It's been more than two 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 Romney didn't speak up. He didn't say a word. In an email accidentally sent to the HuffPost reporter, Romney spokeswoman Gail Gitcho suggested that the campaign ignore the request.
Even after the Boston Globe reported on February 29 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.
No American should be denied the presidency by virtue of his or her religious beliefs or lack of religious beliefs. Disqualifying anyone based on religion is antithetical to the principles of our democracy. The issue here is not whether Romney is responsible for this Mormon practice, nor is the issue respect for 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. That's not leadership. That's cowardice.
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 most of us, 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. Yet when called out by one of the leading moral authorities of our generation, Mitt Romney says nothing.
Now that Romney is the presumptive GOP nominee, he owes answers 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? Elie Wiesel was right to ask. Romney is wrong to stonewall. What is he afraid of?