Dibs on the dead guy — take II

Last night, I stirred up a bit of controversy when I discussed certain Mormons’ habit of baptizing by proxy the deceased, in particular Jewish victims of the Holocaust. My disapproval of that practice started a bit of a hullabaloo in the comments section, so I thought I’d expand and elaborate on my take on the matter.

But first, a couple of stories I recall from the last few years. (Dammit, I can’t find the accounts, but I’m 99% I recall the details correctly.) The first story was about a private school in — I think — New York, where one of the teachers took the children away from the school and had them baptized, without the parents’ knowledge.

The second story I did find online. An elementary school had an Islamic “trainer” educate the children on Islamic traditions and history. As part of the program, he led the children in reciting the Islamic Proclamation of Faith.

The only problem is, under the Tenets of Islam, simply reciting that Proclamation is enough to establish one as a Muslim. From that point, leaving Islam is considered apostasy, and to many parts of Islam, apostasy is punishable by death. Those children are, technically, bould to obey the rules of Islam for the rest of their lives, upon pain of death, for participating in a required classroom exercise.

And then we have the Mormons, who hold baptism ceremonies for those who died in the Holocaust.

All three examples have one element in common: people inducting others into their religion. People who are not legally capable of making such commitments on their own. And those inductions are being made not only without the consent of those authorized to make such decisions, but in direct contravention of their wishes. And that I find utterly unacceptable.

Now, I freely admit that the Mormons’ offense is orders of magnitude less than the other two cases, but I think I am more bothered by the Mormons’ because I have always expected more from them. With one slight exception*, every single experience I’ve had with Mormons has been unerringly positive. I have a few issues with some of their doctrine, but the individuals have almost always struck me as fine, upstanding, decent, moral people. I’m very impressed with Mitt Romney, the current governor of Massachusetts, and I think he’s eying the White House for 2008 — and I think the GOP could do worse.

But I keep coming back to one image, one speculation in the case of the Mormons baptizing Holocaust victims. I keep seeing some Jewish man approaching a Mormon and speaking to them:

“My grandfather was born a Jew. He was raised a Jew. He lived his entire life as a Jew. He died as a Jew. He died because he was a Jew. He was murdered simply because he was a Jew. Who are you to try to take that away from him?”

And I don’t buy the argument that it’s done for selfless reasons. It’s not selflessness, it’s arrogance. And especially in light of the Mormon Church’s agreement in 1995 to stop baptizing Holocaust victims, it’s even more reprehensible for them to continue the practice. If a church can’t be trusted to keep its word in a matter such as this, then where is its moral standing?


(I’ve closed the comments in the previous thread. If you want to continue the discussion, do so here.)

Update: I accidentally posted the wrong link on the first posting. The story on the baptisms is here.

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*The Mormons really, really need to re-think one aspect of their practices. I’ve encountered many of their younger missionaries, and they’ve never been anything but unfailingly polite, respectful, and courteous. But I really, really just can’t bring myself to take seriously some pimply-faced teenager who’s half my age and wearing a badge proclaiming him an “elder.” That’s just abuse of the language.

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