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What does Baha’i Scripture say about homosexuality?

November 11, 2014

Nothing. For Baha’is, Baha’i Scripture is everything penned by The Bab and Baha’u’llah, and the interpretations by Baha’u’llah’s son ‘Abdul-Baha, and where Shoghi Effendi (‘Abdul-Baha’s grandson) wrote in his capacity as official interpreter of Baha’i Scripture. It is a source of pride for many Baha’is to be able to state that we have authoritative scripture. That is to have access to the actual texts (or accurate translations of texts) as the sources for Baha’i Scripture.
“Unity of doctrine is maintained by the existence of the authentic texts of Scripture and the voluminous interpretations of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and Shoghi Effendi, together with the absolute prohibition against anyone propounding “authoritative” or “inspired” interpretations or usurping the function of Guardian. Unity of administration is assured by the authority of the Universal House of Justice.”
Universal House of Justice, to the National Spiritual Assembly of the Netherlands, March 9, 1965: Wellspring of Guidance, pp. 52-53

The only mention of homosexuality in authoritative Bahai text (not Scripture) is in five letters written by secretaries on behalf of Shoghi Effendi penned between 1949 and 1955.
The authority of these letters is unclear. It seems clear that they were intended as advice for the addressee but the authority of this advice is not clear:
“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

However it is clear that Shoghi Effendi did not wish the status of these letters penned by secretaries to be confused with the authority of his own writing nor that of Bahai Scripture.
“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, 25 February 1951 in The Unfolding Destiny of the British Baha’i Community, p. 260)

However if you do a search on the internet you will find Bahais stating that it is a Bahai Teaching that homosexuality is forbidden and many Bahais have told me that Baha’u’llah forbids homosexuality. If Baha’u’llah had written on the topic of homosexuality we would have access to this by now. I think it is a stroke of genius by Shoghi Effendi to have secretaries pen these letters so there can be no confusion with anything he penned himself. Shoghi Effendi also stated that not everything he penned [footnote 1] is to be considered as authoritative on a par with Bahai Scripture, but given that he did not write on the topic of homosexuality there’s no need here to discuss what should be considered part of the canon of Bahai Scripture.
So if homosexuality is not mentioned in Bahai Scripture why do so many Bahais think it is? Prejudice against homosexuality has been around for a long time so that’s one reason. Another is that in 1983 the compilation book “Lights of Guidance” was published. It is a valuable source of quotations however, unfortunately, the author doesn’t make distinctions between what is Bahai Scripture and what isn’t, and she presents the Bahai Teachings as list of rules. If this book is used as a way to locate sources, all good and fine. I use it myself in this manner. But if it is used as a book of rules… well see screenshot below.

Screenshot from a page in the 1983 book,
Lights of Guidance, edited by Helen Hornsby.

Detail of one of the index pages in Lights of Guidance

Below I have noted the sources
1221. Letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, 1954
1222. Jan 12, 1973 letter from the Universal House of Justice.
1223. Letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, 1950
1224. refers to Baha’ullah’s reference to ‘boys’ (paederestry) + the notes added by the Universal House of Justice
1225. March 14, 1973 letter from the Universal House of Justice.
1226 + 1227. January 9, 1977 letter from the Universal House of Justice.
1228. July 16, 1980 letter from the Universal House of Justice.
1229. July 16, 1982 letter from the Universal House of Justice.
1230. Letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, 1955

Link to this index page on the Bahai Library

You will note only 3 of the sources refer to letters on behalf of Shoghi Effendi and all the others refer to policy of the Universal House of Justice. Since 2010 the Universal House of Justice no longer refers to homosexuality as a condition that needs curing or to be overcome and instead urges the Bahais to stand up for the rights of gays and lesbians. Therefore, I will only focus on the letters written behalf of Shoghi Effendi.

In the Bahai Faith we have two sources of authority. One is Bahai Scripture and the other is the authority of the Bahai Administration, headed by the 9-member Universal House of Justice.
‘Abdul-Baha made it clear that the Universal House of Justice was free to make and change its own policy and that in fact this flexibility to change policy is important. “(S)ubsidiary laws are left to the House of Justice. The wisdom of this is that the times never remain the same, for change is a necessary quality and an essential attribute of this world, and of time and place.”, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, “Rahíq-i-Makhtúm” vol. I, pp. 302-4; “Bahá’í News” 426 (September 1966), p. 2; cited in “Wellspring of Guidance” pp. 84-6 [footnote 2]

There is also a 4th letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi in the same book. These 4 letters have been repeated so often that it seems as if there are more, so I thought it was time to have these letters listed together with as much context as I can find for easy reference. There is a 5th letter too but I’ll come to this.

In the column on the right is the context for the 1953 letter which is below. I have inserted white spaces between each point so it is easier to read. The original flows as one text.

Clearly the tone of the whole letter is one of giving information and advice and not that of setting down Bahai law and definitely not a letter that could or should be confused with the status of Bahai Scripture.

There is a world of difference in meaning between how the text is presented on the right and how it is presented in the book Lights of Guidance which I have copied below. In the book, the editor has added the title.

