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Daniel Pearl, the Jewish Wall Street Journal reporter kidnapped and beheaded by terrorists in Pakistan in 2002, has been baptized posthumously at a Mormon temple in Idaho, the Boston Globe reported on Wednesday.
Pearl’s Mormon baptism is one of several reports of prominent, deceased Jews being subjected to the Mormon ritual. In recent months, Anne Frank, Simon Wiesenthal, and parents of Holocaust survivor and Nobel Prize winner Elie Wiesel were all the targets of proxy baptisms.
The Mormon tradition of baptizing deceased Jews and those of other religions is meant to give them access to salvation. But Pearl’s parents are now joining the chorus of criticism against the practice, telling the Boston Globe that the report of the baptism was “disturbing news.”
“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,” the Pearls wrote in an email to the newspaper. “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 uncalled-for ritual.”
Earlier this month, Elie Wiesel blasted U.S. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney for staying mum on the posthumous baptism of Wiesenthal. The Mormon church had issued an apology the previous day.
The posthumous baptisms were performed in Mormon churches in Utah, Arizona and Idaho, according to the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a Jewish human rights organization named after the man who hunted down more than 1,000 Nazi war criminals including Adolf Eichmann in the years following the Holocaust.
In a televised interview with MSNBC, Wiesel, a Holocaust survivor who went on to become a prolific author and Nobel laureate, said of Romney, “How come that he hasn’t spoken up after all? I’m sure he’s not involved in that. But nevertheless, the moment he heard about this, he should have spoken up, because he is running for the presidency of the United States, which means it’s too serious of an issue for him not to speak up,” he added.
Wiesel said he was disgusted when he heard of the conversions, saying, “I’m a Jew. I was born a Jew and I live as a Jew … That they should do it to me? Then of course they must have done it to my parents, who were killed in Auschwitz … It’s unforgivable.”
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, in its written apology, suggested that the action was the work of one member whom they said has since been disciplined.
“We sincerely regret that the actions of an individual member of the church led to the inappropriate submission of these names,” church spokesman Michael Purdy said in a statement emailed to Reuters. “The policy of the church is that members can request these baptisms only for their own ancestors. Proxy baptisms of Holocaust victims are strictly prohibited.”
Wiesenthal’s mother Rosa died at the Belzec concentration camp in Poland in 1942. His father, Asher, died during the First World War.
The apology, said Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, will not fix things.
“A heartfelt apology is certainly appropriate, but it rings hollow if it keeps happening again and again,” Cooper told Reuters.
Pearl was killed in Karachi, Pakistan on Feb. 1, 2002. His widow, Marianne, is strongly opposed to the baptism. “It’s a lack of respect for Danny and a lack of respect for his parents,” she said.