Various Direct Links

24 February 2012

Repudiation: Church of Latter Day Saints - Posthumous Conversions

Seven years ago, Jews were offended by the revelation that the Church of Latter Day Saints (LDS, whose members are called Mormons) had been posthumously converting holocaust victims and other famous historic figures to their faith.  While this has no religious meaning in Judaism (there is no real possibility of converting a person's faith after they are dead), it was nonetheless seen as a significant slap in the face -- as if to say that their faith in the God of Abraham had no importance.  There were meetings between the leaders of each faith and eventually, the Mormons promised to undo those conversions and never do it again.
The church’s ability to fulfill that promise depends largely on its own Web site, through which 12 million church members and others submit roughly 150 million names for baptism each year. Although church leaders have publicly directed members to submit the names of only their direct ancestors, the Web site currently does not screen out erroneous names. A new system will be introduced in the next couple of years, church leaders said, that will feature a users’ agreement and possibly some screening functions.
Posthumous baptism, a central rite of the church, is based on the Mormon belief that those who lived before the church’s founding in 1830 should have the chance for eternal salvation. During the ritual, a church member stands in for the deceased person, who, according to church doctrine, can choose whether to accept or reject the conversion.
Jump ahead to 2012.  It seems that they are continuing the posthumous baptisms ... including one of the most famous victims of the Nazi concentration camps, Anne Frank.
Annelies Marie (Anne) Frank, a German-born Jew who perished in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, was allegedly baptized posthumously by Mormons on Saturday, the Huffington Post reported Tuesday.
According to the report, the baptism was conducted using a proxy, by a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Dominican Republic .
Yesterday, there was an apology from the LDS.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has condemned the recent proxy baptism of Anne Frank, the Jewish girl whose diary of hiding from the Nazis has provided generations with a first-hand account of life during the Holocaust.
Frank is the third Holocaust victim to have received a "baptism for the dead" in recent weeks. The baptism is a violation of a pact the LDS Church made in 1995 to no longer proxy baptize Holocaust victims. The LDS Church confirmed it happened over the weekend at the faith's temple in the Dominican Republic.
The LDS Church has since condemned the proxy baptism, calling is a violation of their policy and believe it took a great deal of “deception” for it to happen.
I do my best to not judge other religions.  While I might giggle over the LDS magic underpants, because it is different than what most other religions believe, they should never be condemned for their beliefs.  However, when a religion performs a rite that claims to pull people away from their beliefs without their consent that rite can be deemed reprehensible.  No one can stand in for the dead and say that they would repudiate that which they believed while alive.  No one.

The Mormons can believe whatever they want.  Their science-fictionish beliefs in life on other planets that they will be gods over after they die here is not something that I take seriously, but I do believe that it is their right to believe that.  They want to believe that the Native American Indians were a lost tribe of my Jewish people, they are welcome to believe that.  That I don't believe what they do does not matter.

The LDS Church is not doing enough by apologizing.  Every person they posthumously convert is an insult to the family of that person and to the religion of that person.  It is not enough to apologize.  The practice needs to stop.

Mr. Romney is the most visible member of the Church of Latter Day Saints.  He should repudiate this practice.  I don't expect he will as he has been trying to hide the details of his religion as he runs for the presidency.  He has to convince some that he is acceptable as a candidate despite his religion not falling within the Nicene Creed definition of Christian.  That shouldn't be a criterion for the presidency in the United States, but for many it is.

Since I am Jewish and there has never been a Jewish President, which version of Christian (or near Christian) does not matter to me in the civil office of President.  What matters to me is the political views, promises, and prior actions of the candidates.  In this case, since the religion is extending beyond its members into members of my faith, this does matter.  Mr. Romney needs to condemn this particular rite of his church.

Thanks to Joe My God for the heads up.

22 February 2012

FollowUp 14: Wisconsin Republican Dirty Tricks

Behind Governor Scott Walker and the reason that he might survive a recall election is billionaire David Koch.  Stacey Singer, a report for The Palm Beach Post, was granted a rare interview.  The entire interview is interesting.  Where it applies to Wisconsin, even more so.