“185. Homosexual Acts Condemned by Bahá’u’lláh”

“Regarding the question you asked him about one of the believers who seems to be flagrantly a homosexual–although to a certain extent we must be forbearing in the matter of people’s moral conduct because of the terrible deterioration in society in general, this does not mean that we can put up indefinitely with conduct which is disgracing the Cause. This person should have it brought to his attention that such acts are condemned by Bahá’u’lláh, and that he must mend his ways, if necessary consult doctors, and make efforts to overcome this affliction, which is corruptive for him and bad for the Cause. If after a period of probation you do not see an improvement, he should have his voting rights taken away. The Guardian does not think, however, that a Bahá’í body should take it upon itself to denounce him to the Authorities unless his conduct borders on insanity.”

(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to the National Spiritual Assembly of Canada: Messages to Canada, p. 39)

Haifa, Israel,
June 20, 1953.

National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of Canada.

Your letters … have been received by the beloved Guardian, and he has instructed me to answer you on his behalf.
He regrets very much the delay in answering your letters. Unfortunately he has had to delay in replying to all national bodies during the last year, because of the pressure of work here, which has steadily increased during this Holy Year.

ACQUISITION OF NATIONAL HEADQUARTERS AND SHRINE
The purchase of your national headquarters, he feels, was an important milestone in the history of the Faith in Canada, and he hopes that it will be put to good use, during the coming years, by your Assembly. To this institution you will soon be adding the Maxwell Home+E18 in Montreal, which should be viewed in the nature of a national shrine, because of its association with the beloved Master, during His visit to Montreal. He sees no objection to having one room in the house being used as a little museum associated with Mr. and Mrs. Maxwell.
He was most happy to hear that all of your goals were achieved. This augurs well for the future of your activities, especially during the Ten Year

Plan just launched. He wishes through your body to thank all the pioneers, teachers and Bahá’ís who helped achieve this great victory. They have every reason to feel proud of themselves, and grateful to Bahá’u’lláh. Undoubtedly His divine assistance, combined with their determination and faith, enabled them to fulfill their objectives.

He was very happy to know that Charlottetown not only achieved Assembly status, but that the believers there are mostly self-supporting, as this is a sound basis for the expansion of the work in any place, especially in such a difficult one.
The Bahá’í Exhibit held at the Canadian National Exhibition was an excellent means of obtaining publicity. He hopes that advantage will be taken of similar opportunities in the future.

He urges your assembly to press for recognition of the Bahá’í marriage in Ontario, and, gradually, where the Cause is strong enough, in other Provinces.
Regarding the question you asked him about one of the believers who seems to be flagrantly a homosexual–although to a certain extent we must be forbearing in the matter of people’s moral conduct because of the terrible deterioration in society in general, this does not mean that we can put up indefinitely with conduct which is disgracing the Cause. This person should have it brought to his attention that such acts are condemned by Bahá’u’lláh, and that he must mend his ways, if necessary consult doctors, and make efforts to overcome this affliction, which is corruptive for him and bad for the Cause. If after a period of probation you do not see an improvement, he should have his voting rights taken away. The Guardian does not think, however, that a Bahá’í body should take it upon itself to denounce him to the Authorities unless his conduct borders on insanity.
The Guardian attaches the greatest importance, during this opening year of the Ten Year Campaign, to settling the virgin areas with pioneers. He has informed, or is informing, the other National Assemblies that there is no reason why believers from one country should not fill the goals in other countries. In other words, Canada should receive foreign pioneers for her goals, who would operate under her jurisdiction; likewise, Canadians could go forth and pioneer in other countries’ goal territories if the way opened for them to do so. Naturally, they must feel their first responsibility should be toward the Canadian part of the Plan, as they are Canadians, but sometimes health, business openings or family connections might take people into other goal countries.

He realizes that the objectives in the far north are perhaps the hardest. On the other hand, the harder the task, the more glorious the victory.
You may be sure that he is praying for your success, and, what is more, he is confident that this young, virile Canadian Community can and will succeed in carrying out its share of the World Spiritual Crusade, so vast and challenging, upon which we are now launched.

With warmest Bahá’í love,
R. RABBANI.

Below is the context for the letter which was given the title “1223. Through Advice, Help of Doctors, and Prayer, Can Overcome This Handicap ” in Lights of Guidance.

Mar 1950 letter with response

The letter was written by an American who was serving as a member of the National Spiritual Assembly at the time the letter was written.

Do note that below the letter penned by the secretary, Ruhiyyih Khanum, Shoghi Effendi’s own note is a note of encouragement while making no reference to the content of the letter itself.

In Lights of Guidance the excerpt from following letter, shown below in full, was given the title: “1221. Acts of Immorality” by Helen Hornsby. Read the letter yourself and see that such a title is an accurate reflection of the tone of this letter.

