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Flexibility in Bahai Law in relation to homosexuality

May 19, 2010

The following is a response to a thread on the Bahai Planet forum called “AIDS Faith conference” where the intitial poster was curious to know if there had been any Bahai statements on AIDS and the loss of life due to this. The discussion quickly turned to the rights and wrongs of homosexuality. I stepped later on in the discussion and the following is one of my posts.

I’m posting it here because although the forum is open and you can read material as a guest, I wanted a place where I could make links to some of the material here. I’ve changed the individual’s name to SS.

What Sonja posted on this discussion thread on 3rd May 2010
SS wrote: “With all due respect this is just a red herring. You conveniently left out that the House of Justice cannot make any changes in the teachings of any of its predecessors. The teachings on homosexuality are pretty clear.”

Abdu’l-Baha wrote they can change what previous Houses of Justice have decided:
“It is incumbent upon these members (of the Universal House of Justice) to gather in a certain place and deliberate upon all problems which have caused difference, questions that are obscure and matters that are not expressly recorded in the Book.
Whatsoever they decide has the same effect as the Text itself. Inasmuch as the House of Justice hath power to enact laws that are not expressly recorded in the Book and bear upon daily transactions, so also it hath power to repeal the same.
Thus for example, the House of Justice enacteth today a certain law and enforceth it, and a hundred years hence, circumstances having profoundly changed and the conditions having altered, another House of Justice will then have power, according to the exigencies of the time, to alter that law.
This it can do because these laws form no part of the divine explicit Text. The House of Justice is both the initiator and the abrogator of its own laws.”

(Abdu’l-Baha, The Will and Testament, p. 20)

In this passage in the Will and Testament, “daily transactions” or mu’aamaalat (the term Abdul-Baha uses here) is a category used in Islamic law, variously translated as social transactions, interractions between people, mutual dealings, mundane matters. It includes:

* Financial transactions
* Endowments
* Laws of inheritance
* Marriage, divorce, and child care
* Foods and drinks (including ritual slaughtering and hunting)
* Penal punishments
* Warfare and peace
* Judicial matters (including witnesses and forms of evidence)
(see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shariah)

Abdu’l-Baha also wrote a tablet about the wisdom of assigning such matters to the Universal House of Justice, rather than having them laid down in scripture, which is printed in “Amr wa Khalq” volume 4, from page 298. http://reference.bahai.org/fa/t/c/AK4/ak4-302.html

On pages 301-2 Abdu’l-Baha wrote:
(provisional translation from Persian by Sen McGlinn)

“As for marriage, this falls entirely within the social laws. Nevertheless, the preconditions are found in the Law of God, and its fundamentals are evident. The union of relatives, however, is not explicitly treated, and is referred to the House of Justice, which will give a ruling in accordance with social customs and medical requirements, wisdom, and suitability for human nature. According to social and medical principles, and nature, there is no doubt that, in marriage, distance is nearer than nearness.
In this light, consider the Christian religious law. Although marriage to relatives is in reality permitted, since there is no explicit impediment in the Text, the early Christian councils entirely forbade marriages between relatives, to the seventh degree, and today this is enforced in all the Christian churches, since this is purely a social question.
In short, whatever ruling the House of Justice makes on this question, that is in truth the decisive decree, it is God’s sharp sword. No one may deviate from it. If you consider, it will be apparent how much this rule (that is, referring social laws to the House of Justice) is consistent with wisdom. For whenever a difficulty may arise and a local decision is required, at that point, since the House of Justice delivered the previous ruling, the secondary House of Justice, can issue a new national ruling on a national case and topic, in the light of local imperatives. To entirely avoid any risks, the rulings that the House of Justice has made, it can also abrogate.”

If by: “predecessors”, you mean the Bahai Scripture cannot be changed, I agree.

Bahai scripture is what is penned by Baha’u’llah, interpreted and elaborated on by Abdul-Baha, and then when Shoghi Effendi wrote himself as interpretator of the writings of Baha’u’llah + Abdul-Baha. The Bab’s Writings are important but are not strictly Bahai Scripture. None of these writings (as far as I know) include anything about homosexuality, let alone about the question of whether married homosexuals can be accepted in the Bahai community.

I am sorry, if it sounds as if I am beating a drum here, but I repeat this only because your response indicates that you didn’t notice in my earlier post how I showed that letters written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi are not part of Bahai Scripture. I am not suggesting that they are not relevant nor that they are not important for Bahais, because they are not part of Bahai Scripture. I’m saying that they have another role. I can back up my statements here with many more examples and I hope what is below is sufficient to show you what I mean. If you disagree, please show me how the letters written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi can be part of Bahai Scripture.

