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Is there homophobia in the Baha’i community?

July 30, 2010

Art by Sonja van Kerkhoff

First Lessons in Relativity
an installation
by Sonja van Kerkhoff

Is there homophobia in the Baha’i community? In April this year Korey started a discussion on a Bahai Facebook group called “homophobia”. This is what he posted:


If you are gay or not, you should forward this as a support of your friends and loved ones that are. Love is not defined by color, belief, or gender.


I am the mother that is not allowed to see the children she gave birth to, took care of and raised. The courts say that I do not fulfill the requirements to be a mother now that I live with another woman.

I am the boy that never finished his degree because every day I was called a Faggot.

I am the girl who was kicked out of her house because I confessed to my mother that I was a lesbian.

I am the prostitute working in the streets because no one wants to hire a transsexual.

I am the sister that tightly hugs her gay brother during long nights of fear and crying.

We are the parents that barried their daughter much sooner than they should have.

I am the man who died alone in a hospital because who was my partner for 27 years, was not allowed access to my room.

I am the orphan that wakes up at night due to nightmares, because I was taken from the only home where I was shown love, simply because I have two fathers.

How I would like to be adopted. I am not amongst those who were lucky.

I took my own life only weeks before I would graduate from college. I wouldn’t take it anymore.

We are the couple that the landlord stood up when he found out we wanted to rent a room for two men.

I am the person that never knows which bathroom to use in order not to be sent to the management office.

I am the survivor of domestic abuse that realized that the support system became cold and distant when they found out that my abusive partner was also a woman.

I am the survivor of domestic abuse that doesn’t have a support system to go to because I am a man.

I am the father that was never able to hug his own child because I grew up with fear to show any affect towards other men.

I am the economics teacher who always wanted to be a sports teacher until someone told her that only lesbians do that.

I am the woman who died when the paramedics stopped treating her when they found out I was a transsexual.

I am the person who feels guilty because I think I could be a better person if society didn’t despise me.

I am the man who left his beliefs aside, not because I stopped believing, but because I was rejected as a person.

I am the warrior who keeps serving its own country but without being able to reveal my own lifestyle because in the army, I am not allowed to be gay.

I am the person who has to hide and keep to myself what this world needs the most: love.

I am the young girl who is embarrassed to confess to her friends that she is a lesbian, because they are constantly making fun of them.

I am the young man tied to a pole, brutally beaten and abandoned because two “macho” men wanted to “teach me a lesson.”

On October 7, 1998, Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson took Matthew Shepard to a remote area of the East side of Laramie, where they conducted unimaginable acts of hate. Matthew was tide up to a pole, where he was beaten up and abandoned to the awful weather of a cold fall night. Almost eighteen hours later he was found by a cyclist, who initially confused him for a battered doll. Matthew died October 12 at 12:53 am in a hospital in Fort Collins, Colorado.
MURDERED FOR BEING GAY.

IF YOU BELIEVE THAT HOMOPHOBIA IS WRONG, AND IT KEEPS US AWAY FROM BEING A SOCIETY THAT IS JUST AND UNDERSTANDING, FORWARD THIS WITH THE TITLE ‘HOMOPHOBIA’

Below are the comments I posted in this Facebook discussion.

Most of those who posted took a differing position to mine and most are Bahais, so, based on my responses decide for yourself if there is homophobia in the Baha’i community.

In July all of the discussion was removed and I end this blog with some thoughts on this.

Ironically, Korey, a Christian himself told me privately that he posted this as part of the work he is doing with the United Nations Global Youth Coalition on HIV/AIDS. It was not in response to any particular experience he has had with Bahai’s but rather a message he sent out to various religious organizations. My response below is responds to the first person who responded to the texts in colours above.

My 18 May 2010 response

BB wrote “I am tired of the intimidation.
I’m just tired, of being accused of being hateful, because I think Baha’u’llah is right to forbid same sex relations, and because the Baha’i Faith will not permit same sex marriage to its members.
People deserve to live without violence and hatred.”

First I looked for the signs of intimidation and all I could find was Korey’s list of suggestions for tolerance toward peoples of all persuasions. Then realised, well, the only thing you could be responding to was the word “homophobia” because Korey’s list of suggestions for tolerance doesn’t make any specific reference to the Bahai Faith either.

Then you jump in and state: that “Baha’u’llah is right to forbid same sex relations”, when I would have thought you would be aware that this is not true. Baha’u’llah mentions the shame of sex with children. (link to this reference opens in a new window), but you have taken this a step further to exclude gay relationships. Now I see where the word might ‘homophobia’ apply.

As a Bahai you are telling the world there is no place for same sex equality. You might not hate gays but your act of writing this indicates that you see no problem in discriminating against them. I’m sorry if this comes across so bluntly but you began your post by claiming some form of intimidation and state people shouldn’t have to live with hatred. Where’s the line here?
In the various postings after yours, I see no sign of tolerance, no sign of openness. Where is the love towards all of humanity?