21 May 1954
To an individual believer
Dear Bahá’í Sister:
Your letter of April 19th has been received by the beloved Guardian, and he has instructed me to answer you on his behalf.
He is very happy to have this opportunity of welcoming you personally into the service of our Faith; and hopes that, both in your professional career as a social worker, and in your life as a Bahá’í, you will be able to help many needy and troubled souls.
Amongst the many other evils afflicting society in this spiritual low water mark in history, is the question of immorality, and overemphasis of sex. Homosexuality, according to the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, is spiritually condemned. This does not mean that people so afflicted must not be helped and advised and sympathized with. It does mean that we do not believe it is a permissible way of life; which, alas, is all too often the accepted attitude nowadays.
We must struggle against the evils in society by spiritual means, and medical and social ones as well. We must be tolerant but uncompromising, understanding but immovable in our point of view.
The thing people need to meet this type of trouble, as well as every other type, is greater spiritual understanding and stability; and of course we Bahá’ís believe that ultimately this can only be given to mankind through the Teachings of the Manifestation of God for this Day.
He will pray that you may be successful in your services to mankind as a Bahá’í.
With kind regards,
R. Rabbani
[From the Guardian:]
Assuring you of my loving prayers for your success and spiritual advancement,
Your true brother,
Shoghi

[The above letter is online here]

For the following letter I have only been able to find the excerpt as it is recorded in Lights of Guidance.

“The question of how to deal with homosexuals is a very difficult one. Homosexuality is forbidden in the Bahá’í Faith by Bahá’u’lláh; so, for that matter, are immorality and adultery. If one is going to start imposing heavy sanctions on people who are the victims of this abnormality, however repulsive it may be to others, then it is only fair to impose equally heavy sanctions on any Bahá’ís who step beyond the moral limits defined by Bahá’u’lláh. Obviously at the present time this would create an impossible and ridiculous situation.
He feels, therefore, that, through loving advice, through repeated warnings, any friends who are flagrantly immoral should be assisted, and, if possible, restrained. If their activities overstep all bounds and become a matter of public scandal, then the Assembly can consider depriving them of their voting rights. However, he does not advise this course of action and feels that it should only be resorted to in very flagrant cases.”
From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States, August 20, 1955; cited in Lights of Guidance, #1230, p. 367-368.

You might note that the latest letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi on the topic of homosexuality stresses tolerance and to only to take action in exceptional cases. In Lights of Guidance, the title given to this letter, “Homosexuality, Immorality and Adultery Are Forbidden in the Faith” misses what appears to be the main point: tolerance and the possibility of the loss of voting rights in extreme cases where it could or would be a matter of public scandal. Bahais could understandably read the title “Homosexuality, Immorality and Adultery Are Forbidden in the Faith” and interpret the title as a Baha’i law.

If anyone has more context for this letter or any of these letters please let me know. Indicate with the word “private” if you do not wish your response to me to be made public. I will then cut and paste your comment so you can remain anonymous.

I found reference to a 5th letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi in a 1993 compilation published by the Universal House of Justice, and unfortunately the excerpt is so short so I have no idea of the context. Here is the excerpt: “Bahá’u’lláh has spoken very strongly against this shameful sexual aberration, as He has against adultery and immoral conduct in general. We must try and help the soul to overcome them.” 25 October 1949

In the Kitab-i-Aqdas Baha’u’llah refers to shame – “We shrink, for very shame, from treating of the subject of boys.” Perhaps in the 1949 it was a common assumption among Baha’is to think this referred to homosexuality? It refers to a practice of the time, in parts of the Middle East, for a man to take a younger male as a form of sex slave. The word Baha’u’llah uses can also mean slave. [footnote 3]
However, it seems to me that the reference to adultery and immoral conduct in the excerpt indicates that the secretary who penned this letter is thinking of the quotation by Baha’u’llah where he mentions liwat and not homosexuality. See my blog where I look at the original text by Baha’u’llah

Until 2010, when the Universal House of Justice wrote “to regard those with a homosexual orientation with prejudice or disdain would be against the spirit of the Faith,” [Footnote 4] letters from the Universal House of Justice referred to homosexuality as “an aberration subject to treatment” (22 March 1987) or “ “abnormality, handicap, affliction, problem, etc.”… the House of Justice feels that just such words can be a great help to the individuals concerned.” (16 March 1992) [Footnote 5]. Searching on the internet will show that Baha’is still prefer to refer to this earlier policy.
In the same 2010 policy the Universal House of Justice wrote “The Baha’i 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 Universal House of Justice does not have the authority to interpret Baha’i Scripture, that is to say what the Bahai Scriptures mean, so in my view, the way to read this statement is that this understanding underlies their policy. Their understanding and their policy can change. I am not suggesting that I know whether, or how, the Universal House of Justice may change its policy on Bahai marriage and I see the wisdom in not issuing any statement until Baha’i communities around the world have ceased to associate homosexuality with ideas such as handicap or affliction. But this poses a catch 22 for gay Bahais, unless their local community takes an approach of tolerance or that their local or national assembly provides an exemption should a Bahai choose a civil wedding ceremony because a Bahai one is not possible. It also poses a problem for the local Bahai community if the law of their country considers this discrimination. My next blog will consider the principles that apply if a married same sex couple wish to join the community. For me personally, being part of a community where members appear to believe there is anything wrong with homosexuality is a problem in itself. I believe such displays of discrimination do not fit with the Bahai concept of “unity in diversity,” and this dissonance is what forces me to write on this topic.