However if we did take the letters written by the Guardian’s secretaries to be equivalent to authoritative interpretations Bahai Scripture, how would we deal with the secretary’s letter that states that “this is the day which will not be followed by the night” (a prophecy of Baha’u’llah, in “The Summons of the Lord of Hosts”, p. 34) as meaning that it refers to a never-ending line of Guardians.
“The Guardians are the evidence…” The full letter is here >>
(From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to an individual believer, November 25, 1948: Bahai News, No. 232, p. 8, June 1950) also in Directives from the Guardian, p. 34)

Or how could we deal with letter from a secretary written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, which states “He (the Guardian) does not feel that the friends should make a practice of saying grace or of teaching it to children. This is not part of the Bahai Faith, but a Christian practice,…” – when in fact it is ordained by Baha’u’llah, and Abdu’l-Baha said grace himself and gave us a number of prayers to use for the purpose (and Shoghi Effendi also said grace himself, at least sometimes)
This letter (27 September 1947) is quoted in full near the bottom of this page.

Or another letter by a secretary which states: “Regarding your question whether there is any special ceremony which the believers should perform when they wish to “name” a baby; the Teachings do not provide for any ceremony whatever on such occasions. We have no “baptismal service” in the Cause, …”, when in fact Abdu’l-Baha has given us a form for the “spiritual baptism” of a newborn child, in Tablets of Abdu’l-Baha pp 149-50.
This letter (December 20th, 1938, Arohanui: Letters from Shoghi Effendi to New Zealand, p.47) can be found here.

Or a letter from a secretary that states “The words Israel, used throughout the Bible, simply refers to the Jewish people, and not to the Chosen ones of this day.” (From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to an individual believer, April 21, 1939; Lights of Guidance, p. 498)

Whereas the Guardian wrote: “Turning to Bah’u’llah and repeating his request, he was honored by a Tablet, in which Israel and his children were identified with the Bab and His followers respectively…” (God Passes By, p. 116)

Or the letter that states:
“In regard to the question as to whether people ought to kill animals for food or not, there is no explicit statement in the Bahai Sacred Scriptures (as far as I know) in favour or against it.” (9 July 1931)

Is this expressing the Guardian’s limited knowledge, or the secretary’s? There are tablets from Abdu’l-Baha [and Baha’u’llah] on this topic. The letter goes on:
“It is certain, however, that if man can live on a purely vegetarian diet and thus avoid killing animals, it would be much preferable….”

If we take this as the Guardian speaking as interpreter, he is offering an interpretion on something which he himself thinks is not in the Writings – and therefore is in the province of the UHJ not the Guardian. Shoghi Effendi wrote in the “Dispensation of Baha’u’llah” that the role of the Guardian is to interprete what is in the Bahai Writings, while the role of the Universal House of Justice is to legislate on all other matters.

Then the next sentence says
“This is, however, a very controversial question and the Bahais are free to express their views on it.”

– so the writer (the secretary in my opinion) does not think this defines Bahai belief. But aren’t the authoritative interpretations of the Guardian supposed to do that?
(The letter is in The Compilation of Compilations vol. I, p. 475)

All this is not to suggest that the Guardian’s letters can be disregarded. That would be just as simplistic as supposing that all these letters are the words of Shoghi Effendi.

Shoghi Effendi himself wanted the Bahais to make a clear distinction between his writings and those written by his secretaries:
“Although the secretaries of the Guardian convey his thoughts and instructions and these messages are authoritative, their words are in no sense the same as his, their style certainly not the same, and their authority less, for they use their own terms and not his exact words in conveying his messages.” (Unfolding Destiny, p.260 () )

If these letters had doctrinal authority, it would not make much sense to say they had `less authority.’ and I’ve already elaborated on what I mean by this in this thread, but if you missed this you can read it here.

I’ve chosen examples of letters where I would think at least some of you might see that it could be illogical to accept the letters written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi as if they were part of Bahai Scripture.
But I think the practice of a Bahai community is also important, and it seems to me that some Bahais treat some letters written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi as these as if they were Bahai Scripture, while ignoring other letters.

The following letter which in the context of 1935 when it was written might not have been such an unusual view, is clearly ignored by most Bahais today, myself included.
For those of you who are not married, think of large Catholic families (who sooner or later must as my parents did after their 9th child, practice some form of contraception given that now children tend to survive birth). Then think of the Bahai families around you. You don’t need to pry into anyone’s private life to realise that if a couple are not having a child every few years throughout their marriage, some form birth control is being used.

