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“A mother writes to the Universal House of Justice”

September 30, 2013

I was recently sent the following:

11 March 2011

“To The Universal House of Justice


I am having trouble accepting the Baha’i teachings on homosexuality and would appreciate further guidance. My son is gay which means that I am forced to explore this issue in greater depth and the test has become more real. I wrote a while ago about this issue to the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’i’s of the United Kingdom. They sent me a letter written by the Universal House of Justice dated October 1995 and also a paper from the Baha’i International Community on the same subject. Although this reading helped to clarify my vision to a certain extent I still feel as though I am not fully able to understand or condone the Baha’i stance on this subject. I know that God is all-knowing and my knowledge is limited so out of humility I should just accept what I do not understand as being true but I still feel rebellious.

I find it very difficult to accept that my son is damaging his soul by being true to his God given nature. Would this only be true if he was a Baha’i and acting against the teachings? Please can you help to clarify this for me? Although this is his issue I am put into a situation that brings the conflict between what I personally believe and what the faith tells me to believe into greater clarity. I want him to find someone he can love and share his life with. I find it hard to wish for him to be unhappy and celibate for all of his life, for the sake of his soul, as would be the situation expected of him if he was to become a Baha’i?

Is there any possibility that in the future the Universal House of Justice would consider allowing same sex marriage and thereby making the test of no sex before marriage equal for all people regardless of sexuality? Or will gay people always be made to feel as though they are on the edges of society and that their actions are evil and blameworthy. However much Baha’is may say that they do not judge other human beings there is a danger that the teachings on this subject could cause guilt, repression and estrangement, especially when a homosexual child is born within a Baha’i family that upholds such principals.

I have full faith that a state run on Baha’i principals as we envisage happening in the Golden age of this dispensation would not enforce moral teachings and would leave each individual with equal rights and freedom of speech as well as the freedom to act according to the dictates of their own individual conscience. Despite this what I fear is the psychological self hatred and guilt that can torture a soul when the society around teaches that they have a handicap that needs to be overcome. I struggle to understand why homosexuality is seen as a problem rather than an aspect of self that can be embraced and feel as though such an attitude is a step backwards rather than forwards.

I understand that society has lost its moral bearings and too much emphasis can be put on the sex impulse but unlike drug addiction for example I believe that sexuality is not a compulsion but an essential aspect of an individual’s identity. I do hope that the Baha’i stance on this subject will be explored in greater depth with experts in the field of psychology etc. so that it can be justified and stand up to the scrutiny that will come its way as the faith evolves and its teachings become integrated into the wider society.

I understand that a soul will progress spiritually if it is able to transcend its desires and this is why Baha’u’llah has given this teaching to mankind. I also believe that if an individual is so deeply moved by their love of Baha’u’llah that they receive the inspiration and motivation to overcome their sexual desires the greatness of the test will mean that they are a truly special soul with great capacity. Not all souls however will be called in such a way and the majority will be left with a feeling of self hatred and that they are inherently deficient. I find it impossible to condone such an attitude as I believe that every soul must learn self love for what they are in entirely, without cutting off an essential aspect of themselves. From this psychologically healthy attitude of wholeness and true deep self acceptance may develop the power to move closer in understanding of how a person’s actions can be brought in harmony with the will of God.

Science continues to prove that it is impossible to cure someone of homosexuality; public opinion in the UK continues to move away from prejudice and intolerance in an enlightening direction. By contrast we see countries like Uganda where religion stirs up bigoted hatred and violence against homosexuals. I became a Baha’i because I believe in independent investigation of the truth, the balance of Science and religion and the illumination of prejudice. The Baha’i stance however could be seen to bolster up the bigoted counter progressive attitude we see in countries such as Uganda, an attitude that leads to the cruel persecution of their homosexual citizens. Would you be able to help to alleviate these fears or point me in the direction of Baha’i literature that can serve as an antidote to such religious extremism on this topic such as examples of Baha’is who are actively working against this kind of cruel homophobia?

In the literature that the NSA of the UK sent me on this subject I also read that “What a Baha’i cannot logically do is to represent himself or herself as a faithful follower of Baha’u’llah while denying or even attacking features of the Faith which He Himself has made integral to its nature and purpose.” If this is true then what should I do about the fact that if I am asked about my attitude towards homosexuality I have to deny this feature of the Faith and say that I do not believe it is wrong if expressed within a loving and lasting relationship. Does this mean that I should stop being a Baha’i or is it ok if I am clear that this is only my personal opinion? I do not want to be rebellious but I have been unable so far to change my opinion through the power of faith or will alone. I therefore request that you pray for me to receive further enlightenment on this issue. I would also greatly appreciate any further insights that you could give me on this topic.

