Critiquing the Universal House of Justice

May 22, 2015

Can a Bahai critique texts penned by the Universal House of Justice or the Department of the Secretariat? My answer, “Of course. Critiquing is engagement. We must obey the Universal House of Justice but that doesn’t mean we must be silent if we do not understand their reasoning.”

Abdu’l-Baha said that we must obey the Guardian to safeguard the “mighty stronghold,” the Baha’i community. The same could be said of obedience to the House of Justice, which is the Head of the Bahai community today. Baha’u’llah and Abdu’l-Baha wanted to avoid the problems other religions had of being torn into schisms, so they emphasized obedience very strongly. It doesn’t mean that Bahais can’t think for themselves.

So I am free to disagree and to critique, but I am not free to go and claim any form of leadership or a new Bahai religion. I am also not interested in any ideas associated with what might be called reform because I see no need for these. My arguments and the ideas I express on my blog here as just a Bahai aim to follow Baha’u’llah’s pleas for each of us to be “an upholder and defender of the victim of oppression” (Baha’u’llah, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 93)

And so to the letter, dated 9 May 2014, penned by the secretariat for the Universal House of Justice which I will critique.

A letter, dated 18 May 2015 from the National U.S. Bahai administration has already been widely circulated in diverse online Bahai groups and e-lists. It states:
“A four-page letter from the Universal House of Justice on the subject of homosexuality has recently been receiving wide circulation via the Internet and through personal email lists, and we are increasingly being asked to comment on its authenticity.

The letter—dated May 9, 2014, to an individual believer in response to a personal inquiry—was indeed issued by the Supreme Body through its Department of the Secretariat. We enclose it here for your reference.”

I have inserted section breaks in the letter, and have placed relevant texts in the column on the right as well as any emphasis in the texts.


9 May 2014

Transmitted by email: ……U.S.A.

Dear Bahá’í Friend,
Your email letter dated 11 January 2014 has been received by the Universal House of Justice. We have been asked to convey to you the following. You express concern about the challenge Bahá’ís encounter in understanding and upholding the Teachings in the face of powerful social forces influencing public attitudes towards homosexuality.

In this connection, you observe that some Bahá’ís are susceptible to the argument that the Faith must change to keep up with what are perceived to be progressive social values, while some others, despite their firm adherence to the Teachings, are unable to resolve the incongruity between the Bahá’í perspective and attitudes prevailing in the wider society. Your thoughtful analysis of the issues you raise is warmly appreciated.

The contemporary discussion surrounding homosexuality, which began in the West and is increasingly promoted in other parts of the world, generally takes the form of a false dichotomy, which compels one to choose between a position that is either affirming or rejecting.

It is understandable that Bahá’ís would be sensitive to acts of prejudice or oppression in any form and to the needs of those who suffer as a result. But to align with either side in the public debate is to accept the premises on which it is based. Moreover, this debate occurs within the context of a rising tide of materialism and consequent reorientation of society, over more than a century, which has among its outcomes a destructive emphasis on sexuality.

Various philosophies and theories have eroded precepts of right and wrong that govern personal behavior. For some, relativism reigns and individuals are to determine their own moral preferences; others dismiss the very conception of personal morality, maintaining that any standard that restrains what is considered a natural impulse is harmful to the individual and ultimately to society.

Self- indulgence, in the guise of expressing one’s true nature, becomes the norm, even the touchstone of healthy living. Consequently, sexuality has become a preoccupation, pervading commerce, media, the arts, and popular culture, influencing disciplines such as medicine, psychology, and education and reducing the human being to an object. It is no longer merely a part of life, but becomes the defining element of a person’s identity.

grey1x1pixels “The Lord hath ordained that in every city a House of Justice be established wherein shall gather counsellors …. It behoveth them to be the trusted ones of the Merciful among men and to regard themselves as the guardians appointed of God for all that dwell on earth. It is incumbent upon them to take counsel together and to have regard for the interests of the servants of God, for His sake, even as they regard their own interests, and to choose that which is meet and seemly. Thus hath the Lord your God commanded you.”
– Baha’u’llah,
The Kitab-i-Aqdas, p. 29

“Be ye … vanguards of the perfections of humankind; carry forward the various branches of knowledge, be active and progressive in the field of inventions and the arts. Endeavour to rectify the conduct of men, and seek to excel the whole world in moral character.”
– Abdu’l-Baha,
Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 129

“It should also be borne in mind that 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.”
– Shoghi Effendi,
The World Order of Baha’u’llah, p. 22-23

“The best beloved of all things in My sight is Justice; turn not away therefrom if thou desirest Me, and neglect it not that I may confide in thee. By its aid thou shalt see with thine own eyes…”
– Baha’u’llah,
The Hidden Words

“Be thou of the people of hell-fire, but be not a hypocrite.”
– Baha’u’llah,
cited in a compilation on Trustworthiness. Also in Compilation of compilations, Volume 2, page 337

“Justice and equity are twin Guardians that watch over men. From them are revealed such blessed and perspicuous words as are the cause of the well-being of the world and the protection of the nations.”
– Baha’u’llah,
Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 14

“Be anxiously concerned with the needs of the age ye live in, and center your deliberations on its exigencies and requirements.”
– Baha’u’llah,
Gleanings, p. 213

“The Bahá’í Faith … enjoins upon its followers the primary duty of an unfettered search after truth, condemns all manner of prejudice and superstition, declares the purpose of religion to be the promotion of amity and concord, proclaims its essential harmony with science, and recognizes it as the foremost agency for the pacification and the orderly progress of human society.”
– Shoghi Effendi,
The Promised Day is Come, p. v

“Should a man wish to adorn himself with the ornaments of the earth, to wear its apparels, or partake of the benefits it can bestow, no harm can befall him, if he alloweth nothing whatever to intervene between him and God, for God hath ordained every good thing, whether created in the heavens or in the earth, for such of His servants as truly believe in Him.”
– Baha’u’llah, Gleanings, p. 276

“So Bahá’u’lláh made the utmost efforts to educate [His people] and incite [them] to morality, the acquisition of the sciences and arts of all countries, kindly dealing with all the nations of the earth, desire for the welfare of all peoples, sociability, concord, obedience, submissiveness, instruction of [their] children, production of what is needful for the human race, and inauguration of true happiness for mankind…”
– Abdu’l-Baha,
A Traveller’s Narrative, p. 41, translation: EG Browne

“The fundamental purpose animating the Faith of God and His Religion is to safeguard the interests and promote the unity of the human race, and to foster the spirit of love and fellowship amongst men. Suffer it not to become a source of dissension and discord, of hate and enmity.”
– Baha’u’llah,
Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p. 168

The letter above states that “The contemporary discussion surrounding homosexuality … generally takes the form of a false dichotomy, which compels one to choose between a position that is either affirming or rejecting.” and they continue: “to align with either side in the public debate is to accept the premises on which it is based.”

As you can read in the quotations on the right, the premise for a Bahai should be justice and equity, and I interpret the false dichotomy as meaning that in the public debate you have people who confuse the right, responsibility and legal protection to marry and raise children with a focus on materialism.

These people then make arguments based on “wrong” ways of living, often focussed on sex or sexual acts to avoid the fact that this is an issue of justice.

It goes something like this “their sex is unnatural therefore it is wrong” “because it is wrong …” when this has nothing to do with sex or materialism. It is about two consenting adults making a commitment to take care of each other, and whether society will accord them equal recognition, as a couple, or not. Is this dichotomy ‘false’ or does it require us, as Bahais, to make a stand for justice?

As a Bahai myself, I think it is important to engage in the debate on justice and be anxiously concerned with the needs of my age. I hate it that gays and lesbians are labelled as being obsessed about sexuality. To me this is as offensive as labelling an African American as being obsessed about race, when all they are doing is being visible. No person should have to hide who they are. There is not a lot diversity if minorities are denied membership or visibility.

The following seems to be objecting to the visibility of a non-heterosexual identity:
“Consequently, sexuality has become a preoccupation, pervading commerce, media, the arts, and popular culture, influencing disciplines such as medicine, psychology, and education and reducing the human being to an object.”