“…the Bahai Teachings, when carefully studied imply that such current conceptions like birth control, if not necessarily wrong and immoral in principle, have nevertheless to be discarded as constituting a real danger to the very foundations of our social life.”
(October 14, 1935)

If you wish to treat the letters written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi as if this is Bahai Scripture, as an individual you are free to do so, but I hope that I’ve shown that the letters written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi are not part of Bahai Sacred Scripture. And that in examples above, have shown that not all letters are followed by Bahais in practice.

SS wrote: “As for the quote you used. Some how I do not think Shoghi Effendi’s understanding of what is progressive is yours. Combine this with what The Guardian wrote regarding homosexuality it is highly doubtful that he saw this topic in the same way as you do.”

You are referring to letters written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, not Shoghi Effendi’s own writing. If something I’ve written above is not clear in explaining this, just ask.

SS wrote: “As for equality that too is misguided. No person is denied any privilege or opportunity in the Faith that any other person enjoys. All can marry with in the laws of the Faith or choose not to.”

A gay Bahai friend of mine had two Bahais who were to be witnesses and so he was planning to have a Bahai marriage ceremony, except that his parents refused to give permission. So he went ahead and had only a state marriage instead and his voting rights were taken off him by the NSA of the USA for these reasons: ‘same sex marriage’ and his “support of homosexuality as an acceptable lifestyle for Bahais” and not because he didn’t have his parents permission.
Two Bahais wanted to marry, but the man’s parents who were Moslims wouldn’t give permission. This couple tried again and again, year after year, living together now, and finally the parents gave permission when their first child was about to be born.
Two Bahais lived together, had a child, and then 2-3 years later parted company.

The gay friend I mentioned above has been trying to get acceptance from his parents for over 15 years for his partner, and in Brazil years earlier they had a state marriage. So technically he didn’t need another state marriage but wanted to have it in his state while it was possible.
The heterosexual couples I mentioned above, all people I knew well, were always welcomed at all Bahai events, and because of this atmosphere remained actively involved in the community.

I’m not suggesting that Bahais should have double standards but in the stories above, tolerance was given to the heterosexual couples and not given to the gay couple. I realise this is just a story of 3 couples. So I’ll add one more story:
Shoghi Effendi, at times would go to Switzerland for short breaks and one of his closest friends there was the painter Mark Tobey, who was known in his circles as a homosexual. Whether or not Mark was celibate is not the issue and it is not the issue in regards to discussion of same-sex marriage either.
The issue is a lifestyle where having a partner is being denied. Mark lived for decades with a friend, caring for him as he wrote himself, and was a member of his local spiritual assembly for long periods of time. There is no evidence to suggest that Mark Tobey was ever admonished in any form, let alone any indication that he might lose his voting rights. In fact to the contrary, it seems that he was accepted as a part of his community and from what I know of his exchanges with Shoghi Effendi, Shoghi Effendi valued their friendship. If Shoghi Effendi had such an abhorance of homosexuality, then surely it would be “highly doubtful” that he would maintain this friendship. Particularly when you think this is in the 1930-50s. Shoghi Effendi’s actions don’t indicate any prejudice or intolerance.

SS wrote: “As for this nonsense of the laws of nature??? It is the very laws from God that attempt to enable us to rise above the laws of nature while correctly defining just what is natural and what is not. It is clear just how the Faith see homosexuality. I think the Faith see It is immoral and not part of our natural reality. To my thinking this makes it a perversion of nature.”

Homosexuality is a sexual orientation. Actions are moral or immoral.
Is a heterosexual still a heterosexual if they never have sex? or never marry? Of course they are.

You might be thinking of this statement by the Universal House of Justice:
“…the Baha’i Faith strongly condemns all blatant acts of immorality, and it includes among them the expression of sexual love between individuals of the same sex.” (Printed in The American Baha’i (Qawl 152/November 23, 1995) and to be found here)

It also states: “To regard homosexuals with prejudice and disdain would be entirely against the spirit of Baha’i Teachings.”

It seems to me, here in the letter the Universal House of Justice is condemning any expression of sexual love while you have taken this a step further to condemn homosexuality. Your logic here doesn’t surprise me. There are many examples in the history of humanity where people have taken things from religion then made that issue into an argument for their own to arguments about what is immoral as a basis for their prejudice.