Warmest Baha’i Love
RR

13 May 2012

Dear Bahá’í Friend,

With regard to your email message of 5 May 2012 enquiring about the status of your email letter of 11 March 2011, you may be assured that your letter has been received and is under consideration. A reply will be sent in due course.

With loving Bahá’í greetings,

Office of Correspondence


 
Letter from the Universal House of Justice
22 April 2013

Transmitted by email

Dear Bahá’í Friend,

     The Universal House of Justice has received your email letters of 11 March 2011 and 5 May 2012 describing your struggle to reconcile the Bahá’í teachings with your own views on homosexuality, which have evolved as you have reflected on your relationship with your son. We have been asked to convey to you the following and in so doing express our regret that, owing to the pressure of work at the Bahá’í World Centre and the time necessary to carefully consider the many facets of your heartfelt questions, our reply has been so long delayed. The House of Justice appreciates the candour with which you have expressed your concerns, and your earnest desire to comprehend aspects of the teachings more fully is warmly acknowledged.

     The understanding about human beings today is heavily influenced by materialistic assumptions. Perspectives of social movements, leaders of thought, and the media are shaped by them. Even the findings of science are interpreted according to such prevalent cultural notions. It is not surprising, then, that there are many ideas about human identity and behaviour in contemporary society commonly accepted as truths that conflict with the Bahá’í teachings. Yet, as Bahá’u’lláh asks every thoughtful soul, “Where shalt thou secure the cord of thy faith and fasten the tie of thine obedience?” His answer, revealed in innumerable passages, is, as you know, unambiguous. “The All-Knowing Physician hath His finger on the pulse of mankind.” “No man, however acute his perception,” He affirms, “can ever hope to reach the heights which the wisdom and understanding of the Divine Physician have attained.” And He counsels not to weigh “the Book of God with such standards and sciences as are current amongst you, for the Book itself is the unerring Balance established amongst men”, and in “this most perfect Balance whatsoever the peoples and kindreds of the earth possess must be weighed….” The Manifestation institutes His laws and ordinances in accordance with His intrinsic knowledge of human reality and His intended aims for individual and collective transformation. From a Bahá’í perspective, then, it is the teachings of the Manifestation of God that clarify the essential elements of human identity.

     In contrast to many contemporary conceptions, the Bahá’í teachings maintain that a person must rise above certain material aspects of human nature to develop and manifest inherent spiritual qualities that characterize his or her true self. The Sacred Texts contain laws and exhortations that, in many instances, redirect or restrict behaviours that arise from impulses, tendencies, and desires, whether inborn or acquired. Some of these are physical, while others are emotional or psychological. Yet, whatever their origin, it is through their regulation and control that the higher, spiritual nature is able to predominate and flourish. Those who are not Bahá’ís may have no cause to take into account such considerations. A Bahá’í, however, cannot set aside the implications of these teachings and must endeavour to respond to the best of his or her ability, though it be little by little and day by day. In so doing, all believers face challenges, although the specific type or extent of a test may differ. They act with faith in Bahá’u’lláh’s declaration, “Know assuredly that My commandments are the lamps of My loving providence among My servants, and the keys of My mercy for My creatures”, and they respond to His call, “Observe My commandments, for the love of My beauty.”

     You have suggested that homosexuals could be made to feel as though they are “on the edges of society” and “inherently deficient”, which would drive them away from the Faith. Such an outcome would be antithetical to the Bahá’í teachings. It may be reassuring to you to know that Shoghi Effendi has stated, in letters written on his behalf, that a Bahá’í who has a homosexual orientation must strive daily to come closer to the Bahá’í standard and, in this process, should be treated with tolerance and receive help, advice, and sympathy; he also acknowledges that such an inclination can be “a great burden to a conscientious soul” and states that those concerned should “adhere to their Faith, and not withdraw from active service, because of the tests they experience” since, “in one way or another, we are all tested; and this must strengthen us, not weaken us.” Whatever the particular challenge he or she may face, through the recognition of Bahá’u’lláh and steadfast effort to abide by His teachings and to serve humanity, every believer can have a rich and rewarding Bahá’í life.