Notes

1. In a 1974 letter from the Universal House of Justice, the House refers to two letters written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, the 1944 one (sorry I have no further information about the dating of this letter) states: “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.”
An undated Letter on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, Directives from the Guardian, published in 1973, p. 88

The 25 July 1974 Universal House of Justice letter which has a shorter excerpt dates this was being 1944 (Read it online here)
I realise that a letter on behalf of Shoghi Effendi has a lesser status than anything penned by Shoghi Effendi himself. When I find a suitable text penned by Shoghi Effendi I will add it here.

2. In his text, “The World Order of Baha’u’llah” under the heading: ‘A Living Organism,’ Shoghi Effendi explains why it is important that the Universal House of Justice is free to change its own policy.
“…the machinery of the Cause has been so fashioned, that whatever is deemed necessary to incorporate into it in order to keep it in the forefront of all progressive movements, can, according to the provisions made by Bahá’u’lláh, be safely embodied therein. To this testify the words of Bahá’u’lláh, as recorded in the Eighth Leaf of the exalted Paradise: “It is incumbent upon the Trustees of the House of Justice to take counsel together regarding those things which have not outwardly been revealed in the Book, and to enforce that which is agreeable to them. God will verily inspire them with whatsoever He willeth, and He, verily, is the Provider, the Omniscient.” Not only has the House of Justice been invested by Bahá’u’lláh with the authority to legislate whatsoever has not been explicitly and outwardly recorded in His holy Writ, upon it has also been conferred by the Will and Testament of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá the right and power to abrogate, according to the changes and requirements of the time, whatever has been already enacted and enforced by a preceding House of Justice.”
(Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Baha’u’llah, p. 22-23)

3. See my blog: mainly-about-homosexuality/#paederasty

4. “Baha’is 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 Baha’i 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.” Universal House of Justice, 27 October, 2010

5. Both quotations are from a 1993 compilation by the compiled by Research Department of the Universal House of Justice.
“…the Faith does not recognize homosexuality as a “natural” or permanent phenomenon. Rather, it sees this as an aberration subject to treatment, however intractable exclusive homosexuality may now seem to be. To the question of alteration of homosexual bents, much study must be given, and doubtless in the future clear principles of prevention and treatment will emerge. As for those now afflicted, a homosexual does not decide to be a problem human, but he does, as you rightly state, have decision in choosing his way of life, i.e. abstaining from homosexual acts.

Your plea for understanding and of justice extended to homosexuals is well taken in many respects, and the House of Justice assures you of its concern for the large number of persons so afflicted. Your work with the homosexual community is praiseworthy, and it permits you personally to exercise the support which is necessary for these often harassed persons, support which you call for in your essay. Moreover, your interest cannot but be therapeutic, at least for the more superficial elements of the problem; however, definitive therapy of the underlying predisposition, which you consider to be innate but the Teachings do not, may have to await additional investigations. As for the responsibility of Assemblies and of individual Bahá’ís, certainly all are called upon to be understanding, supportive and helpful to any individual who carries the burden of homosexuality.

As a young physician, you may wish to use this quotation, taken from a letter written by the Guardian to an individual believer in March l9S0, as your guidance: “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.”
Universal House of Justice or the Research department, to an individual, 22 March 1987

and

“You mention recent research which indicates that there may be a genetic basis for homosexuality; you accept the Bahá’í view of this matter, but you question the use of such terms as “abnormality, handicap, affliction, problem, etc.” since they can create misunderstandings. On the contrary, the House of Justice feels that just such words can be a great help to the individuals concerned. Human beings suffer from many problems, both physical and psychological. Some are the result of the individual’s own behaviour, some are caused by the circumstances in which he grew up, some are congenital. Some human beings are born blind, some suffer from incapacitating accidents or diseases. Such conditions present the individual affected, and those around him, with serious problems, and it is one of the challenges of the human condition that all those concerned should strive to overcome such problems and have understanding and sympathy for the individual so afflicted.

There is a wide range of sexual abnormalities. Some people nowadays maintain that homosexuality is not an abnormality and that homosexuals should be encouraged to establish sexual relations with one or more partners of the same sex. The Faith, on the contrary, makes it abundantly clear that homosexuality is an abnormality, is a great problem for the individual so afflicted, and that he or she should strive to overcome it. The social implications of such an attitude are very important.

The primary purpose of sexual relations is, clearly, to perpetuate the species. The fact that personal pleasure is derived therefrom is one of the bounties of God. The sex act is merely one moment in a long process, from courtship through marriage, the procreation of children, their nursing and rearing, and involves the establishment of a mutually sustaining relationship between two souls which will endure beyond life on this earth.

Some couples are unable to have children, and that, in itself, is an affliction, but this fact does not vitiate all the other bounties of the marital relationship. Some individuals for various reasons are unable to find a spouse, or choose to remain single; they must develop their natures and talents in other ways. One could have concluded that homosexuals could well establish stable relationships with one another for mutual support, similar to the marital relationship of a heterosexual couple who cannot have children. This, indeed, is the conclusion that some churches and governments have come to. But Bahá’u’lláh, having divine knowledge of human nature, shows that such a relationship is not a permissible or beneficial solution to a homosexual’s condition. If a homosexual cannot so overcome his or her condition to the extent of being able to have a heterosexual marriage, he or she must remain single, and abstain from sexual relations. These are the same requirements as for a heterosexual person who does not marry.