Some of you wonder why I bother, and in particular bother examining what is in the Bahai Writings.
SS’s statements above are often what I hear from Bahais, they conclude based on the current Bahai policy that homosexuals must remain celibate, that then homosexuals are lesser and from this prejudice rises its ugly head. And worse, not only are gays rejected from the Bahai community but even Bahais such as myself who want to see, “Is there a way for gays not to be rejected?” “Is there a way for a Bahai community to accept a married gay couple into their community?”, are told to go elsewhere or that I shouldn’t speak.

SS wrote: “You may not agree and that is your choice and right. And thank God for our choices and rights. But if you insist on attempting to whine about how unfair the Faith is about this at least be truthful about just what the Faith teaches and how it really works.”

Yes, my perspective is different to yours and I try to back up my statements with quotations from the Bahai Writings as much as I can to try and be “truthful about just what the Faith teaches and how it really works.”. Where are my examples of ‘whining’ in doing this?

SS wrote: “You are always free to start your own version of the Faith that embraces all the current PC stuff about being progressive. But when that happens it does not seem to work out to well.”

It seems from your comments above that you think the Bahai Faith cannot match science with religion. Or that the Faith can’t hold up its head in a world where values such as equality for all dominate. I hope I have misunderstood you here. My view is the the Bahai Faith is not only more than capable to operate in a world where equality dominates but has something to offer that world too.

SS wrote: “Or if you are not a Baha’i you are free not to join the Cause. No one is forcing you or twisting your arm to be a Baha’i. I find it interesting that you insist on trying to twist mine? But that is the nature of being a so called progressive in this culture. One losses oneself to vile accusations while pretending to be tolerant. That my friend is call hypocrisy. Agree or not agree at least the Faith is not hypocritical. And in this day and age that is most distinctive.”

Your comment above, strikes me as like child in the playground who says, ‘you can’t play here, go find some other friends to play with.’

If you don’t like my comments, don’t respond, but don’t say as a Bahai I do not have a right (for me it is an obligation) to investigate the Bahai Writings on this topic to try and to share my findings, as an individual. It would be hypocritical to say, Bahais have the principle of independent investigation, which stops the moment you declare yourself to be a Bahai. At least I know this is certainly not the case for myself. I am inspired and in awe of how studying the Bahai Writings seems to be a never ending process of discovery and development for me.

14 comments

  1. 1. I estimate that at least 11 percent of all Baha’is are homosexual, that being about double the percent many estimate in the general population. Therefore, all else equal, Baha’i Assemblies, local, national and the UHJ, would all have an average of one homosexual.

    2. From what I’ve seen, the Baha’i community is also atypical in that a much higher percent of male homosexuals have female wifes.


  2. It seems to me that in saying the authority of letters written on his behalf is ‘less’ the Guardian is not saying they have no authority. What I hear him saying is that the diction may not be his. But if a letter states: “Homosexuality, according to the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, is spiritually condemned” it is pretty hard to get around that as an authoritative interpretation. When a letter says it is ‘against nature’ that might well be a problem of diction. Whether or not it is a condition that can treated medically is for science not revelation to determine, whether this is what the Guardian intended or not.


  3. Thanks for your response.

    First, if you followed my link you would see that I do not state that these letters have no authority. My question is what sort of authority would Shoghi Effendi have intended them to have. The link is here:
    https://justabahai.wordpress.com/2010/04/12/mainly-about-homosexuality/#authority

    You wrote: “Homosexuality, according to the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, is spiritually condemned” it is pretty hard to get around that as an authoritative interpretation.”

    Show me something from the Writings from Baha’ullah that supports the views of this letter and we can discuss this further. Shoghi Effendi, himself, was diligent. When he referred to the writings he gave a reference. He also never referred to himself as a source of authority in the third person, so that would already alert a reader that a source must be a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi rather than Shoghi Effendi’s own authorative interpretations. Just saying something is in the writings without giving a reference is hardly the Bahai principle of independent investigation is it?

    If that were the case then the letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi which states:
    “birth control, if not necessarily wrong and immoral in principle, have nevertheless to be discarded as constituting a real danger to the very foundations of our social life.”
    would be followed as absolutely as you are suggesting Bahai’s should do with the letter that condemns homosexuality.


    • Uh, that quotation was written on the Guardian’s behalf, so no, he doesn’t always give a reference. But if you want one here it is:

      “Ye are forbidden to commit adultery, sodomy and lechery. Avoid them, O concourse of the faithful.”

      The term translated as sodomy is liwat which in Arabic is used to refer to all forms of homosexual behavior.