BB continued:
“But people also deserve to state their opinions without being shouted down. The Baha’i approach is one of loving education, to realize that the Law of God is what brings us the greatest happiness, and brings to society the greatest tranquility; the Baha’i approach is not one of hatred and violence, so kindly stop associating the prohibition of same-sex sexual relations, with hatred and causing death.”

My response is, please stop associating same-sex orientation with disease or drug addiction or worse with morality.

BB: “…the appalling lack of moral clarity in society today… In my view, most of society who support same-sex marriage, have not done so thoughtfully. It hasn’t been a process of listening carefully and weighing things, it is being cowed by being bludgeoned…”

You state that the debate (I assume on equal rights for homosexuals) is no longer respectful. My response is to start with yourself, don’t assume that I have not thought thoroughly about why I believe homosexuals are a valuable part of the garden of humanity.

Letters written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi in the 1950s shouldn’t be an excuse for this attitude. I don’t see Bahais taking much notice of the letter which informs Bahais that they shouldn’t use birth control (see). It seems to me, that most of those who have posted here, think it is OK to discriminate against homosexuals and so then choose to use these letters as if they are Bahai Law (A link to a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi about the differing authority of these letters.).

The following seems a pretty hateful statement to me:)
BB: “Why would I tell you that behavior is healthy and good for you, when the Manifestation of God says it is not? I won’t lie to you. You may hate what I say, when I repeat the divine laws; but it’s still my job as a Baha’i to vindicate their truth, and to take heat for doing so:”

But, please BB you are lying. Baha’u’llah never wrote this. Never wrote a word that even comes close to this, unless somehow, you think pederasty (sex with children: see source for an elaboration) relates to this. Perhaps in the 1950s Bahais might have made this connection but Baha’u’llah’s Word is not limited by the exigencies of the time (Link to a quotation about flexibility + change in the Will + Testament) and certainly not by my nor your ideas. You mention “popularity” as a false excuse for promoting gay rights, which reminds me of similar arguments made against the suffragettes by those who wanted to keep the status quo.

Here are my reasons for arguing for equality and for trying to see if the current prohibitions on equality for gay couples is something embedded in Baha’i Scripture and therefore not open to change or not.

1. The Bahai Faith is for all of humanity without exceptions or discrimination.

2. The Bahai Faith is able to be flexible and change because that was Baha’u’llah’s intention for having a House of Justice. (see some quotations here)

3. That is it wrong, very wrong, for Baha’i youth to learn at puberty that at best anything other than being straight is a handicap, at worst, this is some sort of ‘disease’ which upsets their family and their friends. If what I write can help stop one Baha’i from committing suicide, then I’m relieved. That’s my main motive for hunting around in the Baha’i Writings to try and see where these ‘homophobic’ ideas Bahais such as yourself state, might come from and see if anything is actually unchangeable Bahai Scripture. I have yet to find a single word.

4. It perpetuates discrimination in society and in my view any form of discrimination creates imbalance for those in and out of the circle that has been created. The Baha’i community is missing out on an aspect of diversity. I notice the absence of the orchids in the garden of humanity.

I realise BB in your advice to Pey to contact the Baha’i Network on AIDS, Sexuality, Addictions and Abuse group you probably mean well, but it is like rubbing salt onto a wound.
Pey is not ashamed of being gay, doesn’t need counselling, and obviously from his comments, doesn’t need understanding and confidentiality. He doesn’t have to be in the closet and I hope for the day that more Baha’is are able to live out of the closet too. That depends on the Baha’is and their communities.

Another of my responses to BB about a week later

BB thank you for choosing to take the route of using the Writings in your arguments. I appreciate this. However, I am not taking any issue with anything Shoghi Effendi wrote as interpreter of the Bahai Writings.
Not at all.

In your response you don’t seem to see a distinction between what Shoghi Effendi wrote and the 1000’s of Letters written by secretaries on his behalf. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to find anything penned by Shoghi Effendi himself that mentions the status of these letters.
However here are three letters written on his behalf which give some indication that they are not the same as Bahai Scripture and do not have the same status as anything penned by Shoghi Effendi himself:

“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.
He feels that in any future edition this fault should be remedied, any quotations from Bahá’u’lláh or the Master plainly attributed to them, and the words of the Guardian clearly differentiated from those of his secretaries.”

Letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to the National Spiritual Assembly of the British Isles, 25 February 1951, published in The Unfolding Destiny of the British Baha’i Community, p. 260

What this doesn’t tell us, is whether the ‘authority’ of the letters by secretaries is an extension of the Guardian’s executive authority as head of the Faith — meaning, “this is for the addresse” or of the Guardian’s authority as authorised interpreter of the writings, meaning “they become part of the sacred text.”
What we can say is there is nothing explicit to indicate that a letter by a secretary can share in the Guardian’s unique role as authorised interpreter.
There is also nothing explicit to say that the Guardian’s secretaries do not share the authority of interpretation. However the phrase “their authority less” seems to suggest this, because an exective authority can be greater or less, direct or indirect, can apply to a local or individual situation or to all Bahai communities, but when the Guardian interprets scripture that interpretation becomes part of the scripture concerned.

