Commentary Magazine


Will 2012 Be a Referendum on Mormons?

This past week, the Mormon Church, and Mitt Romney, came under fire when it was discovered that the parents of Simon Wiesenthal were proxy-baptized by the Church. In 1995, the Church of Latter-day Saints, more commonly known as the Mormon Church, outlawed the baptisms of anyone outside of their members’ ancestors in response to outrage over their baptisms of Holocaust victims (which Wiesenthal’s parents were). In an apologetic statement released after the Wiesenthal baptisms became known, the Church explained that a rogue member had submitted the names without the knowledge or consent of leadership and that there would be action taken to ensure it wouldn’t happen again.

Immediately after the baptisms hit the headlines calls came for Romney to condemn the action, from Elie Wiesel to top leadership of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, pushing the story onto front pages. Given that the Church had already officially prohibited the baptisms of Holocaust victims, there was little for Romney to do but condemn his own Church, publicly, with no chance of accomplishing anything but further embarrassing his faith.

What kind of statement was expected of Romney? There was outrage not only about these baptisms, but proxy-baptisms in general. Was he supposed to call his own religious ritual offensive and cast judgement upon it? On Bill Maher’s show following the controversy Maher pretended to perform an “unbaptism” on Romney’s deceased father-in-law. The Hollywood Reporter reports,

Donning a sorcerer’s hat and wielding a magic wand, Maher then produced a black and white photograph of Davies, on which he performed his mystical ritual. The brief ceremony was made complete with references to “Laverne and Shirley,” “Harry Potter” and ”The Blair Witch Project.”

“By the power granted in me by the Blair Witch,” he declared, “I call upon the Mormon spirits to leave your body the f*** alone.”

There was no outcry, no outrage. For some reason, it’s become acceptable to criticize the Mormon faith, and with Romney’s stature as its most famous member, it has become increasingly common.

Imagine if these sorts of statements were made about Jewish, Muslim or Christian practices. Was Joseph Lieberman asked to condemn actions of his own faith as forcefully when he was on the ballot? Was he expected to cast shame on the Jewish faith, its practices and customs? If nothing else, Romney’s candidacy will expose the American public’s perception of the Church of Latter-day Saints, the largest and most influential religion born on our soil. In the event Romney manages to secure the GOP nomination, we’ll be seeing nine more months of this. It could get ugly.