     Although they affirm their conviction that Bahá’u’lláh’s teachings reflect God’s purpose for humankind in this Day, Bahá’ís do not seek to impose their values on others. They do not pass judgement on others on the basis of their own moral standards and can never presume to know the standing of any soul in the eyes of God. Rather, the friends are enjoined to show forth unconditional love, to engage in fellowship with all, and to be forbearing, concerned with their own shortcomings and not those of others. They are to have a sin-covering eye, focusing on good qualities and ignoring the bad, and they must eschew backbiting and gossip. As the Bahá’í community continues to grow and develop, increasing its involvement with the wider society, such characteristics will become more pronounced and a hallmark of Bahá’í culture. Given this, to regard those with a homosexual orientation with prejudice or disdain, the House of Justice has repeatedly emphasized, would be entirely against the spirit of the Faith. In response to your question about the position a Bahá’í would take in relation to supporting the human rights of homosexuals, we have enclosed a copy of a letter dated 27 October 2010 written on behalf of the House of Justice to an individual believer that discusses this topic, and it is hoped the guidance contained therein will allay any concern you may have.

     As to the possibility of same-sex marriage within the Faith, according to the teachings, Bahá’í marriage is a union between a man and a woman. This is set forth in the Writings and is not susceptible to change by the House of Justice.

     You have also asked how you should deal with the conflict you face in being a Bahá’í while struggling to appreciate certain aspects of the teachings, and you wonder whether you should withdraw from the Faith or simply acknowledge that on this point you have a different view. It can be helpful to consider that, on occasion, a believer may discover that a personal understanding differs to some degree from the teachings. How can it be otherwise, when our conceptions are forged in a social milieu that Bahá’u’lláh has come to radically transform? “An exact and thorough comprehension of so vast a system, so sublime a revelation, so sacred a trust,” Shoghi Effendi reminds us, “is for obvious reasons beyond the reach and ken of our finite minds.” A sensible approach is simply to recognize that the human mind is both finite and fallible and that acquiring spiritual insight and greater understanding is a gradual and ever-unfolding process that requires time, continued study, reflection on action, and consultation with others. This perspective is quite different, however, from contending with or attempting to change explicit provisions of the Faith. Humility is required, rather than an insistence that one’s personal views at any given time are correct. Thus, there is no reason why you should feel a need to withdraw from the Bahá’í community. Rather you are encouraged to keep an open mind and acknowledge, like every other Bahá’í, that there are elements of the Revelation that you are striving to understand more fully. This does not prevent you from showing forth unconditional love and support for your son.

     You are assured of the loving prayers of the House of Justice at the Sacred Threshold that you and your son may be the recipients of heavenly blessings and bestowals.

With loving Bahá’í greetings,

Department of the Secretariat

 
The 27 Oct 2010 letter which was sent to RR is reproduced below. The relevant parts of this letter were published by the National Spiritual Assembly on January 5th, 2011 which Sen McGlinn has on his blog here

27 October 2010

Transmitted by email: …

Mr. …

Dear Bahá’í Friend,

     Your email message of 10 July 2010, sent to the Office of Public Information at the Bahá’í World Centre, was forwarded to the Universal House of Justice, which was pleased to learn that you have recently become a Bahá’í and that you are studying the Teachings and their relationship to contemporary issues. With respect to your question concerning the position Bahá’ís are to take regarding homosexuality and civil rights, we have been asked to convey the following.

     The purpose of the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh is the realization of the organic unity of the entire human race, and Bahá’ís are enjoined to eliminate from their lives all forms of prejudice and to manifest respect towards all. Therefore, to regard those with a homosexual orientation with prejudice or disdain would be against the spirit of the Faith. Furthermore, a Bahá’í is exhorted to be “an upholder and defender of the victim of oppression”, and it would be entirely appropriate for a believer to come to the defense of those whose fundamental rights are being denied or violated.

     At the same time, you are no doubt aware of the relevant teachings of the Faith that govern the personal conduct of Bahá’ís. The Bahá’í Writings state that marriage is a union between a man and a woman and that sexual relations are restricted to a couple who are married to each other. Other passages from the Writings state that the practice of homosexuality is not permitted. The teachings of Bahá’u’lláh on personal morality are binding on Bahá’ís, who strive, as best they can, to live up to the high standards He has established.

     In attempting to reconcile what may appear to be conflicting obligations, it is important to understand that the Bahá’í community does not seek to impose its values on others, nor does it pass judgment on others on the basis of its own moral standards. It does not see itself as one among competing social groups and organizations, each vying to establish its particular social agenda. In working for social justice, Bahá’ís must inevitably distinguish between those dimensions of public issues that are in keeping with the Bahá’í Teachings, which they can actively support, and those that are not, which they would neither promote nor necessarily oppose. In connection with issues of concern to homosexuals, the former would be freedom from discrimination and the latter the opportunity for civil marriage. Such distinctions are unavoidable when addressing any social issue. For example, Bahá’ís actively work for the establishment of world peace but, in the process, do not engage in partisan political activities directed against particular governments.