The following letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi is addressed to a National Assembly which they then published with the following intro:

“The exact status which Shoghi Effendi has intended the friends to give to those communications he sends to individual believers is explained in the following statement written through his secretary to the National Assembly on November 16, 1932:

“As regards Shoghi Effendi’s letters to the individual Bahá’ís, he is always very careful not to contradict himself. He has also said that whenever he has something of importance to say, he invariably communicates it to the National Spiritual Assembly or in his general letters. His personal letters to individual friends are only for their personal benefit and even though he does not want to forbid their publication, he does not wish them to be used too much by the Bahá’í News. Only letters with special significance should be published there.” ”

Published in the US Bahai Newsletter, No. 71, February 1933, pp. 1-2

The context for most letters written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi have not been made available. To argue that these letters apply to anyone else other than the addresse, you would need to show that they were clearly intended as such. Even then, any letter does not have the same ‘authority’ as Baha’i Scripture which the Universal House of Justice cannot change.

Another letter states the limits of The Guardian’s role as interpreter and makes a distinction between his own writing and a letter written on his behalf:

“The infallibility of the Guardian is confined to matters which are related strictly to the Cause and interpretation of the teachings; he is not an infallible authority on other subjects, such as economics, science, etc. When he feels that a certain thing is essential for the protection of the Cause, even if it is something that affects a person personally, he must be obeyed, but when he gives advice, such as that he gave you in a previous letter about your future, it is not binding; you are free to follow it or not as you please.”


17 October 1944, Letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, Directives from the Guardian, p. 33-34

Here it seems that letters to individuals were not intended to be binding on that individual, but rather advice for that individual.

If we look at what Shoghi Effendi himself wrote about his role as interpreter we can see he was very clear about the limits of his interpretation:

“From these statements it is made indubitably clear and evident that the Guardian of the Faith has been made the Interpreter of the Word and that the Universal House of Justice has been invested with the function of legislating on matters not expressly revealed in the teachings.
The interpretation of the Guardian, functioning within his own sphere, is as authoritative and binding as the enactments of the International House of Justice, whose exclusive right and prerogative is to pronounce upon and deliver the final judgment on such laws and ordinances as Bahá’u’lláh has not expressly revealed. Neither can, nor will ever, infringe upon the sacred and prescribed domain of the other.”

(Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Baha’u’llah, p. 150-51)

The point here is that the arguments you make are all based on what Shoghi Effendi wrote himself and in those cases where Shoghi Effendi was clearly referring to something in the Baha’i writings.

The point I make is what Shoghi Effendi did not write himself, that the Letters written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi have another authority. I am not saying the letters are irrelevant but I am saying that they are not part of unchangeable Bahai Scripture, quoting the 3 letters written on his behalf to support this view.

So to what you wrote:
“However, Shoghi Effendi determined that this implies a prohibition on homosexual relations. Having said so, that’s the Baha’i Teaching.”

In the notes section (Note 134, p. 223 in the 1992 edition) of the Kitab-i-Aqdas (The Most Holy Book) the Universal House of Justice or the Research department have written
“Shoghi Effendi has interpreted this reference as a prohibition on all homosexual relations.” [More is here]

And then just as you have done above, a Letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi is quoted as if this is unchangeable Bahai Scripture.

The notes section of Kitab-i-Adqas are able to be changed because these are penned by the Universal House of Justice or the Research department under their instruction. And so when 6 months after the first publication of the Kitab-i-Adqas, editorial changes were made by the Universal House of Justice (For example major changes to Note 108), this demonstrates clearly that this part of in the Kitab-i-Adqas can be changed.

While it is true that Shoghi Effendi started work on the Kitab-i-Aqdas in his role as official interpreter, he never finished this. I’ve been told that he completed 20 of the 194 sections in the notes [see and I’ve written more on the notes here] but I haven’t found a source for this.

However, I trust the Universal House of Justice. If anything in this book was penned by Shoghi Effendi as official interpreter, then they would have indicated this. The Kitab-i-Aqdas is our book of laws and as lawgiver, the Universal House of Justice, are well able to make and change its own laws.

There is also another way of looking at the status, authority or role of the Letters written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi and that is at the texts as evidence themselves. Apart from the fact that there is nothing penned by Shoghi Effendi to indicate that these count as interpretation, and that the opposite seems to me more likely: Shoghi Effendi was exact and clear when he wrote in his role as interpretor, would he leave up to various secretaries to pen what Shoghi Effendi would consider unchangeable Scripture? I doubt it.