      Now as for the statement regarding birth control, as I mentioned earlier had you posted the *entire* statement the distincion would have be clear:

      As to the problem of birth control. Neither Bahá’u’lláh nor ‘Abdu’l-Bahá has revealed anything direct or explicit regarding this question.

      (Compilations, Lights of Guidance, p. 345)

      Do you understand the difference between saying “Neither Baha’u’llah or Abdu’l-Baha has revealed anything direct or explicit regarding this question” and saying “Homosexuality, according to the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, is spiritually condemned.”

      As I suggested before, this isn’t rocket science.


  4. Susan, I asked for a quotation from either The Bab, Baha’u’llah and ‘Abdul-Baha or penned by Shoghi Effendi himself and you pasted in

    (Compilations, Lights of Guidance, p. 345)

    about half down way your post. I assume you expect me to spend time hunting down the quotation and then to work out what was penned and wasn’t in the texts above this?

    Or perhaps you are not aware that Baha’u’llah did not write Lights of Guidance?

    Please give me a source from any of the above authors which I assume we can agree are part of what is unchangeable Bahai Scripture, with translation issues and contexts playing relevent roles to these texts.

    So some ground rules please, just so we can proceed with a discussion, if you quote Baha’u’llah, please use the source of his writing, so we can apply the principle of independent investigation here on what is in the writings and not just what you might say is in the writings.

    Your final sentence where you place two quotations next to each other with no context, no source and no attempt at explanation is less meaningful than my putting quotation marks around “yellow” and “purple” and saying it isn’t rocket science to see the difference. At least most readers can see in what I have done here is obviously nonsense, in your case, I have no idea what your intent is. Do you realise that just putting quotation marks around phrases and putting them next to each other is not a convincing argument?

    You wrote: “The term translated as sodomy is liwat which in Arabic is used to refer to all forms of homosexual behavior.”

    I assume these are your own words.
    Modern homosexuality did not exist, that is partnerships of equality, when the word liwat was associated with sodomy. What was part of the culture of the times was where men took younger males as some form of sex slave.

    In today’s world, homophobic Arabs say the same things as you have written above. That does not mean that Baha’u’llah writing in a time when sodomy involved abusive relationships with minors means that there is justification in turning a phrase dealing with illicit forms of sexual behaviour > adultery and lust (lechery) being the other two, into a means for condemning orientation. Here if you look at the context of His own words you will see it is about sexual behaviour outside of a marriage of equality.


    • Please try to pay attention. The quotation from Baha’u’llah is the following:

      “Ye are forbidden to commit adultery, sodomy and lechery. Avoid them, O concourse of the faithful.”

      It can be found in the Compilation of Compilations, no. 148.

      The quotation I gave from Lights of Guidance was in reference to your partial quotation of what the Guardian said about birth control. I pointed out that had you not snipped the quotation, leaving out the first sentence you would see the that Shoghi Effendi admitted there was nothing in the Writings about this, ergo his comments cannot be considered an authoritative interpretation.

      Once again, here is the quotation from Baha’u’llah:

      Ye are forbidden to commit adultery, sodomy and lechery. Avoid them, O concourse of the faithful.

      (Compilations, The Compilation of Compilations vol. I, p. 57)

      Do we get it now?

      The reason I did not give a full citation to my last two quotations was because they had already been cited in full earlier in this thread.

      It is interesting that you insist that modern homosexuality did not exist in Baha’u’llah’s time. How then do you turn around and argue that it is ‘natural’?


  5. Susan, just in case you are not aware of this or don’t see the importance of it, where possible, I think it is good academic practice to use the source of a quotation, not where it was found in secondary literature. It not only means that readers can go to Baha’u’llah’s text and read the surrounding texts to see if there is more to be gleaned from this, but also, in secondary literature the context may or may not be changed by the editor or author of that particular publication. I am not suggesting that the context of secondary literature is a bad thing, just that you should be aware that it is better to use the original sources where possible, at least in a discussion with me.

    I am sorry if this sounds pendetic but twice now you have responded without, it seems to me, bothering to find the original source. So I started looking and found that this quotation is not what it seems and appears for the first time in English in 1991. So thanks because I have now found so much information on this that I will be writing a blog it.

    I would have been less annoyed if you had just said, the actual source is not easy to find or that you could only find it in the Compilation of Compilations.