This law is no reason for Bahá’ís to consider homosexuals as outcasts. If they are not Bahá’ís there is also no reason to expect them to obey the Bahá’í law in this respect any more than we would expect a non-Baha i to abstain from drinking alcohol.

(16 March 1992)
in the June 5, 1993 compilation by the Research department of the Universal House of Justice, online here.

 

28 comments

  1. This is tremendous, very, very helpful indeed… thank you ever so much for your work in this area.


  2. Very nice, Sonja. Thanks.


  3. “In the same 2010 policy the Universal House of Justice wrote “The Baha’i 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 Universal House of Justice does not have the authority to interpret Baha’i Scripture, that is to say what the Baha’i Scriptures mean, so in my view, the way to read this statement is that this understanding underlies their policy”. The UHJ is an infallible source of guidance in their decisions and they do have the authority NOT YOU! Your outrageous claim contained above proves you are a covenant breaker, plain and simple.


    • Dr J, You are hilarious but this is the last time i will allow a comment of yours on my blog where you call me a covenant breaker. I suggest you re-read my blog because it is Adbul-Baha who makes it clear that the authority of the Universal House of Justice is in policy or legislation and they are free to change their own policy. This has nothing to do with error or being wrong but about changing policy because the times have changed.


    • To Dr. J.:

      Bahá’ís may have differing views, and we are even taught that “The shining spark of truth cometh forth only after the clash of differing opinions.” (Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 87). In this light finding a differing opinion looks like a promising ingredient to make a further step in our own understanding about which we have been told in one of those letters written on behalf of the Guardian (August 25th 1926) that “The more we read the Writings, the more truths we can find in them, the more we will see that our previous notions were erroneous.”

      For sure, no individual has any right to declare anybody covenant breaker, no matter how much their opinion goes against our own best understanding. This is presumptios, it is no contribution to unity and it is no step towards better understanding either.


  4. I’m just gonna leave this here: http://bahai-library.com/uhj_letters_behalf_guardian
    Thanks for your thoughts. I’ve spent most of my day today thinking about this subject, and though our conclusions differ, Im grateful to you for inspiring me to think, research and verbalize my thoughts on this matter.
    With respect, Liv.


    • I have no idea Liv, why you posted the link. I do not dispute that letters on behalf of Shoghi Effendi have authority, but they do not have the same authority as Bahai Scripture. If they did, then all letters written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi would be obeyed in the same way and clearly they are not. Just think about this letter for example: “ …the Bahai Teachings, when carefully studied imply that such current conceptions like birth control, if not necessarily wrong and immoral in principle, have nevertheless to be discarded as constituting a real danger to the very foundations of our social life.” (October 14, 1935)


    • Because saying they dont have the same authority does in fact become an excuse to not give them any authority. My impression is that we are supposed to give them real weight in making decisions of our actions, and not attempt to dismiss, explain away or undermine what has been said in these letters. The latter would be the same as not giving them any authority and turning a blind eye to what they say.


    • Thanks for your response about the authority of letters written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi: You wrote “Because saying they dont have the same authority does in fact become an excuse to not give them any authority.” – I do not agree. I think Shoghi Effendi assigned a lesser authority to keep the distinction between unchangeable Bahai Scripture and his own authoritative interpretations of this so clear that having these penned by secretaries, means it is even clearer that these letters are not to be considered in any way as part of Bahai Scripture.
      I quote:
      “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. [emphasis added]

      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

      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, “it must be obeyed by 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 executive 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.

      Stating that they have a lesser authority does not mean that anyone would not “give them real weight in making decisions of our actions” and I certainly take these letters seriously myself, but for me they are not Bahai Scripture and so for the following letter: “the Bahai Teachings, when carefully studied imply that such current conceptions like birth control, if not necessarily wrong and immoral in principle, have nevertheless to be discarded as constituting a real danger to the very foundations of our social life.” (October 14, 1935)
      is not an issue, if most Bahais do use any form of birth control. And Bahais clearly do use some form of birth control or otherwise most Bahai families would have ten or more children in them.

      I would consider it hypocritical to pick and choose, saying, oh that letter must be obeyed and that other letter not. So to bring us back to the topic of the blog above it is only in letters written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi where there is any mention of homosexuality. For me, this is no justification for Bahai communities to treat gays or lesbians any differently than any other individual. If the Universal House of Justice instructs Bahai communities to treat gays and lesbians differently, that is another matter. Then it is a policy of the Universal House of Justice, but this blog is about what is in Bahai Scripture, which means texts that cannot be changed.

      I am of the view that Shoghi Effendi was very wise in assigning a lower and separate status to these letters so that the Bahais do not end up telling other Bahais, you must do this (not use birth control) as if it is a Bahai teaching, when this is based on the text of a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi.

      If any individual wishes to treat these letters as if the advice applies to him or her, then of course, they are free to. I then add, but please be consistent and treat all these letters in this manner. Do just pick some letters and say, this is a Bahai Teaching. Instead I would say, go to Bahai Scripture for the Bahai Teachings.


  5. Shoghi Effendi explicitly wrote, in the Codification of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, that homosexuality is prohibited.