So to the texts: There are many letters written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi that show the limited knowledge of the writer and, in my view, not the limited knowledge of Shoghi Effendi as The Guardian.

“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, Letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi)

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.
Do we assume from this that Shoghi Effendi was inconsistent or made a mistake or forgot, or that it doesn’t matter as these are not Shoghi Effendi’s own words but words of another authority.

There are more examples here

So BB, show me where in Shoghi Effendi’s own words as interpreter of Bahai Scripture, he makes any reference to the issue of homosexuality or sexual orientation.

My response to MDB

MDB wrote: “As Bahais we are to obey the laws of the land in which we live. If the law forbids gays to be married then even if that was not forbidden in the Faith, we could not allow it as it would go against the laws of the land. I realize that i may be wrong. Also, even though gay marriages are not recognized in the Faith, gays are free to marry and the Faith cannot in any way prevent that marriage, it simply will not be recognized.”

Yes, as Bahais we must obey the laws of the country.

“Let them proclaim that in whatever country they reside, and however advanced their institutions, or profound their desire to enforce the laws, and apply the principles, enunciated by Bahá’u’lláh, they will, unhesitatingly, subordinate the operation of such laws and the application of such principles to the requirements and legal enactments of their respective governments.
Theirs is not the purpose, while endeavoring to conduct and perfect the administrative affairs of their Faith, to violate, under any circumstances, the provisions of their country’s constitution, much less to allow the machinery of their administration to supersede the government of their respective countries.”

(Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Baha’u’llah, p. 65-66)

Since some countries recognise homosexual marriages and forbid any discrimination, while other countries make being a homosexual a crime, the Bahai practice will vary from one country to another.

Meaning that in countries where not only gays may marry but it would be against the law of that country to discriminate against them, I would understand Bahai law to mean here that gays who are married and join the Bahai Faith would not be discriminated against. It would also mean that in countries where couples have a civil union (not marriage), just is the practice with heterosexual couples, homosexual civil unions would be recognized. And I can imagine that it would make sense for such rulings to be decided by National Spiritual Assemblies because in some countries, even accepting a civil union between a man and a woman as a valid marriage might appear ‘immoral’ in that culture.

The Universal House of Justice wrote:
“As you see, the Baha’i Faith accepts as man and wife couples who prior to becoming Baha’is, have had a valid marriage ceremony, whether this be civil, religious or by tribal custom, even if this has resulted in a polygamous union.
Furthermore, the Faith accepts in certain cases unions which are immoral but accepted by the society in which the people live. In all these cases, because the union is accepted by the Faith, there is no question of a couple’s having a Bahai wedding ceremony subsequently because, as the Guardian says, ‘Bahai marriage is something you perform when you are going to be united for the first time, not long after the union takes place’. If, however, such a couple would like to have a meeting of their friends at which Bahai prayers and readings are said on behalf of their marriage now that they are Bahais, there is no objection to their doing so, although it must be understood that this does not constitute a Bahai marriage ceremony.”

(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of Peru, June 23, 1969) (Compilations, Lights of Guidance, p. 380)

There is also the precedent of allowing those who have more than one spouse to remain married after they become Bahais where it is up to the National Spiritual Assembly to decide on this. It seems that the principle here is that in some cultures or countries, a situation where a Bahai had more than one spouse would be acceptable or perceived as being flexible whereas in another country this would be unacceptable.

It seems to me that rules about marriage would fall under what Abdu’l-Bahai refers to as “daily transactions” in the Will and Testament.
In a provisional translation of a tablet Abdu’l-Baha (in “Amr wa Khalq” volume 4) it seems that ‘social laws’ could be intended to be laws to be decided or adjusted by National Spiritual Assemblies.

“As for marriage, this falls entirely within the social laws.
…In short, whatever ruling the House of Justice makes on this question, that is in truth the decisive decree…
…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.”

More of this quotation is here

I am not stating this is the case, just that this seems to be a possibility. That perhaps in the future in some countries same sex marriage could be recognized in order not to break the law of the country or because the National Spiritual Assembly in some countries has decided on this as a policy.

It is possible that the ‘daily transactions’ aspects of Bahai Law is intended to be this flexible. To be applied differently in different countries. I find this a rather exciting idea. A religion where the religious laws work with the diverse cultures of the world. It’s quite a different idea to how we tend to think of religious law, as something set in stone and something that is uniformly applied. Perhaps this is unity in diversity?

Of course I am not saying this is how Bahai law will be applied, just suggesting that this could be a possibility given the examples of polygamous marriages and the examples where until the 1950s in the middle east only men were allowed to be elected to local and national spiritual assemblies.
[See the bottom of this blog for sources for this.]

