access to salvation… In 1995, the church, after meeting with Jewish leaders, agreed to stop baptizing Holocaust victims. Current church policy encourages church members to baptize their ancestors, but does not explicitly forbid the baptism of deceased Jews and people of other faiths.”
Why won’t Romney answer Elie Wiesel’s questions about where he stands on this practice?
John F. Kennedy addressed concerns about his allegiance to the Pope. Joseph Lieberman addressed concerns about whether his Sabbath observance would interfere with his duties as Vice President. Jack Lew addressed questions about whether his religious beliefs would interfere with his duties as President Obama’s chief of staff. Yet when called upon by one of the leading moral authorities of our generation, Mitt Romney says nothing.
Romney is running for president. He is answerable not just to Elie Wiesel, but to the American people. Did Romney himself ever participate in posthumous baptisms of Jews or anyone else? Does Romney understand why many Jews find this practice so offensive and if so, what is Romney’s position on this practice?
“Throughout the campaign, Romney has had a bad habit of not being open about his past actions. His holding back of most of his tax returns is the most public example. It is imperative that Romney answer the proxy baptism question. He and his supporters have criticized President Barack Obama’s supposed disrespect of Israel. But how can Romney possibly respect Israel or the Jewish people if he can’t respect the history of either?”