     As you continue to reflect on this important matter, it is hoped that you will be able to seek the advice of knowledgeable Bahá’ís and the institutions of the Faith in your area. Rest assured of the loving prayers of the House of Justice in the Holy Shrines on your behalf.

With loving Bahá’í greetings,
Department of the Secretariat

cc: National Assembly of …

25 comments

  1. Thank you very much for posting this!


  2. Z wrote: ” I read the letter as saying that even though secular professionals say that gay relationships can be healthy relationships, spiritually and otherwise, we know that gay relationships (assuming a sexual component) are unhealthy spiritually and not in keeping with God’s wish for us, but even though that is the case, we advise you to love your son unconditionally.

    This does not address the mother’s predicament, who believes, it is apparent, that whatever makes her son truly happy and fulfills his life, with no harm done to others, is both healthy and good for him, and thus should be pleasing to God. She is expected to love him unconditionally while accepting the “fact” that what he is doing is spiritually unhealthy and bad for him.”


  3. ZX wrote: “As the gay child in a Bahai family, I have given the middle finger to the UHJ. And yes I also have given it to my own family. All the while still, loving them and respecting them as human beings. Hey, if those 9 men in Haifa who love their life-long job security can consider me diseased and still love me, then I can give them the middle finger with the utmost love. Fair is fair.”


    • Because you refuse therapy and obeying the Baha’i law, shameful comments that God will someday show you!


    • Chris, you missed the point of this poster’s comments. He was using a strong metaphor to point out a double standard.Note he ends his comments with if the UHJ can “consider me diseased and still love me, then I can give them the middle finger with the utmost love. Fair is fair.””


  4. ZU wrote: “The best a gay Bahai can hope for at the moment is to be part of loving community that doesn’t care if Adam & Steve want to be members and serve on the assembly and teach chlidrens classes…etc etc.

    But even then they have to ignore the overarching shadow of the ‘OFFICIAL’ policy which says that gays with effort, prayer and a doctor’s help can overcome their sexual ‘compulsions’ and hopefully live a productive heterosexual married life where they can pop out some babies for Baha’u’llah.

    This is similar to my gay Catholic friends who joined a liberal church in town that has an LGBT group. I used to get upset with these gay Catholics (and some gay Bahais), but honestly I don’t care anymore. If it makes them happy, who am I to judge? But for me, no thanks!”


  5. ZY wrote: “What a beautiful letter, having gay sons and being Baha’i weighs on me at times and being an isolated believer it makes it much eaiser for me not to push my self to attend things, but then I miss them too.”


  6. ZZ wrote: “Do you read this as the UHJ asking this mother to choose one over the other? I don’t necessarily see this that way, though I certainly understand the potential implications. The letter instructs her to love her son unconditionally. So I guess I have to ask, “What would that look like?”

    Could that not mean that she could support him in many ways, from inviting him and a date to dinner, asking her son how he and his boyfriend are doing (just like mothers do with heterosexual children), providing advice on how to have healthy relationships and later attending his wedding/civil union? Are these counter to what the UHJ are saying?

    Individuals have to decide on how THEY want to live. She makes choices for herself and supports her son and his choices (I am not saying here that same sex attraction is a choice). Then there is the serious issue of how we should treat gay Baha’is as a community. Perhaps some of these can still apply?? Is this possible?”


  7. Of course persons that frequent this site (borders on covenant breaking, not quite there yet but getting close) will have a hard time obeying Baha’u’llah and the UHJ, its a pro gay indoctrination site, totally bias and one sided and I am pro heterosexual, sorry.


    • Thanks for your response Chris Johnson, I assume that you are a Bahai and I wonder why you write

      ” this site (borders on covenant breaking, not quite there yet but getting close) will have a hard time obeying Baha’u’llah and the UHJ”

      In case you are not aware of this, a covenant breaker is an individual who disputes the authority of Bahaú’llah, ‘Abdul-Baha, Shoghi Effendi or the Universal House of Justice.
      I realise Bahais have a tendency to call Bahais with differing views to their own something along the lines of being like a covenant breaker as an insult, but it is a bad habit. If you disagree with my views, please state what you disagree with and I urge you to stop name calling it is undignified.