My response to WW

WW wrote: “religious law doesn’t have to be mentioned by Baha’u’llah if it was part of the prior religious law…
If there was not a change needed in a prior subject, then it didn’t need to be explained further. Man/Woman marriage and standards of chastity were established back in the Jewish chapter of our Faith. ”

In case you don’t consider what is in the Kitab-i-Aqdas as covering this in relation to marriage, here is a quotation from Shoghi Effendi.

“This Book [the Bayan] at once abrogated the laws and ceremonials enjoined by the Qur’án regarding prayer, fasting, marriage, divorce and inheritance, and upheld, in its integrity, the belief in the prophetic mission of Muhammad…”
(Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, p. 25)


However I do not agree with your statement that it is a Bahai Teaching to accept all previous religious law unless specifically abrogated. First a four quotations:

“…could the Law of the Old Testament be enforced at this epoch and time? No, in the name of God! it would be impossible and impracticable; therefore, most certainly God abrogated the laws of the Old Testament at the time of Christ.”
(Abdu’l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, p. 94)

“In conclusion of this theme, I feel, it should be stated that the Revelation identified with Bahá’u’lláh abrogates unconditionally all the Dispensations gone before it, upholds uncompromisingly the eternal verities they enshrine, recognizes firmly and absolutely the Divine origin of their Authors, preserves inviolate the sanctity of their authentic Scriptures, disclaims any intention of lowering the status of their Founders or of abating the spiritual ideals they inculcate, clarifies and correlates their functions, reaffirms their common, their unchangeable and fundamental purpose, reconciles their seemingly divergent claims and doctrines, readily and gratefully recognizes their respective contributions to the gradual unfoldment of one Divine Revelation, unhesitatingly acknowledges itself to be but one link in the chain of continually progressive Revelations, supplements their teachings with such laws and ordinances as conform to the imperative needs, and are dictated by the growing receptivity, of a fast evolving and constantly changing society,…”

(Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, p. 100)

“The second part of the Religion of God, which refers to the material world, and which comprises fasting, prayer, forms of worship, marriage and divorce, the abolition of slavery, legal processes, transactions, indemnities for murder, violence, theft and injuries — this part of the Law of God, which refers to material things, is modified and altered in each prophetic cycle in accordance with the necessities of the times.”

(Abdu’l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, p. 47)

“Our Exalted Herald — may the life of all else besides Him be offered up for His sake — hath revealed certain laws. However, in the realm of His Revelation these laws were made subject to Our sanction, hence this Wronged One hath put some of them into effect by embodying them in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas in different words. Others We set aside.”

(Baha’u’llah, Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p. 132)

Aside from the references above to all previous laws being abrogated by the presence of Baha’u’llah’s Revelation, for me an important part of the above quotation are the words “Others [meaning other laws] We set aside.”
I read this to mean other laws for the Universal House of Justice to decide on.

If there was a Bahai teaching that stated that all religious law not specifically abrogated by Baha’u’llah would be applicable, then the Universal House of Justice wouldn’t be able to make law on issues not specifically “mentioned in the book” They couldn’t “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.”
(The Will and Testament of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 20, see)

However I do not think it is a Baha’i Teaching otherwise Baha’is would be following these religious laws of the Torah not abogated by Baha’u’llah.

The Torah tells you not to castrate your cat or dog (Lev. 22:24),
to observe the sabbath and to eat matzah on the first night of Passover (Ex. 12:18)
but not after mid-day on the fourteenth of Nissan (Deut. 16:3),
not to work on Rosh Hashanah (Lev. 23:25),
to dwell in booths seven days during Sukkot (Lev. 23:42),
to let the land lie fallow in the Sabbatical year (Ex. 23:11;
Lev. 25:2), never to settle in the land of Egypt (Deut. 17:16),
to make the rapist of a virgin marry her (Deut. 22:28-29),
not to cross-breed cattle of different species (Lev. 19:19),
not to sow grain or herbs in a vineyard (Deut. 22:9),
not to wear garments made of wool and linen mixed together (Deut.
22:11).

And this video clip “West Wood – Biblical Quotes” makes the point of the dangers of religious law being used out of context, brilliantly. Enjoy! For me, it supports the Baha’i Teaching of progressive revelation.

Later responses to WW

WW wrote: “Pederasty… it is a multi-faceted act. By definition, it must include, in the classical view, 1) youth below the age of consent (usually before puberty) and a grown adult 2) is between two males (more modern view also has two females and 3) may include the act of sodomy. If we agree that the act of Pederasty is forbidden, are we assuming it is only one aspect such as the first part which is forbidden or could it be all 3 aspects are forbidden?”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pederasty

And unfortunately part of the culture of the times of Baha’u’llah see this article by Jackson Armstron-Ingram

Comparing adult relationships with pedophilia, is in my view, as inappropriate as suggesting that marriage has a connection with rape. When I am discussing homosexuality I am only discussing adult relationships of equality, nothing else.
And my question in response is, what is so threatening about a couple of the same sex being married and raising children? Primarily homosexuality is about orientation not about sex.

