|Holocaust Survivor Calls Out Romney Over Proxy Baptisms |
Elie Wiesel wants the GOP hopeful to tell the Mormon church to stop posthumously baptizing Jews killed in the Holocaust.
By Rachael Levy
Posted Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2012, at 5:41 PM ET
Prominent Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel wants Mitt Romney to urge the Mormon church to abandon its practice of posthumously baptizing Jews, some of whom died in concentration camps during World War II.
In an interview with the Huffington Post, the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Wiesel said that Romney "should speak to his own church and say they should stop" the practice. "I think it's scandalous," he continued. "Not only objectionable, it's scandalous."
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints performs the proxy baptisms in order to "save" ancestors and others who weren’t baptized in life or who were baptized " without proper authority." Mormons can propose a proxy baptism after a person has died.
The practice came to light in 1994 when an Israeli genealogist researching her family found the name of her grandfather, a religious Jew who had been killed in the Holocaust, in the LDS database of posthumously baptized Mormons. With more digging, a whole slew of prominent names came to the surface, including Anne Frank, Albert Einstein and David Ben Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister.
The discovery produced outrage within the Jewish community, and negotiations between Mormon and Jewish leaders led to a 1995 agreement whereby the church would stop all posthumous baptisms of Jews, except for those who were direct ancestors of Mormons. After that arrangement fell apart, the two sides brokered another compromise in 2010 that specifically barred proxy baptisms for Holocaust survivors.
But Wiesel and others say that Mormons have not held up their end of the bargain, a claim that has been supported by a Salt Lake City researcher who says that she recently found the name of Wiesel and other Holocaust survivors in the LDS database (despite the fact that the 83-year-old is very much still alive). The Mormon church has said that Wiesel's name was entered by mistake, according to the Associated Press.
Wiesel said that as a presidential candidate, no topic is off limits for Romney, including the proxy baptisms. However, as Romney backers have been quick to point out, the White House hopeful isn't the only member of LDS in U.S. politics. Harry Reid, the top Democrat in the Senate, is also a Mormon.
Wiesel's decision to call out Romney by name could pose problems for the GOP front-runner for a number of reasons. One, it forces the issue of his Mormon religion (not exactly a selling point for many conservative voters) back into the headlines. And two, as HuffPo notes, it could cause trouble with Republican-voting Jews in Florida and elsewhere in a general election matchup with President Obama.
Romney's camp is not commenting on the story, a common practice of late for the campaign.