    • No one, NO ONE has the right to call anyone else a covenant breaker! Not even ‘almost’ a covenant breaker. Unless of course the decision to call someone so comes from the authorities. Which is not the case. How dare you judge someone elses faith?
      The same goes for telling someone they are ‘weak in the covernant’. Get your own plank out of your eye first. Seriously, people…


  8. Justabahai, the name is a misleading for sure, questions all Baha’i authority even the Blessed Beauty Himself. He is a modern Mirza Yaya.


    • Thank you Chris Johnson as your comments here illustrate the emotional immaturity that rests behind homophobia. I wouldn’t go as far as to say that your comments are typical for a Bahai, but I have often been called names by Bahaís who are the kindest and most tolerant people in the world when it is about another topic. When people use name calling or threats instead of engaging with the issue at hand, it usually means that they are afraid. Afraid that their own ideas might not be the right ones. I’m not suggesting that your views are wrong, but they are certainly not representative of the Bahaí community.

      For any reader who is interested, I chose the name “justabahai” for a number of reasons and one is to stress the importance of humility in Bahaú’llah’s teachings. We, each of us, in the end, are each just a Bahai and with that comes free will and the responsibility to act, otherwise, naturally, what would be the point in being a Bahai (the name of another of my blogs b.t.w.:)


  9. Can we make a website posting the identities of these people. I wonder what the university that Dr. Johnson works at in Texas knows or approves of the shameful comments he posts on the internet. Saying that gay people are refusing therapy when science has unanimously agreed that it is damaging is wrong. Calling people covenant breakers and questioning their being a Baha’i is also wrong. I hope he is less discriminatory in his professional life but won’t hold my breath.


    • People can call themselves as they wish. If you look at Dr. Johnson’s own comments on this blog it is clear that he is retired and did not in fact treat any gays for ‘gay therapy’ – see my question to him – “Thank you for your response Dr. Johnson. Am I correct? From your response it seems that you are basing your experience of having “treated many gays who want treatment through either inpatient and/or outpatient treatment plans.” to one client who was a bi-sexual? And then to two others who in your own words, “did not want to go through the tough work of changing”? The one case you refer to being cured was not even a client of yours, correct?” (link to where this is with his comments above) – He never responded and has commented frequently on this blog since.
      Zac, I leave peoples comments here even if they make invalidated claims about the Bahai Faith or Teachings so these can be addressed. After all perhaps other Bahais might share similar views and so hopefully through discussion they can be educated to realise that, for example, gays can be out of the closet and members of Bahai communities without being discriminated against.


  10. As an ex Bahai, I find the letters full of double speak. It’s also create a Bahai position versus non Bahai position fallacy. There is no united non Bahai position. It creates the impression of Baha’is having the one truth while everyone else being lost as Chaotic Evil heathens.


  11. @justabahai
    You guys are haters. If you want to be gay that’s your choice, just don’t try and impose your lifestyle on others. Saying you give the middle finger to your family and the UHJ is so undignified and only makes you look immature and weak. Your ego is so out of control that you cannot see this from a birds eye view. Go live your life and stop imposing your homosexual lifestyle on others. Bahai’s love all people and support human rights for homosexuals, go pick on the groups that kill people for being gay or persecute them and leave the Bahai’s alone. You are only picking on them because you would not dare go against those other groups that kill gays. The Bahai’s are good people and are entitled to live their life as are you.


    • Paul, no where do I as you wrote “give the middle finger to your family and the UHJ” – this is by an anonymous poster. If anyone asks me, I post comments anonymously.
      I am the sort of Bahai who doesn’t censor comments because they are not what I would write or even agree with. I do not allow all comments through, for example, when the comment is clearly just an attack with no connection to the blog.
      As you can see, your comments “Your ego is so out of control that you cannot see this from a birds eye view. Go live your life and stop imposing your homosexual lifestyle on others. ….go pick on the groups that kill people for being gay or persecute them and leave the Bahai’s alone. You are only picking on them because you would not dare go against those other groups that kill gays.” are obviously not something I agree with but I hope someone else wouldn’t go ahead and quote them as if these were my own words.
      The UHJ asks Bahais to come to the defense of anyone whose rights are being denied or violated and that is the aim of my blog. It seems to me, from your comments, you think it is only important if gays are being killed. I disagree. I think the Bahai principle of equality starts with working at this for everyone, day by day, in all societies.