David and Charles Koch fund Americans for Prosperity, working to stop the Affordable Patient Care Act and shift society to the ideals of Ayn Rand.
Asked about his efforts to sway public opinion, Koch acknowledges his group is hard at work in places such as Wisconsin, where Gov. Scott Walker is facing off with public unions and grappling with a likely recall vote.
"We're helping him, as we should. We've gotten pretty good at this over the years," he says. "We've spent a lot of money in Wisconsin. We're going to spend more."
By "we" he says he means Americans for Prosperity, which is spending about $700,000 on an "It's working" television ad buy in the state. It credits Walker's public pension and union overhaul with giving school districts the first surpluses they've seen in years. The unions and the left see things differently.
The ads are being run mostly in Northern Wisconsin, an area that is more conservative.  The strategy is to get out the vote as opposed to swaying people from what they already believe.  Those seeking to replace the Governor had best be turning out their supporters if they want to be successful.

The bit about school districts seeing surpluses is a lie.  Assuming that union-busting and pension-busting would result in more funds for school districts, contracts tend to be for two or three years depending upon the school district.  Many school districts that were scheduled to negotiate new contracts accelerated their negotiations last year.  So, most school districts have not been affected by the changes yet.  Americans for Prosperity talks about this as one of their several lies about how well Wisconsin is doing.

I understand that the ads credit Governor Walker for digging Wisconsin out of a debt left by former Governor Jim Doyle.  There are three problems with this:  first, Governor Doyle cut back on state spending, after huge debt from his predecessors, Republicans Tommy Thompson and Scott McCallum; second, there was no appreciable debt when Governor Doyle left office; third, Wisconsin is in debt now, thanks to the loss of tax revenue put in place by Governor Walker.
A year ago, a blogger posing as David Koch famously prank-called Walker and goaded the governor to say it would be "outstanding" if Koch would fly him to "Cali" as a reward for crushing the public unions. The Koch brothers' conglomerate, Koch Industries, holds regular political meetings in Rancho Mirage, Calif., and the events have attracted the likes of U.S. Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas.
At the time of the prank call, Koch told The New York Times, he didn't even know the Wisconsin governor's name. He knows it now.
"What Scott Walker is doing with the public unions in Wisconsin is critically important. He's an impressive guy and he's very courageous," Koch says after a benefit dinner of salmon and white wine. "If the unions win the recall, there will be no stopping union power."
Mr. Koch holds a great deal of antipathy towards unions.  According to the interview, this is largely based on his father's conservative anti-communist values.
David Koch says his father had no idea who the Bolsheviks were when they first came to his west Texas office asking for his help. Once Fred Koch saw the horrors of Stalin's purges, he was committed to fighting communism's spread. Trade unionism and the welfare state represented a creeping, insidious move toward the Bolsheviks, he believed. He became a founding member of the anticommunist John Birch Society in 1958.
"My dad was a great man. People loved him. I mean they loved him," David Koch says, a far-off look in his eyes. "He was like John Wayne. Just like John Wayne."
I had wondered about the connections between the modern conservative movement, the shift to government controlling details of our lives in the Bircher style, and the McCarthy era paranoia.  Apparently this is a real connection.  Funding Americans for Prosperity and various Tea Party functions is easy when their corporate annual profit is around $100 billion.  Progressives and Wisconsin Democrats in particular had best be gearing up because the Koch brothers are not slowing down.

16 November 2011, Original Pedantic Political Ponderings post.
30 November 2011, FollowUp 1.
4 December 2011, FollowUp 2.
11 December 2011, FollowUp 3.
14 December 2011, FollowUp 4.
15 December 2011, FollowUp 5.
30 December 2011, FollowUp 6.
13 January 2012, FollowUp 7.
17 January 2012, FollowUp 8.
25 January 2012, FollowUp 9.
2 February 2012, FollowUp 10.
9 February 2012, FollowUp 11.
12 February 2012, FollowUp 12.
18 February 2012, FollowUp 13.