    “The Research Department at the Bahá’í World Centre has confirmed that the Guardian’s manuscript notes for the Codification of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, which includes in the list of prohibitions the word “homosexuality”, are in his own handwriting in English.”
    http://bahai-library.com/?file=uhj_homosexuality_uganda

    Since he himself wrote this, not a secretary or anyone else, the prohibition is authoritative, and the Universal House of Justice can’t change it.

    The case is closed for this servant. What do you think, Sonja?


  6. Sonja, are you sure you are correct?????

    In the Kitabi Aqdas it is written — (1)Ye are forbidden sodomy (2)We shirk from shame, from the mention of boys. By boys H Bahaullah was referring to the use of teenage boys for purposes of sexual pleasure by dominant older males, a practice common to Ottoman Turkey 100 years ago

    Id be curious at what the truth is. From my understanding the social laws of Kitabi Aqdas are there to be used as guidelines for future use. From my understanding H Bahaullah, as with all moral teachers, prescribes sex within marriage — ye are not allowed more than 2 wives — and same sex marriage was unknown 100 years ago.


  7. Hello, Sonja.

    Furthermore, although you do not mention the “2010 policy” of regarding prejudice and disdain towards homosexuals as much as some of your other blog posts, this servant would like to humbly refer you to a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice and dated November 23rd, 1995:

    “To regard homosexuals with prejudice and disdain would be entirely against the spirit of Bahá’í Teachings. The doors are open for all of humanity to enter the Cause of God, irrespective of their present circumstances; this invitation applies to homosexuals as well as to any others who are engaged in practices contrary to the Bahá’í Teachings.”
    http://bahai-library.com/uhj_homosexual_practices

    Perhaps this quotation does not change your view that there has been a policy change regarding homosexuality. This servant simply wishes, for the sake of truth, to show that the attitude towards prejudice and disdain with regard to homosexuals is not as recent as 2010.

    Have a wonderful day. Peace.


    • Thanks for your comment “Servant”
      By new policy I am referring to the new policy of the U.H.J. where in reference to same sex marriage Bahai communities are asked not to take sides. I agree that the U.H.J. has been referring to Baha’u’llah’s words about standing up for the rights of all for decades.


  8. Sonja, why is asking Bahá’í communities not to take sides about same-sex marriage a new policy? When and where did the UHJ previously say that we should take sides?

    Thank you for your dedication to finding truth.🙂


    • Until the 2010 letter all policy from the Universal House of Justice concerning anything related to homosexuality indicated that Bahai communities were not to accept gay or lesbians, let alone as couples. Just do a google search and you will find many examples as Bahais often quote 1999, 1995 and earlier policy of the Universal House of Justice which refers to homosexuality as a form of illness. Since 2010 the Universal House of Justice no longer refers to homosexuality as an illness or as needing to be cured. So it was not a question of Bahai communities taking sides, but that Bahais might in light of this earlier policy think it was a Bahai policy to stand on the side against equal rights for gays and lesbians.
      I can give you three concrete examples of this. In 1996 the NSA of the UK addressed a London SACRE (Standing Advisory Council on Religious Education) with a formal statment arguing against equal rights for gays and lesbians. I refer to this here: https://justabahai.wordpress.com/2010/10/30/a-conversation/#nsauk
      In 2007 the name of the Bahai community was associated with an anti-gay coalition. I wrote a blog summarizing what this was here. https://justabahai.wordpress.com/2011/05/31/getting-better/
      To date the USA+Canadian NSA approved Bahá’í Network on Aids, Sexuality, Addictions, and Abuse (BNASAA) associate homosexuality with something negative. See https://justabahai.wordpress.com/2011/05/31/getting-better/#bnassa

      So the change in policy by 2010 letter is a change in asking the Bahai community not to take sides on same sex marriage whereas earlier policy implied that homosexuality was not to be tolerated and therefore any community might assume this meant being against same sex marriage.


    • The actions of Bahá’ís in response to Bahá’í policy do not necessarily prove that the policy actually supported a certain side. A change in how a community views a policy does not change the policy itself.

      Furthermore, why is referring to homosexuality as an illness bad?
      ‘Abdu’l-Bahá indicates that those who are sick must be treated with tenderness and care, not prejudice and disdain. So what indication is there that the Universal House of Justice would mean anything different? Who is to say the Universal House of Justice did not mean homosexuals should be treated with such tenderness and care as ‘Abdu’l-Bahá has said we must show?

      “The only difference between members of the human family is that of degree. Some are like children who are ignorant, and must be educated until they arrive at maturity. Some are like the sick and must be treated with tenderness and care. None are bad or evil! We must not be repelled by these poor children. We must treat them with great kindness, teaching the ignorant and tenderly nursing the sick.”
      http://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/abdul-baha/paris-talks/#f=f5-755

      ***NOTE****
      My response to this comment is here
      https://justabahai.wordpress.com/2014/11/11/bahai-scripture-on-homosexuality/#comment-3081


  9. Thank you so much for your research Sonja… the world really needs to see this.


  10. I just read a letter that seems to indicate that none of Shoghi Effendi’s writings, whether written by him or on his behalf, constitute Bahá’í scripture. Even though it’s written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice, not by the institution itself, it’s still something important to consider, I think.