      “The purpose of the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh is the realization of the organic unity of the entire human race, and Bahá’ís are enjoined to eliminate from their lives all forms of prejudice and to manifest respect towards all. Therefore, to regard those with a homosexual orientation with prejudice or disdain would be against the spirit of the Faith. Furthermore, a Bahá’í is exhorted to be “an upholder and defender of the victim of oppression”, and it would be entirely appropriate for a believer to come to the defense of those whose fundamental rights are being denied or violated.”
      27 October 2010, Universal House of Justice


  12. The religious beliefs of the son aren’t mention other than him being the son of a Bahai as well as gay. LGBT people tend to be found in affirming faiths. I don’t know if the son is Bahai or not, probably not I assume.

    The religious status of same-sex marriage has been changing since the late 20th century and varies greatly. Reformed traditions in mainly Protestant (Liberal Christian denominations and Unitarian churches) and Reformed Jewish societies tend to be more receptive to the idea than orthodox or conservative ones, but many others, particularly some Protestant churches are deeply divided over the issue.

    Recognized
    Many religious institutions that do recognize same-sex marriage avoid using the terms “marriages” or “weddings”, and instead call them “blessings” or “unions.” How and to what degree these institutions embrace the idea varies, often by congregation. These institutions have recognized same-sex marriage or encourage it in their congregations in some fashion, either simply as marriage or some kind blessing or union:

    Christianity
    The following denominations accept same-sex unions to some degree:

    Anglican
    The Anglican Diocese of New Westminster in British Columbia (which includes Greater Vancouver) decided to allow the blessing of same-sex unions in 2002. In response bishops from Africa, Asia and Latin America representing more than one-third of the Anglican Communion cut their relations with the diocese.
    As of June 2011, 8 of the 29 Dioceses have the discretion to bless same-gender civil marriages in consultation with the bishop.
    The Episcopal Church (United States) blesses same-sex unions
    British Quakers, some American Quaker meetings (see Homosexuality and Quakerism).
    The Old Catholic Church of Germany blesses same sex unions
    Lutheran (Europe)
    In the Netherlands and Switzerland the reformed church allows blessings of married same-sex couples.
    The Danish Church of Argentina marries same-sex couples.
    In Germany some Lutheran and reformed churches in the EKD permit their priests blessings of same-sex couples.
    On 22 October 2009, the governing board of the (Lutheran) Church of Sweden voted 176–62 in favour of allowing its priests to wed same-sex couples in new gender-neutral church ceremonies, including the use of the term marriage.Same-sex marriages in the church will be available starting 1 November 2009.
    Metropolitan Community Church perform same-sex marriages,
    United Church of Canada variously bless same-sex unions or allow same-sex marriages in the church—several Canadian religious groups joined in an interfaith coalition in support of equal marriage rights, and issued a joint statement: http://www.religious-coalition.org/
    Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (2009) – During its 2009 Churchwide Assembly the ELCA passed a resolution by a vote of 619-402 reading “Resolved, that the ELCA commit itself to finding ways to allow congregations that choose to do so to recognize, support and hold publicly accountable lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationships.”
    United Church of Christ (2005) – the specifics of the resolution did not change any church’s religious marriage policies, but urged UCC congregations to advocate for civil marriage equality. In keeping with the polity of that denomination, doctrinal matters like wedding policies remain under the authority of each local congregation.

    Judaism
    Union for Reform Judaism (Reform Judaism)
    Jewish Reconstructionist Federation (Reconstructionist Judaism) – Left up to the individual rabbi.
    Rabbis will also perform blessings of same sex relationships where one partner is Jewish and the other is not so long as a (legal) Civil Partnership is in force for the couple.

    Other
    Unitarian Universalist
    Neo-Pagan
    Japanese Buddhism – although there is no same-sex marriage in Japan itself, authorities in Buddhist sects based in Japan recognise Buddhist same-sex unions performed elsewhere.
    Ethical Society
    Religious humanism
    Eckankar
    Raëlism

    Debated or divided
    In many religious traditions, the adherents are deeply divided over the issue, often alongside other contentious issues, such as having women in leadership positions or legalizing abortions. The institutions within the following traditions are either debating the issue or have policies that vary according to congregation:

    Christianity
    Anglicans, particularly in the US.
    Baptists, other than the Southern Baptist Convention
    Lutherans, ELCA
    Religious Society of Friends (Quakers)
    Methodists
    Presbyterians – PC(USA), not the more conservative PCA, OPC, ARP, EPC and others

    Judaism
    Conservative

    Hinduism
    Individual interpretation

    Other
    Afro-Brazilian religions – individual interpretation. They historically tend to have, nevertheless, an openly LGBT-positive instance even among variants heavily influenced by Christianity and Allan Kardec’s Spiritism, such as Umbanda, that includes many of the relatively few religious bodies in Brazil to issue religious marriage certificates with civil validity for same-sex couples.
    Spiritism – individual interpretation. Heterosexist instances common, but not to the point of supporting discrimination.
    Many Japanese new religions – individual interpretation in spite of some commonly-held heterosexist instances in many, such as for example seicho-no-ie.