    The letters written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi are not the same as Shoghi Effendi writing by his own hand. I hope you realise that this is a difference. If you choose to treat these letters as if these are Bahai Scripture that’s your choice to do so, but I prefer to see them as it seems Shoghi Effendi treated them. That they have some level of authority, whether it was just for the addresse as stated in a letter written on his behalf to an N.S.A., but certainly with an authority that was less than Shoghi Effendi’s own words, and he only considered his own writing having any doctrinal status when making interpretations of Baha’i Scripture. I realise that it is not always clear when he was doing this and when his actions were as Head of the Bahai Faith.
    But one thing is clear, letters written on his behalf were not penned by Shoghi Effendi so they clearly have a lesser status than anything Shoghi Effendi wrote himself. Here are some references:
    https://justabahai.wordpress.com/2010/04/12/mainly-about-homosexuality/#authority
    [note “authority less” comes after a mention of the wording. The use of words and authority have different meanings. If these letters had doctrinal authority, it would not make much sense to say they had `less authority.’ ]
    https://justabahai.wordpress.com/2010/06/10/mm/#uhj“>The principle of ‘mutatis mutandis’
    “A clear distinction is made… between authoritative interpretation and the interpretation or understanding that each individual arrives at… ….While the former is confined to the Guardian….”
    Letters as being only for the addresse: https://justabahai.wordpress.com/2010/06/10/mm/#1932

    Susan wrote: “The quotation I gave from Lights of Guidance was in reference to your partial quotation of what the Guardian said about birth control. I pointed out that had you not snipped the quotation, leaving out the first sentence you would see the that Shoghi Effendi admitted there was nothing in the Writings about this,”

    Here is the full quotation as I’ve found it online here:
    “As to the problem of birth control, neither Bahá’u’lláh nor ‘Abdu’l-Bahá has revealed anything direct or explicit regarding this question. But the Bahá’í Teachings, when carefully studied imply that such current conceptions like birth control, if not necessarily wrong and immoral in principle, have nevertheless to be discarded as constituting a real danger to the very foundations of our social life.”

    http://en.bahaitext.org/Lights_of_Guidance/Birth_Control

    and here’s another Letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi.

    “There is no specific minimum age mentioned in the Baha’i teachings at which girls may marry. In the future, this and other questions unspecified will be dealt with by the International House of Justice…” (17 June 1954 written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to a National Spiritual Assembly, published in Unfolding Destiny, page 334)

    Are both correct? Both wrong? One incorrect and one correct? Or as I asked on my blog: Is this expressing the Guardian’s limited knowledge, or the secretary’s? The following link shows more examples of letters written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi which clearly contain errors Shoghi Effendi himself would not have made.
    https://justabahai.wordpress.com/2010/05/19/flexibility/#1950

    Susan wrote: “It is interesting that you insist that modern homosexuality did not exist in Baha’u’llah’s time. How then do you turn around and argue that it is ‘natural’?”

    To make it clear what I was referring to I had the phrase “-that is partnerships of equality”. Open same-sex relationships of equality is what I was referring to. Feminism didn’t exist in Bah’u’llah’s time, but I would argue that feminism – a belief and practice of gender equality is as ‘natural’ as the cultural construct of marriage. Laws, regulations and the way people live are made by humans. Sexual preference is a natural phenomenon, part of what it means to be human.


    • [25 June 2011, my apologies Susan, I didn’t notice this comment and now in cleaning up my blog found this, so am posting this now.]

      The Compilations of Compilation is not secondary literature, it is a compilation of primary sources. I gave that source because that is where the quotation is to be found in English. So far as I know the entire Tablet has not been translated into English but if you feel the need to read it within its context feel free to write the World Centre and ask for a copy of the entire text. In the meantime you can’t just ignore it. As for the fact that it does not appear in translation until 1991, so what? Are you questioning its authenticity? If so, on what grounds?

      Yes, I do know the difference between letters written on the Guardian’s behalf on those written by the Guardian himself. Those written on his behalf do not contain his exact words, though they certainly reflect his sentiments. At the World Centre we find the written instructions that the Guardian gave his secretaries who wrote his responses. We also know that the Guardian reviewed every letter written on his behalf and that he insisted there were no exceptions to this whatsoever. Yes, the authority of these texts is somewhat less than those of the Guardian’s own writings but they are authoritative nonetheless and contain the *bulk* of the Guardian’s authoritative interpretations. They are clearly treated as authoritative by the Universal House of Justice. And Abdu’l-Baha made it quite clear that the House of Justice alone has the authority to make these kinds of legal deductions and promises that they will be guided by the Holy Spirit in doing so. I’ll be happy to provide the source if you so desire.

      But it is interesting to see you speak of ‘sexual preference.’ You are thereby conceding it is a choice.