Surely they are not saying that doctors, scientists, and researchers who have shown us that homosexuality is not abnormal, not curable and not a barrier for healthy married relationships, are just obsessed about sexuality? Their research does not make the individual an object, it highlights the prejudices in society.
Abdul-Baha wrote that “And among the teachings of Bahá’u’lláh is, that religion must be in conformity with science and reason” Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 299

I do not think that the Universal House of Justice would be objecting to the science itself but rather have misunderstood it. It seems that they see the scientific findings as an agenda. Their sentence is a harsh statement against decades of scientific research and clinical experience which in my view goes against the Bahai teaching that we honour scientists and that science and religion go hand in hand. I think Baha’u’llah says this better than I can:
“Beware, O My loved ones, lest ye despise the merits of My learned servants whom God hath graciously chosen to be the exponents of His Name ‘the Fashioner’ amidst mankind. Exert your utmost endeavour that ye may develop such crafts and undertakings that everyone, whether young or old, may benefit therefrom. We are quit of those ignorant ones who fondly imagine that Wisdom is to give vent to one’s idle imaginings and to repudiate God, the Lord of all men; even as We hear some of the heedless voicing such assertions today.”
(Baha’u’llah, LAWḤ-I-HIKMAT (Tablet of Wisdom), Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p. 150/151)

When I see statements such as in this letter, which can be used by Bahais as ammunition to aim hatred or intolerance at others, I am reminded that I am a Bahai because of Bahaú’llah’s Teachings and not because of the Bahai administration, important as it is. Shoghi Effendi expresses the hope that unprejudiced observers of the Bahai Faith may be impressed by “the reasonableness of its claims, the comprehensiveness of its scope, the universality of its program, [and] the flexibility of its institutions…” (The World Order of Baha’u’llah, p. 54). Reading this letter, I am not clear that a observer will see the underlying comprehensiveness and universality.

Abdul-Baha’s words remind me that, whatever our orientation or sexuality, we are all united – born from the same God. “In like manner, when divers shades of thought, temperament and character, are brought together under the power and influence of one central agency, the beauty and glory of human perfection will be revealed and made manifest.” (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of The Divine Plan, p. 102)

My next blog will continue with the rest of the 9 May 2015 letter.

For me Bahau’llah’s teachings are forward thinking and positive and I am a Bahai because these teachings make sense to me, so I end with Shoghi Effendi’s summary of the purpose of Bahaú’llah’s teachings:
“`Abdu’l-Bahá expounded, with brilliant simplicity, with persuasiveness and force, and for the first time in His ministry, those basic and distinguishing principles of His Father’s Faith, which together with the laws and ordinances revealed in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas constitute the bed-rock of God’s latest Revelation to mankind. The independent search after truth, unfettered by superstition or tradition; the oneness of the entire human race, the pivotal principle and fundamental doctrine of the Faith; the basic unity of all religions; the condemnation of all forms of prejudice, whether religious, racial, class or national; the harmony which must exist between religion and science; the equality of men and women, the two wings on which the bird of human kind is able to soar; the introduction of compulsory education; the adoption of a universal auxiliary language; the abolition of the extremes of wealth and poverty; the institution of a world tribunal for the adjudication of disputes between nations; the exaltation of work, performed in the spirit of service, to the rank of worship; the glorification of justice as the ruling principle in human society, and of religion as a bulwark for the protection of all peoples and nations; and the establishment of a permanent and universal peace as the supreme goal of all mankind — these stand out as the essential elements of that Divine polity which He proclaimed to leaders of public thought as well as to the masses at large in the course of these missionary journeys. The exposition of these vitalizing truths of the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh, which He characterized as the “spirit of the age,”
(Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, p. 281)

That society and the Bahai community must forever refuse to recognize married couples of the same sex as worthy members and as couples is not an essential element of the Bahai teachings, as I understand them. Even those who feel that way, must admit that it is a secondary matter, on which there is room for flexibility. My hope is for something more than mere grudging acceptance. I hope to see an open embrace that demonstrates the universality of our programme and the flexibility of our institutions.
A copy of the 9 May 2014 letter is on Sen McGlinn’s blog.



  1. D wrote: “Lets look at the assertions mentioned above and see if we can apply the scientific method to them.
    1. ” Researchers has shown us that homosexuality is not abnormal. “This isn’t really a provable assertion and it is certainly not constant throughout time which is one of the requirements of the scientific method. That an experiment done now will yield the same results if the same is done a thousand years from now. What is considered normal are societal judgements and varies from time to time. The Arabs at the time of Mohammed buried their infant daughters, that was normal at the time for that particular culture.”

    In the social sciences you often cannot replicate a finding in the sense of producing the data again by the same method because the data (human society) is already there. There is also no requirement to prove a thing but it is accepted if it can be disproved and has not been disproved and it is useful if it has explanatory power.
    The opposite statement “homosexuality is abnormal” has been disproved and was not useful. (See my blog – https://justabahai.wordpress.com/2012/04/30/on-the-psychopathology-of-homosexuality/ for one example)

    When I used the phrase “Researchers has shown us that homosexuality is not abnormal” I meant it in the biological sense that it is part of the normal range, although I agree with your statement “What is considered normal are societal judgements and varies from time to time.” because if I had been born in another age, as a left-handed person I might have suffered much more than I did as a child of parents who wanted to make me ‘normal’ – I was beaten if I used my left hand to write with up to the age of 7 or 8 at school and at home. So in the biological sense I am normal as a left-handed person because I was born like this and there have been references to left-handed individuals over time and across societies. In a society where there is no prejudice against left-handed people I fall within the normal range in that sense as well.

    So back to the way I used this term: the question is to determine if homosexuality appears throughout time; if it appears across races, cultures, societies or even species. If homosexuality was only present in humans and not in animals, biologically speaking this would still be considered normal for humans. Normal in the sense that a minority (5-10%) of those born are homosexual in orientation.
    Homosexuality has been around for thousands of years into the past so it is likely that homosexuality will be around for another thousand years.

    I am talking about the occurrence not whatever a person might call a ‘lifestyle.’ So in terms of biology homosexuality is normal. In terms of society I suggest that homosexuality expressed in a same sex marriage is better than the expression of homosexuality in societies outside of same sex marriage.

    You continued:
    ” “2. “A barrier for healthy relationships” is not a provable scientific assertion either. What is a healthy relationship is again entirely subjective and dependent on culture. In the 19th century an independent wife that worked outside the home was not considered a healthy relationship and her job would have been considered a barrier to it, today that is not the case. What really concerns and scares me is not the contradiction between the Baha’i Faith and the Gay rights movement, it is that science has become a tool to advance a social agenda, bypassing the scietific method completely. That is as bad, in my eyes, as the fundamentalists who want to teach bogus science in the class room because it agrees with their interpretation of the Bible. The Baha’i Faith never claimed that homosexuality is curable, that a gay person would become straight (although in the future I believe this might be possible via neural plasticity, just my opinion). There is always celibacy, which actually is a provable assertion. Does celibacy cause physical damage to the person, does it shorten their life span, does it lead to depression. All those can be measured and quantified.”

    I wrote in my blog above: “Surely they are not saying that doctors, scientists, and researchers who have shown us that homosexuality is not abnormal, not curable and not a barrier for healthy married relationships, are just obsessed about sexuality?”

    I agree that what is considered a healthy relationship is very much individual and partly subjective but an unhealthy relationship continued over time often produces objective clinical symptoms. So if studies of same sex couples do not produce evidence of a higher rate of clinical symptoms (depression, personality disorders, etc) then this is evidence that it is not a barrier for a healthy married relationship.

    I hope I have shown you how the scientific method here is not bent to an agenda. Here is an example of one study on the children of lesbian couples. http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn19014-children-of-lesbian-parents-do-better-than-their-peers.html#.VWBPRvmqqko

    I am not suggesting in my comments that there is anything wrong with celibacy, the issue is that part of humanity, the 5-10%, are treated differently – with inequality in my view – and that for me is the issue in relation to lifestyle and society.

    However I disagree with your point if you are arguing that it is better to be celibate than to be married. Many studies show that married couples have lower rates of depression, etc.