    Not recognized
    The religious traditions or institutions that do not recognize same-sex marriage tend to view homosexuality as immoral. These traditions or institutions do not recognize same-sex unions in any form or in any congregation:

    Christianity
    Pentecostal
    Roman Catholic Church—On 3 June 2003, the Congregation for the Faith issued a document concerning marital rights to same sex couples. It reaffirmed traditional Catholic teaching that regards homosexual acts as being intrinsically disordered because they cannot result in children. The international organisation We are Church states that it is “committed to change the Church’s official and theological approach to homosexual people”.
    Eastern Orthodox Church
    Oriental Orthodoxy
    Southern Baptists
    The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
    Evangelical Free Church
    Numerous non-denominational churches

    Judaism
    Orthodox

    Others
    Bahá’í Faith
    Islam
    Sikhism

    The list above shows religions and their stances on this issue. Ever since the French Revolution and the First French Republic, countries around the world have been getting rid of sodomy laws. Ever since the 21st century, countries have been legalizing same sex marriage. Religions like Islam, Sikhism, and Bahaism take the medieval position that there should be sodomy laws.


  13. In the letter, the Universal House of Justice wrote:
    “As to the possibility of same-sex marriage within the Faith, according to the teachings, Bahá’í marriage is a union between a man and a woman. This is set forth in the Writings and is not susceptible to change by the House of Justice.”

    I am all in favor of obedience, but I am not a fan of blind obedience. I have searched for quite a while where this is defined in Scripture (sp. Baha’u’llah). I have found instances where it is so legislated by Abdu’l-Baha and Shoghi Effendi, but not Revealed by Baha’u’llah.

    To the best of my search results, Baha’u’llah limited a man to two wives. But limiting to two wives says nothing about a man having (or not being permitted to have) husbands, or a wife having (or not being permitted to have) wives.

    I know it is splitting hairs, but wars have been fought over what isn’t written. And I don’t wish to see my own Faith doing the same.

    Can someone please share where (“chapter and verse”, to borrow a phrase) in the Writings Baha’i marriage is explicitly defined as a union between a man and a woman?


  14. thanks for your comments Glenn, you wrote:
    “As to the possibility of same-sex marriage within the Faith, according to the teachings, Bahá’í marriage is a union between a man and a woman. This is set forth in the Writings and is not susceptible to change by the House of Justice.”

    I am all in favor of obedience, but I am not a fan of blind obedience. I have searched for quite a while where this is defined in Scripture (sp. Baha’u’llah). I have found instances where it is so legislated by Abdu’l-Baha and Shoghi Effendi, but not Revealed by Baha’u’llah.”

    Can you please show me where Abdu’l-Baha or Shoghi Effendi have stipulated that marriage can only be between a man and a woman? Letters written on bahalf of Shoghi Effendi have a lesser status than anything penned by Shoghi Effendi wrote himself, and so clearly are not Scripture.
    “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
    More is here: https://justabahai.wordpress.com/2010/07/30/homophobia/#1932


    • Such attestations are primarily via connotation.

      For example, Abdu’l-Baha said:
      “The true marriage of Bahá’ís is this, that husband and wife should be united both physically and spiritually, that they may ever improve the spiritual life of each other, and may enjoy everlasting unity throughout all the worlds of God.” (Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, #86, page 118)

      Although most references to marriage by both Shoghi Effendi and Abdu’l-Baha use the words “the two parties”, in nearly every element in which the parties are mentioned separately, they are referred to as bride and (bride)groom or as husband and wife, It can be inferred (and I do not dispute this at all) that the current legal Baha’i marriage is between a man and a woman.

      My quest, however, is to find any place where Baha’u’llah explicitly stated that marriage is defined as between a man and a woman. In the absence of such explicit defining (and I am not seeking to get nit-picky on how He must have worded it), I would argue that the legislative authority of the Universal House of Justice — granted by Baha’u’llah (as inferred from His statements on that then-future body), expanded upon by Abdu’l-Baha, and codified by Shoghi Effendi — indeed permits the House to re-define marriage legislatively should it so choose.