Please show me why you have added points 2 and 3 to a definition that only applies to point 1. If this is just your opinion that’s fine, if this is something you think applies to the Baha’i teachings, then please show me with quotations how you see this. If you read the notes of the Kitab-i-Aqdas you’ll see that the definition is as it is known to the rest of the world, pederasty means sex with children, and I agree with Baha’ullah, it is shameful.

WW wrote: “However, it should be noted that Shoghi Effendi never wrote anything contrary to that statement, even after that letter was written. What does that imply? It means either he didn’t know it was written or he was aware of it and agreed.”

My view is that Shoghi Effendi didn’t write about anything on any of the 100s of topics covered by the letters written on his behalf either because he didn’t consider them Scripture to start with or because he considered the areas they covered as being under the auspices of the Universal House of Justice.

I’ll back up my comments with quotations if you ask me to.
It is all here

WW asked “how would you define sodomy?”

I think the important question is what Baha’u’llah would have meant by the use of the word “liwaat”.

In the Kitab-i-Aqdas, Questions and Answers, #49, is the text: “Concerning the penalties for adultery, sodomy, and theft, and the degrees thereof”
Baha’u’llah’s answer: “The determination of the degrees of these penalties rests with the House of Justice.” (The Kitab-i-Aqdas, p. 121, 1992 edition)

The question asks about:
zinaa’ (= adultery, fornication) and
liwaat (= sodomy, paederasty) and
sariqa (= theft)

Liwaat is the word used meaning both sodomy and paederasty in Arabic and Persian so it will be up to the UHJ to determine whether this includes homosexuality or not.
In the notes (note 134, page 223) the UHJ at the time of the publication wrote that “the subject of boys had the implication of paederasty.” and state that Shoghi Effendi interpreted this as a prohibition on all homosexuals but further down the only source they give is a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi. As I read this there is no source penned by Shoghi Effendi in his role as interpretator of the Bahai Writings.
However, unless (or until) a future UHJ makes a differing statement this connection made with homosexuality as a prohibition should be seen as their policy (at least that is the case 18 years ago), but this is not the same as a prohibition on homosexuality being penned by Baha’u’llah which is not subject to change.

Another thought on Question #49: In those times the punishment for those crimes was stipulated in Islamic law and not left up to the judge or ruler. So it seems that in Baha’u’llah’s answer he making the punishment for these things at the discretion of the UHJ.

I think it is likely that Baha’u’llah intended his laws to be used as principles which individuals and institutions could work with.

“Think not that We have revealed unto you a mere code of laws. Nay, rather, We have unsealed the choice Wine with the fingers of might and power”
Baha’u’llah, The Kitab-i-Aqdas, p. 21

Baha’u’llah states that he doesn’t give just us a code of laws. I would argue that the code of laws he established is the UHJ as legistrator of laws. A UHJ which is flexible and free to change its own laws in a changing world.

And on that note while travelling homeward through the U.K. some months ago was this headline in the papers:
“Anger at Pope’s attack on British equality laws”.

The Pope’s argument being that it was against natural law. Interestingly one commenter wrote: “How can the sexual nature of 6-10% of humans be unnatural? How can something which occurs across the world in practically every culture and has been recorded since history itself began to be recorded be unnatural?
It would make more sense to suggest that mountains are unnatural, as they occur far less commonly than gay people.”

And this leads me to a text in an article by Jackson Armstrong-Ingram:

“Both zina and liwat are sexual relations that take place outside of a context in which the long term rights of both participants are regarded. Unlawful sex is literally unprotected sex — it takes place in relationships that are not associated with social supports and long-term obligations. Lawful sex, as defined in the Aqdas, takes place in marriages, which are relationships embedded in a network of familial support and providing for the mutual development of the partners.”

“The Provisions for Sexuality in the Kitab-i-Aqdas in the Context of Late Nineteenth Century Eastern and Western Sexual Ideologies”

So perhaps it is possible that what Baha’ullah means by the terms, zina and liwaat is any sexual activity that would be considered unnatural or illegal. What is considered unnatural is certainly a cultural question, and so it seems to mean that while Baha’u’llah is clear in the Aqdas about sex with children (paederasty) never ever being ok, he treats question of other areas of “illicit” sex as something the Universal House of Justice would rule on.

This strikes me as prophetic. In his day the idea of homosexual marriage would have been unheard of, and yet, in making other areas of ‘illicit’ something for the Universal House of Justice to rule on, it means they can make and change law on how homosexual partnerships are to be treated.