  2. “Self- indulgence, in the guise of expressing one’s true nature, becomes the norm, even the touchstone of healthy living. Consequently, sexuality has become a preoccupation, pervading commerce, media, the arts, and popular culture, influencing disciplines such as medicine, psychology, and education and reducing the human being to an object. It is no longer merely a part of life, but becomes the defining element of a person’s identity.”

    How offensive

  3. X wrote: Let’s take a look at the places in the world where this false dichotomy has NOT been embraced and are therefore in line with the thoughts of the UHJ: Uganda, Gambia, Saudi, ISIS, Iran, Yemen, Somalia, Afghanistan, North Korea, —and on and on — so these enlightened places are what the UHJ would point to as those that are on the right path because they have not embraced but rather have resisted this false dichotomy. And the confused unhappy miserable places that have embraced this false dichotomy? Sweden, Norway, Canada, and on and on — which , just as a coincidence, have the highest standards of living in the world, the most democratic governments, the most open media, the highest levels of health care and education, the highest levels of social justice. But they have embraced this false dichotomy, and thus unlike Saudi and Afghanistan and Somalia, have given in to gross materialism and turned away from the spirit. This is a losing argument.

  4. J wrote: First of all, I’d like to thank you for sharing your wonderful thoughts with the rest of us through this blog. Secondly, I had a few questions- the heart and soul of the Baha’i Faith is Baha’u’llah, right? So, if the Man himself said absolutely nothing explicit against the act of two adult men or two adult women being intimate or against them getting married, should not the UHJ just state the obvious that Baha’u’llah was not against homosexuality? I mean, shouldn’t his authority supercede everyone else’s opinions, especially Shoghi Effendi’s and his secretary? It’s not like Baha’u’llah didn’t know about male-male intimacy, he was in prison for years, so he must have been aware of it, at least. The fact that he never explicitly condemned it speaks volumes about his understanding of nature and the needs of the human body.

    Not to be rude, but the biggest issue that the Faith is facing is the power constantly being given to elderly, more conservative types. These older men, having grown up in more conservative years and/or places, have held a homophobic or homo-ignorant view their entire lives. Because a higher personage such as Shoghi Effendi said homosexuality is bad, thereby confirming their ignorant views, there is nothing that any of us can do to change that. That is why we get Ken Bowers mentioning the Baha’i “position” of marriage being between a man and woman. It’s not true, as Baha’u’llah never once uttered such a thing, but it is what they need to tell themselves in order to continue being homo-ignorant and justifying their long-held views.

    I have more to say, but I feel like I’ve been chatty enough already. I truly thank you for letting me speak my mind. I am proud to be a member of the Baha’i Faith and a believer in Baha’u’llah, but it saddens me to see ordinary human beings like those in the UHJ unnecessarily playing God with people’s personal lives.

    Take care

    • Rationalizations and justifications for you self developed philosophy, Baha’u’llah was clearly against the homosexual lifestyle. Yes, we don’t question the authority of the Guardian or UHJ either. This makes you a covenant breaker in my view.

    • Dr J you have often called me a Covenant Breaker. All this is, is name calling. I have allowed the two long previous posts through because they are more or less copies of letters penned by the secretariat of the Universal House of Justice. I belleve there are another 5 or 6 long comments of yours still in the queue. I will allow them through once I have found time to read them. For future reference please try to keep your posts short or directed to a response to my blogs.

    • The UHJ is an infallible source of guidance, so their decisions about the homosexual behavior and homosexual marriage are the same as the Prophet speaking Himself!

  5. From the Universal House of Justice to The National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States

    23 April 2013

    Apart from the measures noted above, which serve to reinforce the integrity of the Bahá’í community, there may be times when specific action is required on the part of the institutions to protect it and to uphold the law. Intervention in any specific case needs, of course, to be carried out with the utmost delicacy and wisdom. Such cases present themselves when the breach of Bahá’í law is public and flagrant, potentially bringing the Faith into disrepute and damaging its good name, or when the individual demonstrates a callous disregard for the teachings and the institutions of the Faith, with harmful consequences for the functioning of the Bahá’í community. In these circumstances, Spiritual Assemblies should follow a middle way: They should not adopt a passive approach, which would be tantamount to condoning behaviour contrary to the teachings and which would undermine the imperative to obey Bahá’í law in the eyes of the members of the community. Neither, however, should they act rashly or rigidly to enforce the law, imposing administrative sanctions arbitrarily. Should the conduct of a believer become so blatant as to attract the attention of the Assembly, it would want, after gaining a relatively clear picture of the issues, to offer loving but firm advice to the friend involved. In most cases it is necessary, in the first instance, to determine to what extent the believer understands the Faith and its standards. Dispassionate counselling, not infrequently over an extended period, to assist the individual concerned in gaining an appreciation of the requirements of Bahá’í law is generally required. So, too, is patience needed, and he or she should be given sufficient time to bring about a change. The Assembly, often aided by the Counsellors or the members of the Auxiliary Boards, may have to help the individual reflect on his or her particular circumstances, apply relevant principles, and explore available options. In deciding on what approach to take, the Assembly should be guided by the understanding that its objective is to assist the friends to draw closer to the Faith while taking care to protect the Bahá’í community from the negative influence of those who have no intention of adhering to its standards. When a believer demonstrates an allegiance to the Cause and a willingness to rectify the situation, continued patience and loving guidance are in order. All throughout, of course, care is taken to ensure that an individual’s struggles do not become a source of backbiting or disunity in the community. In this the members of the community need to remember that they should each focus their energies on their own spiritual development and on overcoming their personal shortcomings. Only in circumstances where a believer, ignoring all admonishments, persists in misconduct and knowingly and consistently violates the law, would it be necessary for the Assembly to consider applying administrative sanctions—this, after warning the individual of the consequences of his or her continued disregard for the teachings. The decision in such matters is left to the National Spiritual Assembly, which is to proceed with the utmost care and circumspection. What is at stake is the participation of the individual in those aspects of community life internal to the body of the followers of Bahá’u’lláh’s teachings, not his or her civil rights. In some cases, partial sanctions may be adequate, allowing the Assembly to deal with a situation in a flexible manner. For example, if the hope is to reawaken in the individual a desire to participate in community life, full sanctions may be counterproductive; an appropriate partial sanction, such as suspending his or her right to be elected to an Assembly, may prove sufficient, for, in any event, it would not be reasonable for a person who flagrantly violates Bahá’í law to be in a position to govern the affairs of the community. Restricting the believer from other forms of service—for instance, acting as a tutor of a study circle or as a children’s class teacher—may also be considered. Full removal of administrative rights should be reserved for the most severe and intractable cases, especially when the protection of the community becomes a concern. The wise use of partial sanctions thus provides the Assembly with another means of strengthening the individual and the community. In letters written on behalf of the Guardian advising Assemblies on such matters, he explained that, “although it is sometimes necessary to take away the voting rights of a believer for purposes of discipline,” this prerogative of the National Assembly “should be used only in extreme cases.” If heavy sanctions are applied to certain acts of immorality, he also observed, “it is only fair to impose equally heavy sanctions on any Bahá’ís who step beyond the moral limits defined by Bahá’u’lláh,” which would obviously, given the circumstances of humanity today, “create an impossible and ridiculous situation.” One final point deserves mention: There may be times when an individual who shows complete indifference to the counsels of the institutions and firm resolution in his or her desire to maintain the status quo has no apparent interest in engaging in the life of the Bahá’í community. In such a case, provided that his or her conduct has no significant bearing on the good name of the Faith, the Assembly may decide to leave the individual to go his or her own way, neither insisting on continued contact nor feeling obliged to impose sanctions. Equally, however, the Assembly need not be anxious about quickly removing the name of the individual from its rolls, given that circumstances change and a person may, over time, decide to mend his or her ways and return to participate in the life of the community. In considering matters such as those outlined above, both in handling particular cases and in addressing the broader question of cultivating an attitude of love and respect towards Bahá’í laws and standards, you will no doubt find ongoing consultation with the Counsellors both essential and illuminating.

    With loving Bahá’í greetings, Department of the Secretariat

    Enclosure cc: International Teaching Centre (with enclosure) Board of Counsellors in … (with enclosure) Counsellor … (with enclosure).