      I do not argue that such time is “now”. Only that such authority rests solely with that body, and that any claims that the House cannot permit same-sex marriage are if not unfounded, and least not yet supported by publicly-accessible Text.


  15. One more note: I do not claim that >anything< by Shoghi Effendi is Scripture. Quite the opposite. I would suggest that his writings are canon, law, and perhaps even dogma (with the full authority to craft such), but that nothing he writes is Revelation/Scripture/Law.

    I would go so far as to state that even his authority to Interpret is legislative. I argue that the meaning he ascribes to any such statement by Baha'u'llah can be changed by the House through its legislative power, so long as such meaning does not contradict the statement it is legislating from. What he cannot do is legislatively contradict a statement made by Baha'u'llah.

    So, for example, where Baha'u'llah prohibited pederasty, Shoghi Effendi has the authority to legislate (even through interpretation) that this applies to all male-to-male sexual activity. The Universal House of Justice could, with full authority, expand this prohibition to apply to all same-sex sexual behavior (and both the Guardian and the House have done so). The House could further expand this to define which behaviors are considered sexual. The House could also completely remove the legislated expansion. What it could not do by any means is make pederasty legal, because this is the action that Baha'u'llah explicitly prohibited.


    • You must be confusing Letters written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, penned by secretaries (so it is even clearer and harder to confuse these with anything Shoghi Effendi penned himself) because it is only in four of these letters that there is any mention of homosexuality. You need to show me that Shoghi Effendi penned anything on the topic of homosexuality before there’s any point in a discussion on what Shoghi Effendi has written.

      It isn’t, in my view, a discussion about what is or isn’t sexual, but rather what was Baha’u’llah referring to by “We shrink, for very shame, from treating of the subject of boys.”
      Baha’u’llah, The Kitab-i-Aqdas, p. 58

      The notes section of the same book penned by the Research department or the Universal House of Justice reads:
      134. the subject of boys # 107
      “The word translated here as “boys” has, in this context, in the Arabic original, the implication of paederasty. Shoghi Effendi has interpreted this reference as a prohibition on all homosexual relations.
      The Bahá’í teachings on sexual morality centre on marriage and the family as the bedrock of the whole structure of human society and are designed to protect and strengthen that divine institution. Bahá’í law thus restricts permissible sexual intercourse to that between a man and the woman to whom he is married.
      In a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi it is stated:
      No matter how devoted and fine the love may be between people of the same sex, to let it find expression in sexual acts is wrong. To say that it is ideal is no excuse. Immorality of every sort is really forbidden by Bahá’u’lláh, and homosexual relationships He looks upon as such, besides being against nature. To be afflicted this way is a great burden to a conscientious soul. But through the advice and help of doctors, through a strong and determined effort, and through prayer, a soul can overcome this handicap.
      Bahá’u’lláh makes provision for the Universal House of Justice to determine, according to the degree of the offence, penalties for adultery and sodomy (Q and A 49).”
      Notes in the Kitab-i-Aqdas, p. 223

      So let’s assume this is the voice of the UHJ of the early 1990s because this publication is considered an official document by the Bahai Administration. That the UHJ state “Shoghi Effendi has interpreted” and then refer a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, indicates that they are treating letters written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi as if Shoghi Effendi himself wrote them. The letter they quote above does not have a reference to anything in Bahai Scripture and the letter does not state that it is an interpretation. This is very important if we are serious about what really is part of unchangeable Bahai Scripture and what isn’t.
      Unfortunately Shoghi Effendi never penned anything himself in regards to the status of these letters written on his behalf, except I assume, when he must have been annoyed enough to ask a secretary to write the following:

      “I wish to call your attention to certain things in “Principles of Bahá’í Administration” which has just reached the Guardian; although the material is good, he feels that the complete lack of quotation marks is very misleading. His own words, the words of his various secretaries, even the Words of Bahá’u’lláh Himself, are all lumped together as one text.
      This is not only not reverent in the case of Bahá’u’lláh’s Words, but misleading. 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, The Unfolding Destiny of the British Baha’i Community, p. 260

      The paper, The Provisions for Sexuality in the Kitab-i-Aqdas in the Context of Late Nineteenth Century Eastern and Western Sexual Ideologies by R. Jackson Armstrong-Ingram, 1996, gives more background to the times and culture: http://www.scribd.com/doc/30481764/Sexuality-in-the-Kitab-I-Aqdas-Jackson-Armstrong-Ingram



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