WW wrote: “I guess the final stance is wanting to take specific words and apply new, modern meanings to them to justify a behavior which was not justified with the prior meanings. “
to which I can respond by saying “I guess the final stance is wanting to take specific words and apply old meanings to them. ”

One either believes Baha’u’llah was a prophet of God with a vision or not.
I’m assuming your use of material from the Koran rather than relating to any of the quotations I referred to from Baha’i Scripture means that these writings are more important to you. That’s fine, but my position is to treat Baha’i Scripture with more importance. We will just have to difer on the issue of sodomy in that case.

Responses to DD + WW

DD thanks for your response.
You refer to the discrimination towards gays by Bahais as allegations. Please take the time to read just a few of these stories before dismissing the suffering of our gay youth >> gaybahai.net/read-stories

Clearly sometimes the letters written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi are ignored such as the one advising Bahais not to use any form of birth control, which I quoted in an earlier post on this discussion.

So if Bahais wish to treat these letters as if they have the same level of authority as Bahai Scripture, despite this not being what Shoghi Effendi wanted, then I’d say do this with all those letters in that case, not just the ones that state the homophobic attitudes of the times.

WW wrote: “doesn’t make the prior Revelation any less worthy, just merely outdated.”
I agree, and so my view is that your Islamic idea of the meaning of ‘liwaat’ is more limited or outdated than how I read what Baha’u’llah could have meant in his use of this in the Kitab-i-Adqas. I say “could” because I think the real issue is that it isn’t so clear what is intended by these ‘illicit’ forms of relations. And because it isn’t clear, I do think this is an issue for the UHJ to rule on. Being an issue for them to rule on, means also that this is an issue that is open to change. And that is about sodomy or liwaat, not homosexuality which is not the same thing. My arguments here are about homosexuality as an orientation. As Bahais if we do not discuss things we can’t really understand them. The UHJ has never ever written that Bahais must not question, must not search the Writings to come to understandings and so on.

WW, I realise that you may mean well by hoping that I am earnest, but I am not questioning your honesty or motives. It would make any discussion between people with differing views more fruitful if Baha’is didn’t do this. I’m making this comment not just because you use this, but because very often Baha’is assume I must be wrong if I state things like ‘I can’t find anything in unchangeable Baha’i Scripture that is anti-gay’ or ‘why are Baha’is so keen to up hold the homophobic 1950s attitudes of the letters written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi while ignoring other 1950s attitudes such as birth control being wrong’ and then usually resort to making some slanderous remark about my motive or even worse telling me that I am disagreeing with the UHJ or that I am breaking the Covenant. What people are really doing is throwing sticks and stones with their words.

And it is only when I’ m discussing homosexuality that this happens.

It really saddens me that Baha’is seem so homophobic. By homophobic I mean, so often it seems to touch some deep unsecurity or fear. Baha’is who are most likely very open and wonderful in other aspects of their thinking or feeling, come out with comments such as those written by others in this discussion where a young gay Bahai’s suicide was dismissed as “no ones fault that [he] did not listen and follow.” when this person had suffered shunning by his religion and family. My question: what is so threatening that people react like this?

I do not believe Baha’ullah ever intended his religion to be so intolerant, so unfeeling for people of diversity. So my challenge to those of you who read this, is face your fears about homosexuality and you just might find there’s nothing to fear. Please make the Baha’i community a kinder place for homosexuals, even if you think homosexuality is wrong.

And here’s a link to an inspiring article by a gay Baha’i whose parents sound amazing.

July 2010: My response to the moderator for removing the discussion

T thanks for putting an explanation of why you deleted the ‘homophobia’ discussion thread and while I appreciate that you had complaints made to you about this thread and then just before you deleted this someone referred to my use of the writings as:
“attacks on the foundations of the Baha’i Faith” and “frontal assaults“, and I would agree when people resort to calling argumentation attacks or assaults this lowers the tone of discussion. However I would suggest that you delete the posts that resort to name-calling or attacking the credibility of other posters and not delete the whole thread. In deleting the whole thread you are censoring this discussion and as much as I know that many Bahais would like the issue of equality for gays to disappear, this is not going to go away.

I am sad that you deleted the minority voices: the gay Bahais who at my encouragement participated thinking here was a Baha’i forum where they would not be silenced. They didn’t expect a particularly gay-friendly environment but at least they could speak. I realise that your intention was not to silence these voices, but this what has happened. Majority voices will always prevail so the real effect is on the silencing of those for whom it took courage to speak.

10 comments

  1. Interesting article.

    I’ve found these videos to be extremely helpful when it comes to homosexuality and the Baha’i faith.

    http://www.kdkfactory.com/home/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=16:bnasaa-conference&catid=7:events&Itemid=3

    Note from Sonja: I had a look at one of these videos and didn’t see any reference to homosexuality except in the context of ‘peoples with problems’ – I don’t want my blog to turn into a debate on the value or not of these videos, so if anyone has comments post them on Bahai Rants (www.bahairants.com). I think it is more useful to see what the Baha’i Writings have to say rather than what Baha’is say in the context of a conference on AIDS, Sexuality, Additions and Abuse. Personally I find it offensive to treat sexuality as an addiction or abuse. My interpretation of the Baha’i teachings is that there is a holistic view towards sexuality.