    I honestly think these sanctions ought to fit the author of this website. Dr. J

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    Bahá’í World Centre • P.O. Box 155 • 3100101 Haifa, Israel Tel: 972 (4) 835 8358 • Fax: 972 (4) 835 8280 • Email: secretariat@bwc.org

    19 April 2013

    Transmitted by email: …

    Dear Bahá’í Friends,
    Your email letter of 24 July 2009, regarding the difficulties experienced by young Bahá’í men and women in Western countries in adhering to certain of Bahá’u’lláh’s teachings, was received, and it is deeply regretted that a reply has been so long delayed. Your thoughtful questions were carefully considered by the Universal House of Justice, which has instructed us to write to you as follows. You state that the disparity between the sexual mores of contemporary Western society and the standards of the Bahá’í teachings, which, you indicate, are “in accordance with the moral code of the East,” poses a considerable challenge to the current generation of young believers. In this connection you explain that, since, historically, a great deal of shame was associated with sexuality in European society, and so much energy was directed towards hiding and suppressing it, to abstain from sexual relations before marriage is now negatively viewed as pietism. You add that today marriage is delayed into the thirties after young people have completed their education and saved money for a home, that married life is more complex than in the past since both spouses usually work, and that those who profess ideals of chastity, as in the priesthood, often fall prey to illicit behaviour. Further, you suggest that many young Bahá’ís struggle to meet the standard of purity set forth in the teachings and that other young people may be reticent to join the Faith out of a reluctance to uphold it. The House of Justice appreciates the sincerity with which you have expressed your thoughts and acknowledges the very real sense of concern you feel, as the gulf between the principles laid down by Bahá’u’lláh and the generally accepted practices of society continues to widen. Young Bahá’ís in Europe face a particular challenge in this respect. Buttressed by its material and intellectual achievements and emboldened by a narrative of accomplishment and superiority that pervades its culture, the West puts itself forward in various ways as a model and measure for others. Yet, reflect upon ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s trenchant analysis of the limitations of European civilization in His treatise The Secret of Divine Civilization. Weigh carefully, next, His many exhortations to the individual in that same volume to “become a source of social good” and to “lay hold of all those instrumentalities that promote the peace and well-being and happiness, the knowledge, culture and industry, the dignity, value and station, of the entire human race.” Far from allowing themselves to be acculturated to the standards of society, then, Bahá’ís are called upon to be the vanguard and champions of a new civilization.

    19 April 2013 Page 2

    The important issues you raise, therefore, need to be considered not only in the context of the current condition of society but also in light of the nature of Bahá’u’lláh’s laws and teachings and the responsibilities shouldered by every one of His followers, as well as by the community and the institutions of the Faith—this, if the potential to achieve His purpose for humanity is to be realized. We live in an age when the role of religion in shaping human thought and in guiding individual and collective conduct is increasingly discounted. In societies that have bowed to the dictates of materialism, organized religion is seeing the sphere of its influence contract, becoming confined mostly to the realm of personal experience. Not infrequently the laws of religion are regarded as arbitrary rules blindly obeyed by those incapable of independent thought or as a prudish and outdated code of conduct hypocritically imposed upon others by advocates who, themselves, fail to live up to its demands. Morality is being redefined in such societies, and materialistic assumptions, values, and practices pertaining to the nature of humankind and its economic and social life are taking on the status of unassailable truth. Indeed, the expenditure of enormous energy and vast amounts of resources in an attempt to bend truth to conform to personal desire is now a feature of many contemporary societies. The result is a culture that distorts human nature and purpose, trapping human beings in pursuit of idle fancies and vain imaginings and turning them into pliable objects in the hands of the powerful. Yet, the happiness and well-being of humanity depend upon the opposite: cultivating human character and social order in conformity with reality. Divine teachings shed light on reality, enabling every soul to investigate it properly and to acquire, through the exercise of personal discipline, those attributes that are to distinguish the human being. “Man should know his own self”, Bahá’u’lláh states, “and recognize that which leadeth unto loftiness or lowliness, glory or abasement, wealth or poverty.” “The object of every Revelation”, Bahá’u’lláh declares, is “to effect a transformation in the whole character of mankind, a transformation that shall manifest itself, both outwardly and inwardly, that shall affect both its inner life and external conditions.” His appearance signals the emergence of “a race of men the nature of which is inscrutable to all save God”, a race that will be purified “from the defilement of idle fancies and corrupt desires” and that will manifest “the signs of His sovereignty and might upon earth.” The teachings of Bahá’u’lláh provide “such means as lead to the elevation, the advancement, the education, the protection and the regeneration of the peoples of the earth”. Thus, enshrined in His Revelation is a pattern for future society, radically different from any established in the past, and the promotion of His laws and exhortations constitutes an inseparable part of the effort to lay the foundations of such a society. It is evident that, if the body and mind are to maintain good health, the laws that govern physical existence cannot be ignored. So, too, for any nation to function properly, there are certain social conventions and laws that, everyone accepts, must be followed. In the same way, there are laws and principles that govern our spiritual lives, and attention to them is of vital importance if the individual and society as a whole are to develop in a sound and harmonious manner. In recognizing the Manifestation of God for today, a believer also acknowledges that His laws and exhortations express truths about the nature of the human being and the purpose of existence; they raise human consciousness, increase understanding, lift the standard of personal conduct, and provide the means for society to progress. His teachings serve, then, to empower humanity; they are the harbinger of human happiness,

    19 April 2013 Page 3

    whose call, far from compelling obedience to an arbitrary and dictatorial regimen of behaviour, leads to true freedom. “Were men to observe that which We have sent down unto them from the Heaven of Revelation,” Bahá’u’lláh states, “they would, of a certainty, attain unto perfect liberty. Happy is the man that hath apprehended the Purpose of God in whatever He hath revealed from the Heaven of His Will, that pervadeth all created things.” “Think not that We have revealed unto you a mere code of laws,” He declares further, “Nay, rather, We have unsealed the choice Wine with the fingers of might and power.” Throughout the world, in diverse cultures, Bahá’ís encounter values and practices that stand in sharp contrast to the teachings of the Faith. Some are embedded in social structures, for instance, racial prejudice and gender discrimination, economic exploitation and political corruption. Others pertain to personal conduct, especially with respect to the use of alcohol and drugs, to sexual behaviour, and to self-indulgence in general. If Bahá’ís simply surrender to the mores of society, how will conditions change? How will the people of the world distinguish today’s moribund order from the civilization to which Bahá’u’lláh is summoning humanity? “Humanity”, the Riḍván 2012 message of the House of Justice explained, “is weary for want of a pattern of life to which to aspire.” “A single soul can uphold a standard far above the low threshold by which the world measures itself,” the message noted. Young Bahá’ís especially need to take care, lest they imagine they can live according to the norms of contemporary society while adhering to Bahá’í ideals at some minimum level to assuage their conscience or to satisfy the community, for they will soon find themselves consumed in a struggle to obey even the most basic of the Faith’s moral teachings and powerless to take up the challenges of their generation. “Wings that are besmirched with mire can never soar,”Bahá’u’lláh warns. The inner joy that every individual seeks, unlike a passing emotion, is not contingent on outside influences; it is a condition, born of certitude and conscious knowledge, fostered by a pure heart, which is able to distinguish between that which has permanence and that which is superficial. “Wert thou to speed through the immensity of space and traverse the expanse of heaven,” are Bahá’u’lláh’s words, “yet thou wouldst find no rest save in submission to Our command and humbleness before Our Face.” The duty to obey the laws brought by Bahá’u’lláh for a new age, then, rests primarily on the individual believer. It lies at the heart of the relationship of the lover and the Beloved; “Observe My commandments, for the love of My beauty,” is Bahá’u’lláh’s exhortation. Yet what is expected in this connection is effort sustained by earnest desire, not instantaneous perfection. The qualities and habits of thought and action that characterize Bahá’í life are developed through daily exertion. “Bring thyself to account each day”, writes Bahá’u’lláh. “Let each morn be better than its eve”, He advises, “and each morrow richer than its yesterday.” The friends should not lose heart in their personal struggles to attain to the Divine standard, nor be seduced by the argument that, since mistakes will inevitably be made and perfection is impossible, it is futile to exert an effort. They are to steer clear of the pitfalls of hypocrisy, on the one hand—that is, saying one thing yet doing another—and heedlessness, on the other— that is, disregard for the laws, ignoring or explaining away the need to follow them. So too is paralysis engendered by guilt to be avoided; indeed, preoccupation with a particular moral failing can, at times, make it more challenging for it to be overcome. What the friends need to remember in this respect is that, in their efforts to achieve personal growth and to uphold Bahá’í ideals, they are not isolated individuals, withstanding alone the onslaught of the forces of moral decay operating in society. They are members of a purposeful community, global in scope, pursuing a bold spiritual mission—working to