  6. [Susan you posted this on July 3rd but I’ve changed the date so it appears at the bottom and so my response can appear underneath this. This is just to make the discussion clearer for other readers]

    Insisting that sources be properly cited is not evidence that the Guardian did not see his letters as authoritative. On the contrary, when one of his secretaries became a Covenant breaker and the friends were questioning the authority of the letters written by that secretary Shoghi Effendi wrote the following:

    “Whatever letters are sent in my behalf from Haifa are all read and approved by me before mailing. There is no exception whatever to this rule.”

    (Compilations, Principles of Bahai Administration, p. 89)

    Now whether the addressee is therefore obliged to obey is another question entirely. Often the Guardian is offering personal advice. But we are not the addressee in any case, we are examining these letters for authoritative interpretations. And *most* of the Guardian’s authoritative interpretations are contained in letters written on his behalf. Yes, the authority of these letters is less than that of Writings but if they had *no* doctrinal authority Shoghi Effendi would never have insisted that the authority is ‘less.’ That clearly implies that they *do* have authority. Were the House of Justice to ignore Shoghi Effendi’s authoritative interpretations they would be guilty of mulitilating the Cause in a manner in which the WOB insists they will never do, by taking the sphere of authoritative interpretation on themselves. As for the Guardian’s statement that this is the “day that shall not be followed by night” as referring to a never-ending line of Guardians, that *was* an authoritative interpretation. That events didn’t happen this way tell us something about the nature of prophecy not the accuracy of Shoghi Effendi’s interpretions. As for saying grace, the bismillah which Iranian Baha’is say before their meals is not considered a ‘grace.’ As for the reference to Israel, there is no contradiction here. On the one hand Shoghi Effendi is referring to the intent of the word as found in the Bible whereas on the other hand he is referring to a Tablet by Baha’u’llah. In regards to Shoghi Effendi’s July 1931 statement about the killing of animals you are being disingenuous here. You snipped the statement which followed:

    “It is certain, however, that if man can live on a purely vegetarian diet and thus avoid killing animals, it would be much preferable.”

    That is a clear allusion to ‘Abdu’l-Baha’s own statement on this topic which you want to suggest Shoghi Effendi is ignorant of! You are also being disingenuous on the issue of baptism. ‘Abdu’l-Baha simply suggested that the Baha’is gather together and say prayers on the occasion of naming this child. He called this a “spiritual baptism’, understandable given the fact it was addressed to Baha’is of Christian background. It in no way contracts the Guardians insistence in the letter you refer to that: “not hold an official public ceremony, and provided also they strictly avoid uniformity and rigidity in all such practices.”
    When you stop taking statements in these letters out of context, far fewer contradictions occur.
    In regards to the statement:

    “This is, however, a very controversial question and the Bahá’ís are free to express their views on it.”

    This is *not* from the Dispensation of Baha’u’llah at all, it is taken from the letter on vegetarianism!
    As for the Guardian’s statement on birth control, you left out the preface of that statement which is as follows:

    “Neither Bahá’u’lláh nor ‘Abdu’l-Bahá has revealed anything direct or explicit regarding this question.”

    (Compilations, Lights of Guidance, p. 345)

    If it is not in the Writings then clearly his statement does not constitute an authoritative interpretation in this particular case. This is not rocket science. When these letters state that the Teachings are thus and such, it is an authoritative interpretation, otherwise it may not be.

    In regards to Shoghi Effedni’s relationship with a number of Baha’is who were gay such as Mark Tobey (and one might add Alaine Locke) we don’t know what he knew or didn’t know about their sexual proclivities but because he chose not to shun them does not constitute evidence that he believed homosexual behavior was consistent with the Teachings, not when we have so much documented evidence to the contrary. Do you really think his secretaries wrote all those letters (and they are numerous) while he was out playing tennis?


  7. Susan you have misread my comments. My comment was to indicate that Shoghi Effendi was thorough and consistent.
     
    Reading a letter is not the same as giving it Scriptural authority.

    “Whatever letters are sent in my behalf from Haifa are all read and approved by me before mailing. There is no exception whatever to this rule.”

    This was a Letter sent to an individual on 7 Dec 1930, cited in a letter from the UHJ 22 oct, 1996.

    You state it was in response to his secretary becoming a Covenant Breaker but the letter was a response to this:

    “Can you make a statement which would establish the authenticity of your letters written by Ruhi or Soheil with your P.C. [sic] attached. There are still some people who continue to feel that these letters are not authorized by you and only express the personal opinions of the above writers.”

