Some folks are beating up on Salon’s Joan Walsh for tweeting a comment about Romney having said that this election was about “saving the soul of America.” Joan noted that the Mormons are already trying to convert everyone’s soul through their secret posthumous baptisms. Some felt that was anti-religious bigotry (of course, Joan was making a crack about a despicable practice). Joan noted that she wasn’t the only person to tie Romney to this practice – Eli Wiesel asked Romney to speak up about the Mormon practice of secretly baptizing the dead of other religions without the permission of their immediate living relatives, with a special focus on converting Jewish Holocaust victims, but still, she admitted she was conflicted about the comment in thinking about it again. Romney refused to say a thing in response to Wiesel.
Is it anti-religious bigotry? It’s an interesting question. Are jokes about Scientologists anti-religious bigotry? I don’t know anyone who considers them a real faith rather than a cult. Why is it ok to have doubts about Scientologists, who very much consider themselves a religion, but not doubts about Mormons?
Another critic said this was like mocking Islam. Is it the same thing? Republicans seem to dislike Muslims because to Republicans all Muslims are terrorists. The concerns people have about Mormons include the effort to secretly convert people of other faiths without their families’ permissions, and, for example, the Mormon’s multi-million dollar two-decade-long effort to take away the civil rights of gays here in America. Is that not something that we’re permitted to be angry about, to speak out about, to oppose?
Does it make you an anti-Mormon bigot if you’re anti Mormon bigotry? Is it really a bad thing to be intolerant of intolerance? And in any case, the Mormon church is happy to enter the political realm, but it’s somehow not right to treat them as we would any other player in politics. Why?
And Mitt Romney was happy take a pot shot at candidate Obama over Rev. Wright a few years back, but now Romney thinks religion is off limits? Not to mention, when in a GOP primary is religion ever off limits? Republicans wear their religion on their shoulder, and are happy to question the President’s faith, or yours or mine. But no one can even mention their faith in return, even when they are basing their policies, and political prejudice, on their faith? Let’s take a historical example. Would it have been bigoted to speak out 150 years ago against those who used the Bible to justify slavery or 40 years ago against those who used the Bible to justify laws against inter-racial marriage? Or, it’s okay for us to be offended that a plurality of Mississippi Republicans still oppose inter-racial marriage (they really do), but if the reason they don’t like black people is religious-based, does that mean we have no right to criticize, or dare I say mock, them for their beliefs?
Getting back to Muslims, if the Muslims were trying to steal the souls of Christians in secret ceremonies after our deaths, do you really think people would treat the news more kindly than what the Mormons are doing to Jews and others – really? There’s been no reticence on the left to criticize radical Islam, for example, and its involvement in terrorism (maybe that’s intolerant of us too). My point is not to equate radical Islam with Mormons, but to suggest that what people on the left don’t like is when folks on the right assume that all people of one faith are the same, that all are per se equally bad. In fact, some Muslims are good and some Muslims are bad.
So are the folks that criticized Joan Walsh saying that the same rule should apply to Romney and Mormons, that some are good and some are bad? If so, then which one is Romney? Eli Wiesel asked Romney to clarify just that question, and Romney refused to answer. Does Romney not agree with the more extreme higher reaches of his church that still refuse to clamp down on these posthumous baptisms, the ones who actively try to take away the rights of gay people, the ones who were racist towards blacks, who still treat women as second class citizens? Again, Eli Wiesel asked Romney to clarify his position, is he or isn’t he in agreement with the more extreme elements of his faith (actually, they ARE the core elements of his faith, rather than a wing of it) – again, the man is a bishop in his church – yet Romney has clarified no such thing.
Speaking of leaving the Mormons alone, there’s news that last year the Mormons secretly baptized Jewish Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, who was decapitated by Islamist terrorists shortly after 9/11. Pearl’s parents were shocked to find out the news about their son. Here’s the Boston Globe:
Pearl’s parents, Judea and Ruth, said it was “disturbing news” to learn that Mormons had baptized their son, in a rite that they understand was meant to offer him salvation.
“To them we say: We appreciate your good intentions but rest assured that Danny’s soul was redeemed through the life that he lived and the values that he upheld,” Judea and Ruth Pearl said in an email. “He lived as a proud Jew, died as a proud Jew and is currently facing his creator as a Jew, blessed, accepted and redeemed. For the record, let it be clear: Danny did not choose to be baptized, nor did his family consent to this un-called-for ritual.”
How intolerant of Pearls’ parents.