  2. Another great post, Sonja. I admire what you are doing very much, but I must have lost hope or something. I think the Baha’i Faith started out as a great spiritual project for humanity, but I think it failed and God is moving on to other things and other people to do His/Her work.

    These Baha’is amaze me. They have one of the greatest opportunities no other religion has, a clean slate, to make things right, and they fall for every single pitfall that all of the other religions have gone through. I hope you influence the Baha’is who make decisions, I really do, but I just don’t know if it will happen.


  3. Matt said it best… thanks Sonja for your cogent dialogue you give many of us who have thrown up their hands in despair some hope that perhaps at least a few Baha’is have a soul and a heart…

    as my students here say… rock on!


  4. A truly fascinating series of discussions! I learned a lot.


  5. I invite readers to join in here as well:

    http://revolked2.blogspot.com/2010/08/bahai-faith-is-homophobic-following-was.html


  6. [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.]

    In regards to this remark:

    “idea of illicit sex, which is not about homosexuality,but about unprotected nonconsensual sex”

    It is wishful and anachronistic thinking to assume that this is what Baha’u’llah has in mind when He condemns zina or liwat, but the truth is that there is really no evidence He was thinking in those terms.


  7. I am a retired Professor and psycho therapist in private practice in the U.S. I am a Baha’i who specializes in treatment of sex addictions. Homosexuality is a form of sex addiction and many gay in recovery go to 12 Step programs with Sexaholics Annoymous. I have treated many gays who want treatment through either inpatient and/or outpatient treatment plans.

    Research not speculation nor finger pointing:
    See the NARTH website for current research which dispels the “born that way” theory argument, shows pro-heterosexual and etiology of gay lifestyle choice studies, lists inpatient treatment centres for gays who want to change and who move out of their living situations, and offers support for them every step of the way through recovery. At the end of the day, loving them to an abstinent or pro-heterosexual life, a path which the Manifestation outlines for them is NOT easy. Recovery from any addiction–especially sex addiction is difficult at best but it is achievable. Again, for those who sincelely want to change and move out of their living situation can and do change, howbeit a small percentage of about 30 percent since its a powerful addiction which often takes a long time to overcome. Yes, many overcome the craving for the same sex as well, especially after intensive inpatient treatment which we have at hospital and mental health facilities in the U.S. Dr. Mark Swartz has been a pioneer in reparative therapy as you can read about on the NARTH site. Hence, you have on this blog the Baha’i who wants to the UHJ to conform to their sexual beliefs which they believe to real and biologically based. This is not new, there is a small cadre of Baha’is and some sympathizers who have been beating their drum for years for the laws and teachings to conform to their wishes in the name of the elimination of “prejudice”. They aren’t going to change their arguments which are: I can’t help it, I was “born that way”; I am a victim of discrimination or prejudice by Baha’is, Baha’u’llah or the UHJ, while lining up with blacks and women rights movements trying to say that blacks or women have gone through (paralleling themselves with resistance in the US toward black-white marriages) the same thing–when we are not comparing apples to apples etc.; and their last but not least argument “Who would want this lifestyle but I am stuck with it and you are prejudice toward what biology or nature gave me.” The only difference is that they now see bi sexuals are choosing their lifestyles while gays are victims of biology.


    • Response to Dr. Chris Johnson:
      You already posted this exact same post earlier on my blog and my response to this is here. >
      https://justabahai.wordpress.com/2012/02/02/choosing-to-be-gay/#comment-865,

      In posting this same text in 3 places on my blog and not responding to my questions, I can only assume that you do not have the evidence to back up the claims in your post above, and that you are not interested in a dialogue. Instead it seems as if you are attempting to preach at me by just repeating the same material.


    • Dear Dr. Johnson…

      Your post is met with extreme sadness… sex addiction, indeed is a serious case, but it has nothing to do with homosexuality. Immoderate behavior in any sexual orientation indeed is difficult. What you are accusing me of, a stable loving marriage for 14 years, is not, sir, an addiction.

      You make it very, very clear that we, as legally married pair of professionals are not welcome in the Baha’i Faith… Why the Faith does not sanction such hateful homophobia, yet removes the rights of good decent GLBT people is shameful and the cause of much more harm to the Faith than any stable, loving relationship. Why this religion, cannot find a way to welcome all people, and allows such homophobic pseudoscience to flourish is causing more harm to the Faith. Shame on you sir, and shame on the Institutions that support such ridiculous degrading, outmoded pseudoscience!

      I have voted with my feet, and joined a spiritual community that welcomes all people with open arm. I left this religion precisely because of this ridiculous support of bigotry.

      Shame on you sir!

      Dr. Daniel Orey
      Brasil



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