    19 April 2013 Page 4

    establish a pattern of activity and administrative structures suited to a humanity entering its age of maturity. Giving shape to the community’s efforts is a framework for action defined by the global Plans of the Faith. This framework promotes the transformation of the individual in conjunction with social transformation, as two inseparable processes. Specifically, the courses of the institute are intended to set the individual on a path in which qualities and attitudes, skills and abilities, are gradually acquired through service—service intended to quell the insistent self, helping to lift the individual out of its confines and placing him or her in a dynamic process of community building. In this context, then, every individual finds himself or herself immersed in a community that serves increasingly as an environment conducive to the cultivation of those attributes that are to distinguish a Bahá’í life—an environment in which a spirit of unity animates one and all; in which the ties of fellowship bind them; in which mistakes are treated with tolerance and fear of failure is diminished; in which criticism of others is avoided and backbiting and gossip give way to mutual support and encouragement; in which young and old work shoulder to shoulder, studying the Creative Word together and accompanying one another in their efforts to serve; in which children are reared through an educational process that strives to sharpen their spiritual faculties and imbue them with the spirit of the Faith; in which young people are helped to detect the false messages spread by society, recognize its fruitless preoccupations, and resist its pressures, directing their energies instead towards its betterment. The institutions of the Faith, for their part, strive to ensure that such an environment is fostered. They do not pry into the personal lives of individuals. Nor are they vindictive and judgemental, eager to punish those who fall short of the Bahá’í standard. Except in extreme cases of blatant and flagrant disregard for the law that could potentially harm the Cause and may require them to administer sanctions, their attention is focused on encouragement, assistance, counsel, and education. Such an environment creates a very different set of dynamics than the one found particularly in the highly individualistic societies of today. Marriage, for instance, need not be long delayed, as it is in some parts of the world where the maturity and responsibilities of adulthood are deferred in pursuit of the licence that a socially prolonged adolescence grants. For the individual, who both contributes to and draws strength from the environment that is the Bahá’í community, adhering to Bahá’í law is endowed with meaning and, though perhaps still difficult on occasion, does not pose the insurmountable challenge that you fear it will. The Universal House of Justice wishes us to assure you of its supplications on your behalf, that the confirmations of the Blessed Beauty may attend all your efforts undertaken in His path.

    With loving Bahá’í greetings, Department of the Secretariat

    cc: National Assembly of …

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  7. J wrote: I have to admit that the whole notion that we cannot question the BAO seems inconsistent with the message Baha’i’s present to non-Baha’i’s when teaching the Faith. I type this from my own first hand experience. First, “independent investigation of truth” reeled my interest in, but then when that investigation (with prayer) comes to a different conclusion than the Faith (by this, I mean the BAO, not necessarily the Writings or Baha’ullah) …well, then its not acceptable.
    Second, the Faith oftentimes celebrates people turning away from the false teaching of earlier dispensations (in Ruhi, these examples are used to show how people turned away from the “real” message and then manipulated it and the folks turning away recognized this truth).
    However, there is no “room” for people to critique the BAO if they do the same thing, and such reasoning is justified with various things like “we’re unified” or that “Baha’ullah guides the UHJ”. The thing is…Catholics say this about the Pope. Other religions say the same thing. When one is a Seeker, they are celebrated for questioning their own (earlier) Faith but told they cannot question the Baha’i Faith.

    My personal conclusion is that we should be able to question the UHJ *but* we also must respect them and follow, to the best of our abilities, their guidance. For me, even when I disagree (ex. homosexuality), I still must see what wisdom is there and be open to it. I think a lot of the whiplash reaction to any critique is the result of the Faith still being new and still figuring itself out, as well as the current societal understanding that a critique of something is a criticism. To me, they are different. My gosh, the Guardian himself said the BAO will error and make major mistakes. The thing is that we all must follow the BAO full-heartedly (even when we critique) so that we *know* that our conclusion (if something works / doesn’t, is right or is wrong) is a correct conclusion. If anything is followed half-heartedly then we really can’t know that *it* (whatever *it* is) was really tried out, really pursued, and really tested.

    • “I still must see what wisdom is there and be open to it. I think a lot of the whiplash reaction to any critique is the result of the Faith still being new and still figuring itself out, as well as the current societal understanding that a critique of something is a criticism.” I would say AMEN to that!

      At the end of the day, if our society or the world’s sexual conduct were in tune with God’s plan for the proper place for sex (e.g. in heteosexual marriages) there would have been no need for a Manifestation of God to come to earth with laws and social teachings. Our society is definitely out of sink with God and practicing what amounts to be hedonism. If we as a society were on the right track with homosexual relations and even marriages, then there would be no need for Baha’u’llah to bring Gods teachings and laws on sexual conduct, sex and homosexuality. I would say His plan is the diametric opposite of whats currently popular in modern societies. Justabaha’i, you would love for the Faith to conform to popular trends toward approval of gay and transexual sex. Hence your agenda has been rather than have the society change toward God’s plan, to instead have the UHJ modify God’s plan to fit what currently are popular social trends of sexual perversion and addiction.

    • Dr J you wrote Justabaha’i, you would love for the Faith to conform to popular trends toward approval of gay and transexual sex. Hence your agenda has been rather than have the society change toward God’s plan, to instead have the UHJ modify God’s plan to fit what currently are popular social trends of sexual perversion and addiction.”

      You are wrong about my motives Dr J. First I do not expect the UHJ to take any notice of what I have to say. Second I focus on what is in Bahai Scripture – equality and justice for all, not just for some people but for all people. It has nothing to do with ‘popular trends’ but in my view to do with progression. Society is getting better because more and more see that it is prejudice to treat gays or lesbians as lesser. I am a Bahai who believes that there is nothing in our teachings to support treating our gay and lesbian with anything less than respect. Unfortunately, Dr J, comments such as yours are very common among Bahais. Why is it? Why do Bahais confuse morality with sexual orientation? or even think that orientation is the same as sexual activity. It is about who we fall in love with and who we find companionship and partnership with.

    • “Why do Bahais confuse morality with sexual orientation? or even think that orientation is the same as sexual activity. It is about who we fall in love with and who we find companionship and partnership with.”

      Why? Because we believe that any sex outside of marriage (heterosexual marriage) is wrong. Sex with a same sex person, from the Baha’i perspective, is immoral, are you saying it isn’t according to our beliefs? What do you believe about sex of any kind outside of marriage? Its clear what our Writings and the UHJ says about it, that’s for sure. But your website does promote “not discriminating” as you put it, against what essentially is immoral behavior. Then if we question the morality of the behavior, you point the finger at us and call us homophobic or discriminators! This includes autoeroticism or masturbation as well. This is an act that is actually encouraged by secular psychology as well.

    • Equality or justice, regardless of the orientation. This is not about immorality. You are the one who is associating sexuality with morality or with acts of sex. I am not.

    • Baha’is believe in equality and justice for all, including the mentally ill. The immoral behavior has to do with sex outside of heterosexual marriage, its central to Baha’i and Catholic (the true Christian Church). Homosexual behavior is not an orientation but rather it is a lifestyle choice based upon early experiences growing up or familial relationships or both.

  8. “Surely they are not saying that doctors, scientists, and researchers who have shown us that homosexuality is not abnormal, not curable and not a barrier for healthy married relationships, are just obsessed about sexuality?

    It is not the Bahaí position that doctors, scientists and researchers, ipso facto, establish the norms through their research findings by which moral behavior is governed nor that their research necessarily means that they are obsessed with sex. Clearly, if one’s job is to research sexual behavior this has nothing to do with obsession anymore than a researcher of cancer would be obsessed with it. However, I would suggest that your critique indicates that you have a somewhat naive view of past and current current scientific and medical research and the extent to which what is perceived as being the right evidence-based conclusions in in this research is necessarily so.