    “The law of the Obligatory Prayers is, of course, binding on the friends in Europe, and regular, whole-hearted obedience to this law will in itself nourish the growth of spirituality. Nor should the friends neglect Bahá’u’lláh’s exhortation to read the Sacred Scriptures every morning and evening.”
    http://bahai-library.com/hornby_lights_guidance_2.html&chapter=4#n1840

    Above, the Sacred Scriptures are equated to the verses of God, which Bahá’u’lláh says to recite “every morn and eventide.” And the verses of God neither include ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s nor Shoghi Effendi’s writings.

    “With regard to the definition of “verses of God,” Bahá’u’lláh states that it refers to “all that hath been sent down from the Heaven of Divine Utterance.” Shoghi Effendi, in a letter written to one of the believers in the East, has clarified that the term “verses of God” does not include the writings of ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá; he has likewise indicated that this term does not apply to his own writings.”

    However, this servant believes that the Universal House of Justice is still limited in its legislation by the writings of the Guardian. Perhaps there are other criteria, besides the Bahá’í Scripture, that limit the Supreme Body’s decisions. If so, perhaps they include those letters written on the Guardian’s behalf, even if such letters are to be distinguished from those the Guardian wrote himself.


  11. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homosexuality_and_the_Bahá%27%C3%AD_Faith

    The Wikipedia article says otherwise. There dozens of Bahai editors there too who regularly edit the Bahai articles, even the comparative religion articles which are Bahai biased.

    In one passage of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, Bahá’u’lláh writes “we shrink, for very shame, from treating the subject of boys.” with an implication of pederasty, or erotic relations between adult males and adolescent boys. Such practices were not uncommon during the time of Bahá’u’lláh in the Islamic world, and in some cases were socially acceptable – see bacha bazi. Bahá’u’lláh condemned such relations, and Shoghi Effendi, the authorized interpreter of the Bahá’í writings, has more clearly defined a prohibition on all homosexual relations, stating that, “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.”

    Bahá’u’lláh clearly forbade fornication and adultery, referring to any form of premarital or extramarital sexual intercourse. The Universal House of Justice, in its notes on the text of the Kitab-i-Aqdas, stated that the Baha’i laws restrict “permissible sexual intercourse to that between a man and the woman to whom he is married”.


    • Stephen, please read what I write of the state of play on the wikipedia page here: https://justabahai.wordpress.com/2014/08/17/is-it-better-to-walk-away/#wikipedia

      Even if it were dozens of Bahais who say blue is purple, it doesn’t make something purple. So yes, of course, I realise that my views as a Bahai are minority views. But that doesn’t mean that my views are wrong if that is your point here.

      None of the text you quote above is Bahai Scripture except for this “we shrink, for very shame, from treating the subject of boys” which is a reference to pederasty. Sex with minors has nothing to do with homosexuality.


  12. For your consideration:

    “Regarding …’s question about the areas of the Guardian’s infallibility, we note that the letters written on his behalf on the subject of homosexuality represent his interpretation of the revealed Word on the subject, and are authoritative. They do not, for example, stray into the realm of science, a field in which, as the Guardian himself points out, he is not infallible, by speculating on the possible biological or psychological cause of a predisposition to homosexual tendencies. They do reflect the Guardian’s interpretation based on an infallible understanding of the entire Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh, and form a coherent and consistent whole with the entire body of Bahá’í Sacred Literature and authoritative texts.”
    http://bahai-library.com/uhj_advice_homosexuality


    • Thanks for posting this quotation. On the Bahai Library website this has been given the heading: “Homosexuality, Advice on
      by / on behalf of Universal House of Justice
      1994-05-03” but the first sentence makes clear that this text is penned by the Research department. I quote the first line so you don’t need to go back to the link.
      “The Research Department has studied carefully the letter of … dated 17 August 1993 …” http://bahai-library.com/uhj_advice_homosexuality

      I realise that you might consider this the same as the authority of the Universal House of Justice, so I will quote them:

      “To preclude any possibility of their being confused with letters
      written by the House of Justice, or on its behalf, it is important
      that such commentaries be distinctly identified. It is also vital
      that the believers understand clearly that these Research Department statements should be regarded as representing no more than the views of the members of that Department. While such views are very useful as an aid to resolving perplexities or gaining an enhanced understanding of the Bahá’í teachings, they should never be taken to be in the same category as the elucidations and clarifications provided by the House of Justice in the exercise of its assigned functions…”
      (16 August 1987 to an individual believer, cited in the Universal
      House of Justice, 1988 Sept 25, Function of Research Department, Various terms, p. 1)

      And so for me, when a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi doesn’t agree with something written by the Research department, I go with the letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi but also please note that all the Research is stating that these letters are authorative. They do not indicate what this authority means. So technically speaking, they do not disagree with the two letters (1933 + 1951) I cite in my blog above but I assume that you posted this because for you ‘authority’ means that same as the authority the Universal House of Justice has when it legislates.
      However this is not Bahai Scripture, if this is what you think this means. So even if a Universal House of Justice might state that xxx is part of Bahai Scripture and there is no clear proof of this, a later Universal House of Justice can change this policy in light of changed understandings or circumstances. This flexibility to change their own legislation is explained by Abdul-Baha in his Will and Testament.