    (The Universal House of Justice, 1996 Oct 22, Authentication and Authority)

    Ruhi was not declared a Covenant Breaker until 1950, so you have mixed something up.

    This is important because it then means that the purpose of the response was to assert some general level of authority to the letters, and nothing do with a Covenant Breaker which you state in your comment.

    The point here is to assure the addresse that there is some authority so Shoghi Effendi didn’t need to write such letters himself but I would never assume this to mean it is authoritative interpretation on par with Shoghi Effendi’s station as the Guardian.

    Here is the link again referring to what has been written about the authority of these letters:
    https://justabahai.wordpress.com/2010/04/12/mainly-about-homosexuality/#authority

    It seems to me perfectly understandable that Shoghi Effendi wanted individuals to take these letters seriously, so he could focus on his work as Head of the Faith and on the documents he penned himself.

    “My chief concern at this challenging period of Bahá’í history is rather to call the attention of those who are destined to be the champion-builders of the Administrative Order of Bahá’u’lláh to certain fundamental verities the elucidation of which must tremendously assist them in the effective prosecution of their mighty enterprise.”

    (Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Baha’u’llah, p. 98-99)

    Further in your comments you refer to “Often the Guardian is offering personal advice”, whereas it is clear from the context that you are referring to letters written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi and it is in fact the secretary who is offering personal advice. As I have already written, I am not suggesting that there is no authority but I am saying that this authority is not the same as anything Shoghi Effendi wrote himself.

    The rest of your comments are a repeat of the same arguments in your earlier comments and I’ve already responded to these in my July 14th response.

    You wrote: “And *most* of the Guardian’s authoritative interpretations are contained in letters written on his behalf.”

    Some examples please.
    What Shoghi Effendi writes seems to indicate that when he was writing in his role as authoritative interpreter he made this very clear in the document he was writing such as:

    “I feel it incumbent upon me, by virtue of the obligations and responsibilities which as Guardian of the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh I am called upon to discharge, to lay special stress, at a time when the light of publicity is being increasingly focussed upon us, upon certain truths which lie at the basis of our Faith and the integrity of which it is our first duty to safeguard.”

    (Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Baha’u’llah, p. 99)


  8. “Ye are forbidden to commit adultery, sodomy and lechery. Avoid them, O concourse of the faithful.”

    Why does the above quote refer to a gay couple in a committed relationship? It can just as well refer to a straight Bahai couple in a Bahai marriage. Or does Susan believe that once a couple recites “we will all very abide…” then suddenly everything they do in their bedroom is sanctified? Open your mind a bit Susan. The Bahai Faith focuses sex into proper relationships called families for a ever-progressing civilization. It doesn’t limit it to one man and one woman, if it did- then polygomous families that become Bahai would be forced to get a divorce before they enroll. But they are not.


  9. [26 June 2011, my apologies Susan, I didn’t notice this comment and now in cleaning up my blog found this.]

    In regards to the following passage:

    “Ye are forbidden to commit adultery, sodomy and lechery. Avoid them, O concourse of the faithful.”

    Payam asks:

    “Why does the above quote refer to a gay couple in a committed relationship?”

    The above quote says nothing about whether the relationship in question is committed or not committed. It refers specifically to liwat or sodomy. It might be conceivably be possible to interpret this as meaning there are some kinds of homosexual behavior which are not illicit (since lesbians, for instance, don’t commit sodomy) it Shoghi Effendi interpreted this to refer to all homosexual relations and he is the only one authorized to make that interpretation. As to the question of whether *everything* a married couple do in the bedroom is sanctified, I don’t know of anything in the Writings which states that. It is quite possible to interpret that verse as prohibiting anal sex between married couples as well. While it is true that Baha’is don’t break up polygamous marriages we certainly don’t allow men to take additional wives once they have become Baha’is because monogamous relations between a man and a woman are considered the standard.
    This is not an issue of me opening my mind, Payam. If I were making the rules myself I might well say homosexual marriages are okay, and in fact when it comes to matters of secular law, I do say that. But I’m not going to twist the Writings to make them say whatever fits my personal preferences.


  10. Dear Friends,

    This is incredible, a wonderful source of inspiration. Thank you for all the work that is being put into this research, and the patient, careful response to each comment. The principle of personal investigation of truth took on a new meaning for me when I fell in love with my Baha’i partner. We want to be able to take our beautiful children to Baha’i children classes without being ostracised from the Baha’i community. I am worried that our daughter will be denied the loving welcome that other Baha’i children would receive.

    Thank you for having these discussions and raising awareness. There are gay Baha’is and they are suffering.



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