    Researchers in the field of human sexuality are just as influenced by lobby groups and shifting social norms as they are in other areas such as prescription medication. Let me refer specifically to medical research as an example. Industry (pharmaceutical) controlled drug trials have resulted in a situation in which many medicines approved as desirable are in fact the very opposite. Sadly, the general public and, indeed, many doctors are not aware of the fact that what is advocated based on peer reviewed research is actually fraudulent.

    Fortunately, some have been sounding the alarm. Harvard Medical School’s Dr. Marcia Angell is the former Editor-in-Chief at the New England Journal of Medicine, arguably one of the most respected medical journals on earth. She has stated that: “It is simply no longer possible to believe much of the clinical research that is published, or to rely on the judgment of trusted physicians or authoritative medical guidelines. I take no pleasure in this conclusion, which I reached slowly and reluctantly over my two decades as an editor of The New England Journal of Medicine.” Dr. Angell has written a book on medical research titled The Truth About the Drug Companies: How They Deceive Us and What to Do About It.

    Another former Editor-in-Chief of the New England Journal of Medicine has written a book titled: On the Take: How Medicine’s Complicity with Big Business Can Endanger Your Health. I suggest you look also at Dr. Ben Goldenacre’s book: Bad Pharma: How Drug Companies Mislead Doctors and Harm Patients as well as his TED talk “What doctors don’t know about the drugs they prescribe.” Dr. David Healy, an internationally respected psychiatrist, psychopharmacologist, scientist, and author of many books including Pharmageddon (a searing indictment against the pharmaceuticalization of medicine). I suggest you read these books very carefully.

    I have mentioned the conclusions of these eminent medical researchers because, as the summary of Dr.Goldenacre’s book states in part: “we like to imagine that medicine is based on evidence and the results of fair testing and clinical trials. In reality, those tests and trials are often profoundly flawed. We like to imagine that doctors who write prescriptions for everything from antidepressants to cancer drugs to heart medication are familiar with the research literature about a drug, when in reality much of the research is hidden from them by drug companies. We like to imagine that doctors are impartially educated, when in reality much of their education is funded by the pharmaceutical industry. We like to imagine that regulators have some code of ethics and let only effective drugs onto the market, when in reality they approve useless drugs, with data on side effects casually withheld from doctors and patients.”

    What are the implications for similar research findings on LGBT? You assume that current research findings that it is “not abnormal” are absolutely correct just as a vast number of doctors and patients assume many drugs which are the product of clinical trials are to be believed to be efficacious and not, as Dr.Angell puts it, based on clinical research that cannot be trusted. “Doctors, scientists, and researchers who have shown us that homosexuality is not abnormal” have also been responsible for publishing peer reviewed research skewed and biased to promote and agenda that is bought and paid for by the BIG PHARMA lobby which promotes the use of drugs for reasons which cannot be trusted. lt me emphasize that none of the aforementioned authors are by any means anti-medicine/research/drugs. They are simply deeply concerned by a prevailing trend which has deeply alarmed them.

    I doubt these considerations will change your point of view. The prevailing perspective, which you clearly hold, is to assume that because scientists, doctors and researcher say something must be true that it is indeed so. I do hope however that you will have a better idea, from the references (there are many others I could have cited) I have provided, that the situation is far more complex than it appears to be on the surface.

  9. p.s. Typo… Dr.Ben Goldacre (not Goldenacre)
    Also, the name of the other former Editor in Chief of the NEJM who wrote On the Take: How Medicine’s Complicity with Big Business Can Endanger Your Health is Dr Jerome Kassirer.

    • Peter Macd, thanks for your comments.
      in response to me writing: “Surely they are not saying that doctors, scientists, and researchers who have shown us that homosexuality is not abnormal, not curable and not a barrier for healthy married relationships, are just obsessed about sexuality?”
      you wrote:
      It is not the Bahaí position that doctors, scientists and researchers, ipso facto, establish the norms through their research findings by which moral behavior is governed.”
      I think you are saying that scientists do not determine morality. I am not saying that they do but there are certain people who use natural theology argument to say that something is unnatural is immoral. For the benefit of those people it is useful to have research which shows that orientation is not a chosen perversion.
      The research (see this link for some references such as studies on the children of same sex couples >> https://justabahai.wordpress.com/find/#sources2) is about sexual orientation and not sexual behavior. As soon as any individual focusses on sex or sexual behaviour, I know immediately that they are against gays and lesbians being treated as part of the diversity of humanity because the focus on sex is a form othering.

      You suggest that I have “a somewhat naive view of past and current current scientific and medical research” and then you claim that “many doctors are not aware of the fact that what is advocated based on peer reviewed research is actually fraudulent.”

      While at times science can be false or fraudulent, that is not the norm that you seem to claim. I make this claim because of the practice of double blind studies and refereed articles. When Dr Spitzer apologized in 2012 for supporting the idea that gays and lesbians could be cured what I found particularly shocking was that he did not use double blind studies, made no follow up, and in fact it was revealed that his conclusion was based on only phone call conversations with individuals pre-selected for him by NARTH + Exodus (two anti-gay organizations). More details about this are here: https://justabahai.wordpress.com/2012/04/30/on-the-psychopathology-of-homosexuality/

      I agree with you that we should use caution with any form of medicine and endeavour to do our own research.

      Now to the topic you wrote:
      “You assume that current research findings that it is “not abnormal” are absolutely correct just as a vast number of doctors and patients assume many drugs which are the product of clinical trials are to be believed to be efficacious.”
      You are comparing apples with oranges here, and to use another metaphor, are throwing the baby out with the bath water. All of science is not wrong, if this is really what you are suggesting with your comments.

      You continue:
      “Doctors, scientists, and researchers who have shown us that homosexuality is not abnormal” have also been responsible for publishing peer reviewed research skewed and biased to promote and agenda that is bought and paid for by the BIG PHARMA lobby which promotes the use of drugs for reasons which cannot be trusted.” A source please, any source to show this connection, otherwise this is a sweeping generalization.

      You wrote:
      the prevailing perspective, which you clearly hold, is to assume that because scientists, doctors and researcher say something must be true that it is indeed so. I do hope however that you will have a better idea, from the references… that the situation is far more complex than it appears to be on the surface.

      If you want to argue that science has not proven that there is nothing abnormal with having a gay or lesbian orientation you need to show this with research. You need to show that gays and lesbians suffer more because of their orientation and separate the findings from societies where discrimination is the real cause for suffering. I suggest you look at the Netherlands as a starting point since same-sex marriage and the rights and responsibilities associated with this has been in place since 2001. So if there are patterns children of same sex doing less well than their peers, or patterns of higher divorce rates, higher rates of abuse or violence, there’s a good 15 years of data just waiting for you to analyse.

  10. “My gosh, the Guardian himself said the BAO will error and make major mistakes.”
    The crucial guidance that is relevant re your critique is the elucidations of the House of Justice – not the BAO consisting of NSAs, LSAs, ITC, Counsellors, ABMs, etc. Neither the Guardian nor the Master said the House of Justice will “make major mistakes” – quite the contrary! We are assured that the House of Justice will provide guidance in conformity with Baha’u’llah’s purpose for humanity and the decades since its election in 1963 have amply demonstrated this to be the case.

    • Peter Macd if you read my blog you will see that I quote Shoghi Effendi himself, I did not write “My gosh, the Guardian himself said the BAO will error and make major mistakes.” – This is a comment by J.
      Comments on my blog do not mean that I agree with them.
      You wrote: “The crucial guidance that is relevant re your critique is the elucidations of the House of Justice” What particular elucidations are you referring to?