  13. Servant, you wrote: The actions of Bahá’ís in response to Bahá’í policy do not necessarily prove that the policy actually supported a certain side. A change in how a community views a policy does not change the policy itself.

    Furthermore, why is referring to homosexuality as an illness bad?
    ‘Abdu’l-Bahá indicates that those who are sick must be treated with tenderness and care, not prejudice and disdain. So what indication is there that the Universal House of Justice would mean anything different? Who is to say the Universal House of Justice did not mean homosexuals should be treated with such tenderness and care as ‘Abdu’l-Bahá has said we must show?

    “The only difference between members of the human family is that of degree. Some are like children who are ignorant, and must be educated until they arrive at maturity. Some are like the sick and must be treated with tenderness and care. None are bad or evil! We must not be repelled by these poor children. We must treat them with great kindness, teaching the ignorant and tenderly nursing the sick.”

    http://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/abdul-baha/paris-talks/#f=f5-755

    Re: your first paragraph. I disagree. I think actions of a community are a good indication of the understanding of that community. I think I have been clear in showing how in 2010 it is new policy to ask the Bahai community take a neutral stance in regards to same sex marriage, If you don’t want to see this, of course it doesn’t matter. I think I have been clear enough in my comments above.

    However it is a huge problem in my view, if a Bahai should write as you did above “why is referring to homosexuality as an illness bad?” because asking such a question is just like asking “why is referring to being Caucasian as an illness bad?” It shows that the person doesn’t see the prejudice they display in just asking such a question. I realise that perhaps in Bahai circles you might be accustomed to thinking like that about indivduals who have a homosexual orientation, and until all people are treated with equality in the Bahai community it is going to be hard to combat this type of prejudice.

    If you look around your Bahai community and see none of the 10% who fall into the category you just referred to as having an illness and compared to having an illness later in your comments, then, you will know why. I wouldn’t want to be part of a community that would call me sick, would you?

    • Thank you for your reply, Sonja. I appreciate it. Since my comment, my views on the description of homosexuality as a disease have changed.

      On another note, I would like to ask why you call the October 27 2010 letter a policy of the Universal House of Justice, when it was written on the House of Justice’s behalf? Do you believe that because the Office of Public Information was “asked to convey” the response by the Universal House of Justice that the response must, thus, be official policy?

      The Research Department is, similarly, asked by the Universal House of Justice to convey a message. However, as the quote you referenced, written by the Universal House of Justice itself, states, the Research Department’s statements are nothing more than the personal views of its members.

      “Your letter asking for direct or indirect references in the Writings of the Faith to rape or sexual assault was referred to the Research Department, and we have been asked to convey to you the following comments.”
      http://bahai-library.com/compilation_chaste_holy_life
      See section 2.9, #37

      I would also like to ask: Have you written a letter asking the Universal House of Justice about your views on homosexuality, same-sex marriage, and the lesser authority of the letters written on behalf of the Guardian and of the House of Justice with regard to legislation? And have you asked the Supreme Body itself — not the Research Department, Department of the Secretariat, Office of Correspondence, etc. — to reply with its most authoritative answer?

      Regardless of how strongly you feel about your views, I think writing such a letter to the House of Justice would, at worst, do no harm, and, at best, increase understanding and unity. I’m considering writing such a letter myself, but if you already did, I trust that it would be sufficient, as you are very thorough in your writing.


  14. Sonja, You wrote: “However it is clear that Shoghi Effendi did not wish the status of these letters penned by secretaries to be confused with the authority of his own writing nor that of Bahai Scripture”. Then you quote this:
    “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, 25 February 1951 in The Unfolding Destiny of the British Baha’i Community, p. 260)

    I am sure many readers of this blog have noticed that you are quoting from a letter written ON BEHALF of Shoghi Effendi on 25 February 1951. Yet a consistent theme of your blog is that such letters are not part of scripture and you are extremely annoyed that letters on his behalf about homosexuality are quoted to justify a position about it being a disorder. How can you do the exact same thing by quoting from a letter on his behalf to support your view that such letters are not to be taken seriously? You are taking them seriously by quoting from this letter to bolster your argument. This would be clear to even casual readers! It seems that you are picking and choosing passages to suit your own agenda without adhering to your own requirement that a letter be written by the Guardian himself while objecting to others who aren’t doing anything different from what you do.

    Further, the House cannot interpret Bahai scripture as only Shoghi Effendi can do that. It can however elucidate and in its elucidations it uses his letters as part of the basis for the policy it sets out.


    • Not just the readers, but Pim, naturally, I am aware of this and my statement in my blog “There are more letters expressing a similar view (link) – that a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi does not share the same authority as anything penned by Shoghi Effendi himself.” – surely makes this clear. So I do not understand the accusation in your comments.
      This does not invalidate the points I make above. Instead, it means that these letters all need to be read or treated as if they are of a similar status in my view. It would be picking and choosing not to do so. The UHJ can make policy in any manner it chooses, so if it chooses to refer to these letters, there’s no problem. But if the UHJ uses these letters in their policy this does not then raise the status of these letters to another or to a higher authority.



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