Holocaust victims' names remain in Mormon database

Posthumous baptism violates 1995 agreement

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (AP) - Jewish leaders in a dispute with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints over the practice of posthumous baptisms say there is new evidence that names of Jewish Holocaust victims continue to show up in the church's vast genealogical database. "We've been dealing with it for 11 years, since 1995, and we continue to deal with it," said Ernest Michel, a Holocaust survivor and founding member of the American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors. Posthumous baptism is a sacred rite practiced in Mormon temples for the purpose of offering membership in the church to the deceased. Church members are encouraged to conduct family genealogy research and forward their ancestors' names for proxy baptism. Church president Gordon B. Hinckley has said the baptismal rite is only an offer of membership that can be rejected in the afterlife by individuals. "So, there's no injury done to anybody," Hinckley said last November. In 1995, Jews signed an agreement with Mormon leaders aimed at preventing the names of Holocaust victims from being added to the genealogical index. The agreement would also have limited entries of other Jewish names to those persons who are direct ancestors of current Mormons. A cross-referencing of more than 1,500 Dutch Jews whose names should have been deleted from the church's International Genealogical Index remain in the database, Michel said. Over the past three months, the entries were matched by Salt Lake City researcher Helen Radkey against a 1995 list of deleted names provided by church leaders to Michel's organization. Michel, whose parents were posthumously baptized, said Wednesday that he was in talks with church leaders and was working on a July meeting date to discuss the latest findings. Mormon church spokesman Mike Otterson said Friday that no meeting had been scheduled, but that Michel has been encouraged to bring his concerns before a working group of church staff and Jews set up in April 2005 to continue to resolve database issues. "One of the benefits of previous meetings is that we established an ongoing joint working group that would address what would appear to be any anomalies, or anything that appears to be slipping through our screening process," Otterson said. "That committee continues to meet and continues to be the best place for addressing these concerns."