6 March 2012, FollowUp 15.
12 March 2012, FollowUp 16.
16 March 2012, FollowUp 17.
30 March 2012, FollowUp 18.
31 March 2012, FollowUp 19.
3 April 2012, FollowUp 20.
4 April 2012, FollowUp 21.
11 April 2012, FollowUp 22.
14 April 2012, FollowUp 23.
17 April 2012, FollowUp 24.
21 April 2012, FollowUp 25.
29 April 2012, FollowUp 26.
2 May 2012, FollowUp 27.
6 May 2012, FollowUp 28.
10 May 2012, FollowUp 29.
13 May 2012, FollowUp 30.
23 May 2012, FollowUp 31.
24 May 2012, FollowUp 32.
30 May 2012, FollowUp 33.
2 June 2012, FollowUp 34.
4 June 2012, FollowUp 35.
5 June 2012, FollowUp 36.

21 February 2012

FollowUp 10: NJ Democrats Call for Marriage Equality

Breaking News from Garden State Equality and Lambda Legal:
In our marriage equality case Garden State Equality v Dow, in which Garden State Equality and seven couples are represented by Lambda Legal and the Gibbons law firm, the state trial court has reinstated our claim of federal equal protection. 
The court had already upheld our claim of state equal protection.   So now our case will be heard on both state and federal constitutional grounds. 
It's a happy day as we pursue all roads to justice, marriage equality in the courts and marriage equality via an override in the state legislature.  
Steven Goldstein
Chair, Garden State Equality
This is very good news.  It is not yet on the Lambda Legal website.  It is my opinion that the federal grounds are far more important.  Until there is marriage equality that is portable from state to state and recognized for federal purposes, we are not equal citizens.

Update 28 February 2012:  On 21 February, Lambda Legal put this on their website:
(Trenton, February 21, 2012) – In response to the plaintiff’s request for reconsideration, a New Jersey Superior Court today reinstated the federal equal protection claim in Lambda Legal’s case seeking marriage equality on behalf of Garden State Equality and seven same-sex couples and their children harmed by the state’s unequal civil union system.
 There is also commentary from Lambda Legal.
 "We are pleased that the New Jersey Superior Court will allow us to show how civil unions fail to provide to same-sex couples the equality promised by both the New Jersey Constitution and the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution," said Jon Davidson, Legal Director at Lambda Legal. "Having both a state and federal equal protection claim will only make our case stronger. We look forward to presenting a complete record of the discrimination that New Jersey’s same-sex couples and their children face because of their relegation to civil unions rather than marriage."
"Civil union consigns New Jersey’s same-sex couples to second-class status and it continues to harm families. New Jersey’s exclusion interferes during medical crises, leads to the denial of health insurance, and contributes to discrimination even in funeral homes. These families need marriage equality and should not have to live with a law that treats them as inferior," Davidson continued.

9 January 2012, Original Pedantic Political Ponderings post.

25 January 2012, FollowUp 1.

26 January 2012, FollowUp 2.

28 January 2012, FollowUp 3.

30 January 2012, FollowUp 4.

31 January 2012, FollowUp 5.

3 February 2012, FollowUp 6.

10 February 2012, FollowUp 7.

13 February 2012, FollowUp 8.

18 February 2012, FollowUp 9.

Praise: Ben & Jerry's Get the Dough Out

The Supreme Court decision known as Citizens United opened up nearly unlimited corporate funds with only quarterly sunshine into American politics.  This was a bad result, but I do not stand with most progressives on how to fix the problem.

The fix for the problem is two-fold:  First, I believe in people.  Corporations, despite what Mr. Romney says, are not people.  People should be empowered, including whatever money they want to donate.  That's right, I favor unlimited money in politics from people.

Second, I believe that we need immediate sunlight.  That is, when a candidate accepts money,  there must be full disclosure within twenty-four hours.

In other words, get corporations out of this equation.  If the CEO of a corporation wants to donate lots of money, she or he should be entitled to do so from her or his own pocketbook.  And that person's name must be made public.

This puts the financial decisions directly in the hands of the political candidates.  They can decide whose money is acceptable and exactly how to spend that money.  We should know exactly who has bought and paid for our politicians.

The first step is to overturn Citizens United.  Ben & Jerry's has teamed up with Free Speech for People and Business for Democracy to create Get the Dough Out, a petition to create a Constitutional Amendment that would overturn the Citizens United decision.  Please consider exploring these links and signing on.

Thanks to Joe My God for the heads up.