    • Peter MacD, I am just reading these comments here. And I am trying to understand your main points. If I interpret correctly, you are saying that we have to be careful about what we accept as true from scientific research because investigators are subject to their own biases, self interest and the culture of the time. Is that correct? Are you then saying there is really nothing we can truly trust from science? I am trying to understand your general feeling about the scientific endeavor, because if course we are given the 4th principle of the Faith.
      As one who works in the field of science myself, I see how flawed the current state of science is in many ways. I have spoken out in other places about how disgusted I am with many prominent scientists working with cell lines who refuse to authenticate their cells, making research conclusions meaningless and wasting millions of dollars in taxpayer money.
      So I understand those points you are making.
      I also feel that certain statements that are used by Baha’is and others such as “Science says …” are fraught with problems and are used to bolster one’s preconceived beliefs.
      But I also agree with Sonja above.
      So how DO we understand and use science as we are told we should as Baha’is? How might you design an experiment that would enlighten us on this topic? Just curious.

  11. I see that is was J. Thanks for that. The elucidations I referred to were those concerning homosexuality.

    I did not by any means claim that it is “the norm” that science is “false or fraudulent” and neither do those who have pointed out these serious issues. Neither I nor they are by any means anti science or anti medicine. I cited the statements and findings of several eminent medical researchers who have found substantial evidence of fraud as the result of the lobby pressure of the pharmaceutical industry on industry-controlled drug trials, bribing of medical researchers, physicians, etc. I have included some sources in my post. I suggest you read the books and watch Goldacre’s talk.

    It is not at all an apples and oranges issue as you suggest. The fact that medical clinical research is subject to the pressure of powerful lobby groups and those who fund the research is very relevant to any discussion of scientific findings re LGBT as the LGBT movement has adopted the same very successful strategies as those of other lobby groups (NRA, Wall Street firms, pharmaceutical companies, et al). The point I made re peer reviewed medical research which has been accepted as setting the norm is good reason for caution re LGBT research you uphold since, as demonstrated in the sources I cited, what was accepted as the norm re the justification for several medicines has been now proven to be erroneous.

    As I stated in my post, I was fairly certain you would not change your point of view. Your criticisms in various forms of the Guardian and House of Justice have been consistent over several decades.

    Both the Guardian and the Master have specifically referred to the tremendous opposition this nascent Faith will encounter in the West (though primarily “moral persecution”) as well as globally. The emergence of the LGBT movement is just one of many trends which are a part of this dynamic of internal and external opposition. It is an essential part of the the process of crisis and victory.

  12. Incidentally, I also reside in the Netherlands and I do not find same-sex marriage here any more desirable than I find (for example) the Netherland’s (and other countries) policies of legal marijuana, porn, prostitution, etc. I should also mention that one needs to be aware that inimical effects of various social and economic policies are not always immediately available. It often takes several decades before these effects can be properly observed.

  13. reptibian, Thanks for your comment. Re your summary of my viewpoint I am indeed suggesting that we need to be cautious but I am by no means suggesting that there is nothing we can truly trust from science! Many medicines (since I used examples from that field) and medical interventions such as surgery can and have been highly beneficial and the internet through which we are communicating and many other wonderful discoveries are the result of science.
    However, there is a tendency to simply accept something as true if it comes from a scientific source. The supposed therapeutic benefits of a daily glass of wine is one example which is widely accepted by millions of people. Yet there are numerous studies which suggest otherwise. For example, in France (a bastion of wine drinking), in 2009 the French national cancer institute (INCA), released their report which found that the consumption of only a small amount of alcohol can increase the risk of mouth and throat cancer by 168%. INCA president Dominique Maraninchi said, ‘Small daily doses of alcohol are the most harmful. There is no amount, however small, which is good for you.’ The link between cancer and alcohol has been identified by many other researchers. They sent a booklet to over 40,000 French GPs. In this context, what I am suggesting is that a science source is not automatically true just as is the case with other sources (prominent clergy, academics in non-scientific disciplines, et al).

    My second point is more philosophical as it relates to the materialist ideology (naturalism) which is prevails in much of modern scientific thinking. This posits that “all phenomena or hypotheses commonly labeled as supernatural are either false or not inherently different from natural phenomena or hypotheses.”

    In Science Set Free (published to acclaim as The Science Delusion in the UK), Dr. Rupert Sheldrake examines the ways in which science is being constricted by assumptions that have, over the years, hardened into dogmas. I’ll quote from a summary:”Such dogmas are not only limiting, but dangerous for the future of humanity. According to these principles, all of reality is material or physical; the world is a machine, made up of inanimate matter; nature is purposeless; consciousness is nothing but the physical activity of the brain; free will is an illusion; God exists only as an idea in human minds, imprisoned within our skulls. But should science be a belief-system, or a method of enquiry? Sheldrake shows that the materialist ideology is moribund; under its sway, increasingly expensive research is reaping diminishing returns while societies around the world are paying the price.”

    This is a major issue and not one I have the time to address in this thread. One example though is the rejection of belief in God by eminent scientists such as Richard Dawkins and Stephen Hawking. Yet, in order to respond to (and evade) the fine tuning argument of those who suggest there must be a Creator they believe in the multiverse (the hypothesis that there are many other universes than ours and ours just happens to be the one that is fine tuned). The fine tuning argument is the proposition that “the conditions that allow life in the Universe can only occur when certain universal fundamental physical constants lie within a very narrow range, so that if any of several fundamental constants were only slightly different, the Universe would be unlikely to be conducive to the establishment and development of matter, astronomical structures, elemental diversity, or life as it is understood.” So they reject the possibility that there could be a God based on the naturalism ideology yet accept that there is a multiverse for which there is no empirical proof. Of course, there are many profound philosophical nuances in the debate so I am aware of painting with a broad brush but the problem of confirmation bias does raise its head.
    In answer to your question, I am by no means qualified to tell Bahais or anyone else how we should understand and use science. I raise issues but others are free to reject them or carefully consider them. These are not issues which can be addressed by designing experiments. They require profound contemplation and I would only suggest that we try to approach science with the same analytical rigor and independent investigation of truth that would be applicable also in non scientific disciplines.

    • The standards of the Faith are really clear:

      The Bahá’í teaching on sexual intercourse is very clear. It is permissible only between a man and the woman who is his wife. (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 344)

      Chastity implies both before and after marriage an unsullied, chaste sex life. Before marriage absolutely chaste, after marriage absolutely faithful to one’s chosen companion. Faithful in all sexual acts, faithful in word and in deed. (Universal House of Justice, Messages 1963 to 1986, p. 233)

      A man of noble character and strong willpower, could certainly remain faithful to his wife during a long absence! (Shoghi Effendi, The Light of Divine Guidance v II, p. 69)

      There are no legitimate forms of sex outside marriage:

      Concerning your question whether there are any legitimate forms of expression of the sex instinct outside of marriage; according to the Bahá’í Teachings no sexual act can be considered lawful unless performed between lawfully married persons. Outside of marital life there can be no lawful or healthy use of the sex impulse except self-control which, when exercised, undoubtedly has a salutary effect on the development of character and of personality in general. (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 363)

      Chastity implies both before and after marriage an unsullied, chaste sex life. Before marriage absolutely chaste, after marriage absolutely faithful to one’s chosen companion. Faithful in all sexual acts, faithful in word and in deed. (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 360)

      This includes pornography and masturbation:

      Masturbation is clearly not a proper use of the sex instinct, as this is understood in the Faith. Moreover it involves, as you have pointed out, mental fantasies, while Bahá’u’lláh, in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, has exhorted us not to indulge our passions and in one of His well-known Tablets ‘Abdu’l-Bahá encourage us to keep our “secret thoughts pure”. (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 363)

      The foundation of a marriage is trust. Trust is built on honesty. When you have an affair, you are betraying the trust that has been given to you.

