A press release in my e-mailbox this morning:
Black Clergy and other concerned Christians ask Governor Mitt Romney to renounce his racist religion
On Monday, March 12, 2012 at 11:00 a.m. Rev. O’Neal Dozier and a group of concerned Clergy and other Christians will hold a News/Press Conference to publicly ask Republican Presidential candidate, Mitt Romney to openly renounce his racist Mormon Religion.
The purpose of this request is to foster and maintain good race relations here in America.
What about fostering and maintaining good religious relations in America?
The release lists verses in the Book of Mormon they deem racist and the Mormon practice of baptizing the dead of other faiths.
You can find those verses objectionable. Of course, there are plenty of other verses of the Bible, Torah, and Koran that other Americans find objectionable. You can find the practice of baptizing the dead objectionable (I certainly do). But there are plenty of other practices of other faiths that other Americans find objectionable. Declaring “God d*** America” comes to mind.
Has any other presidential candidate been greeted with religious leaders demanding he renounce his faith? In the name of national tolerance and harmony?
The release continues:
. . . we believe that a Romney Presidential nomination for the Republican Party would widen the racial divide to a point of no return, because the Republican Party would be viewed as a racist political party. Romney’s nomination would cause the erroneous view that has long existed in the minds of black people, that the Republican Party is prejudice to become a reality. Also, if Romney gets the nomination, President Obama’s super pacs [sic] will educate the American people about his racist religion and he will probably lose to Obama.
A country that has seen slavery, segregation, the riots of the late 1960s, Bernie Goetz, Rodney King, O. J. Simpson, and a million other racial controversies will witness “the racial divide” go to “the point of no return” over the nomination of Mitt Romney. Got it.
And the proper capitalization is “SuperPACs,” gentlemen.
UPDATE: Ah. Apparently Dozier has been making the argument for a while:
Rev. O’Neal Dozier, the conservative pastor of Pompano Beach’s Worldwide Christian Center, told the Palm Beach Post Sunday that Mitt Romney cannot win the presidency because Americans won’t vote for a Mormon president.
Following his third place finish in South Carolina, Rick Santorum made his first Florida campaign stop at Dozier’s church, where he gave a faith-based sermon. Dozier has been an outspoken critic of homosexuality and radical Islam. In November, former presidential candidate Herman Cain decided minutes before a speech not to have Dozier deliver his invocation, as was originally planned.
To the reader who doesn’t understand why baptizing the dead would be objectionable, the practice runs afoul of the traditional American concept of religious freedom. You choose what faith you believe, if any, and no one else makes that choice for you. If I say, “Presto change-o, I have just converted you to my religion,” you can say, “You’re nuts. No, I didn’t convert to your religion.” The dead, of course, aren’t around to say, “You’re nuts.”
So unsurprisingly, members of several faiths, particularly Jews, get irritated when somebody comes along and claims that grandma or grandpa has been posthumously converted out of the religion they practiced their entire life, and are now playing on another team, so to speak. They get particularly infuriated when the posthumous conversion is claimed for someone who died for their religious beliefs or identity, e.g., Holocaust victims, Daniel Pearl, etc.
This controversy has cropped up quite recently:
In response to recent media reports that well-known Jewish Holocaust victims and slain Jewish journalist Daniel Pearl were baptized by proxy, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is renewing and revamping efforts to crack down on the practice and, some believe, stop the attention.
The church said this week it had implemented a “new technological barrier” to prevent abuse of its massive genealogical database, parts of which have been used to carry out — as well as expose — proxy baptisms.
“The church is committed to preventing the misguided practice of submitting the names of Holocaust victims and prominent individuals for proxy baptism,” spokesman Michael Purdy said in a written statement.
“Anyone trying to access names that have been restricted will have their account suspended and be required to contact [the church] to establish their family relationship in order to have their access reinstated. Abuse of the system will result in the permanent loss of database access.”
But as bothersome as this practice might be, it’s pretty galling to demand that a man abandon his faith over it.
UPDATE: A Mormon reader writes in:
You got the practice correct with one caveat:, no Mormon would say after a proxy baptism, “Presto change-o, I have just converted you to my religion.” We believe that baptism by proxy offers the dead the opportunity to accept baptism, rather than a forced conversion. (I’d put the word “opportunity” in italics if I could just to emphasize it to you.) Essentially we are saying to the dead, “If you’d like to accept this baptism, there here is your chance.” The names of the dead are not added to the rolls of the church, nor are they necessarily considered Mormons. It’s a small distinction, but it goes right at the heart of your criticism.
Also, the practice has evolved over the years, and as a practical matter and for obvious sensitivity reasons, the LDS church has emphasized to its members that they ought to focus on their own family ancestry.
I’m adding this to minimize confusion about the issue, but it’s worth noting that “baptism” in the context of many other faiths is the entry point. You do it, you’re in. I suspect many practitioners of other faiths (myself included) have trouble seeing a baptism ritual as anything but a switch — going through the door, not just unlocking it. And it’s a door that the deceased presumably declined to enter or attempt to enter in their living years. Most people are pretty sensitive about their A) deceased relatives and ancestors and B) faith, so the idea of some group trying to offer them new religious options is . . . undoubtedly going to hit a lot of nerves.