      We have directed all in the nights and in the days to faithfulness, chastity, purity, and constancy. (Abdu’l-Bahá, A Traveller’s Narrative, p. 46)

      It doesn’t only have an effect on the marriage, but adultery retards the progress of the soul in the next world:

      When we realize that Bahá’u’lláh says adultery retards the progress of the soul in the after life — so grievous is it . . . we see how clear are our teachings on these subjects. (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 344)

      There are certain things that we can do to minimize the likelihood of straying. One of them is what you might expect:

      It demands daily vigilance in the control of one’s carnal desires and corrupt inclinations. It calls for the abandonment of a frivolous conduct, with its excessive attachment to trivial and often misdirected pleasures. (Shoghi Effendi: The Advent of Divine Justice, p. 30)

      And another might be new to you, as it was to me:

      Give ye great weight to the Nineteen Day gatherings, so that on these occasions the beloved of the Lord and the handmaids of the Merciful may . . . grow in purity and holiness . . . and in the resistance to passion and self. Thus will they separate themselves from this elemental world, and immerse themselves in the ardors of the spirit. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Bahá’í Meetings/The Nineteen Day Feast, p. 1)

      Fines also play a role as a deterrent:

      God hath imposed a fine on every adulterer and adulteress, to be paid to the House of Justice: nine mithqals of gold, to be doubled if they should repeat the offence. Such is the penalty which He Who is the Lord of Names hath assigned them in this world; and in the world to come He hath ordained for them a humiliating torment. (Baha’u’llah, The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, p. 37)

      Looking at the Mithqal calculator, the currant fine for the first offence would be $1694.06. If you have sex a second time, it doubles to $3388.12! If you have it a third time, it doubles again to $6776.24; and a fourth time to $13,552.48! Hopefully that’s so far beyond someone’s ability to pay, that they won’t want to chance having sex outside their marriage ever again!

      The purpose of the fine is to expose and shame the offenders:

      In one of His Tablets, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá refers to some of the spiritual and social implications of the violation of the laws of morality and, concerning the penalty here described, He indicates that the aim of this law is to make clear to all that such an action is shameful in the eyes of God and that, in the event that the offence can be established and the fine imposed, the principal purpose is the exposure of the offenders — that they are shamed and disgraced in the eyes of society. He affirms that such exposure is in itself the greatest punishment. (Baha’u’llah, The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, p. 200)

      If your partner is cheating on you and it can be proven, a year of waiting must be started:

      This aspect of the Bahá’í law of divorce, however, will need elucidation and supplementary legislation by the House of Justice. Therefore, at the present time, the year of waiting must be observed when adultery on the part of either party is proven. (Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, 28 April 1974)

      With some time apart, relationships can heal from this most devastating of betrayals, but full responsibility, remorse and true commitment to self-development must be the foundation for the healing. You must be willing to do whatever it takes to rebuild the trust that’s been lost. Nothing less will do. Many do not have the courage or character to take this on. If you do, you have the chance to create an even deeper, more meaningful relationship. If you don’t, it will lead to irreconcilable antipathy and divorce.

  14. Dr Johnson, most of what you write in your comment is about couples cheating on each other which has nothing to do with a committed same-sex marriage. I find it offensive when any individual speaks of a same-sex relationship in terms of sexual acts. It means that you, the person doing this, doesn’t see our common humanity and it shows your prejudice in assuming that the sex drive rules one’s behaviour.

    I have approved your comments Dr Johnson because there might be a few Bahais that share your views as to what is a Bahai Teaching, however, in the future I will not allow anything else you claim is a Bahai Teaching unless you provide a clear quotation from Bahai Scripture or express your comment as a personal view. Because you have repeatedly ignored my request to distinguish between the lesser authority of a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi and what you call a Bahai Teaching, I will not allow any more of your comments on my blog unless you make this distnction. See my blog which is a more detailed response to your comments above. https://justabahai.wordpress.com/2015/07/18/does-a-letter-create-a-bahai-teaching/

  15. “No sex act” would include masturbation, pre marital sex acts of any kind and so forth. Dr. J

  16. Dr J I will not approve the two comments you wrote today because they are just a cut and paste from the book Lights of Guidance where you have not bothered to put in the sources underneath. Just putting quotation marks around them is not good enough for me. Rewrite both of your comments into one short comment focussed on the topic of masturbation showing a clear distinction between what is a letter on behalf of Shoghi Effendi or is a letter penned by the Research department or the Universal House of Justice itself. Do not just paste long sections from the book Lights of Guidance again. It is the editor of this book who has created these lists. This is not Bahai Scripture. And keep your next comment to less than 2 paragraphs.
    For example you wrote:

    “masturbation is clearly not a proper use of the sex instinct,”
    ” Outside of marital life there can be no lawful or healthy use of the sex impulse.” (He wasn’t meaning married homosexuals here and you know that).

    I have given you plenty of opportunity to make comments on my blog. From now to be able to comment in the future you can no longer just cut and paste texts from Lights of Guidance. So for example you would need to state where the above quotations come from as well as the date. I will automatically not allow any comment of yours on my blog where you do not make a clear distinction in your use quotations between a letter which is written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi and any text penned by Shoghi Effendi himself. Here you may not call letters written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi as being Shoghi Effendi’s ideas or teachings.
    Below I am pasting your first comments since these are just your own views and not mis-attributions to Shoghi Effendi.

    Well justabahai, you used the strategy of the best defense against doing the wrongs I accuse your website of doing, is to go on the offense and accuse me of wrong doings. It would be funny if it weren’t so sad! Now back to basics, the quote below states things quite clearly unless you don’t think either the Guardian or UHJ statements are ones we ought to obey. Now Supreme Pontiff of the Baha’i Faith, let me ask you, how do you get around what these quotes clearly say?

  17. justabahi. May I ask why you are of the view that letters written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi may not be called “his ideas and teachings” by Dr J?
    In Unfolding Destiny (pp.260) the Guardian states: “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.”

    Please note: these letters “convey his thoughts and instructions” and are, ipso facto, “authoritative”. Clearly, they aren’t in his inimitable writing style and their authority is less. However, they are very clearly “authoritative” (Having or arising from authority; official; Of acknowledged accuracy or excellence; highly reliable) as they “convey his thoughts and instructions” – i.e. his “ideas and teachings ” as you described them for Dr J?.

    Has it occurred to you that your understanding of the Guardian’s interpretations re many topics may be very faulty because of a highly erroneous assumption on your part that letters written on his behalf are not authoritative?

    • It seems that your idea of authorative or “lesser authority” is different to mine in relation to these letters. In practice today, thousands of these letters are treated as having a lesser authority than anything penned by Shoghi Effendi but the five that mention homosexuality are treated as if, to quote you, as if “they are very clearly “authoritative” I do not think Shoghi Effendi was inconsistent. On the contrary I think he was very intelligent in choosing to ask his secretaries to pen these letters so it would be very hard to mix the authority of his own interpretations with anything penned by these secretaries. I suggest rather than call my thinking “very faulty” or “highly erroneous ” that you find some scripture or even some letters written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to show me how I am wrong.
      And just to be clear here. I am objecting to Dr J continuing to refer to letters written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi as if this is guidance or the thinking of Shoghi Effendi, not what Dr J’s personal views are.

    • Answer yes or no, does the UHJ today approve of gay behavior (lifestyles) or gay marriages for Baha’is? If no, why do you persist in your disobedience to their wishes? So your website is doing a disservice to Baha’is by promoting disobedience to the judgments of the UHJ, not good!! BTW, don’t say they haven’t made a judgment because they have.

    • Dr J I will write a blog in response to your question. It might take me a day or two.

  18. I see you are offended by “very faulty” and “highly erroneous”. Regrettably, as your views are at variance not only with the Guardian but also the House of Justice’s clear guidance re homosexuality this is apropos. You are directly challenging the House of Justice and therefore the Lesser Covenant established by Bahaú’llah to safeguard the Faith from schism no matter how you try to mask this in you ‘critique.’ From reading the thread more carefully it seems you have been doing this for a long time.

    • I think Namvar you might be offended if another Bahai claimed that your ideas were “very faulty” and “highly erroneous.” I assume this discussion is now closed with you as you have resorted to name calling. When Bahais claim that I am “directly challenging the House of Justice ” instead of actually engaging with what I write, this is name calling and in my view un-Bahai.
      I make this blog public and have all my words here public so that if a Bahai might want to make a complaint about me, it is clear to everyone concerned what I actually did write and not what the person backbiting about me claimed I wrote.

  19. justabahai I don’t see why you are so upset. You state “These people then make arguments based on “wrong” ways of living, often focussed on sex or sexual acts to avoid the fact that this is an issue of justice.It goes something like this “their sex is unnatural therefore it is wrong” “because it is wrong …” when this has nothing to do with sex or materialism.” I do think this is very faulty and erroneous as it conflicts with the House’s position.

    Just as importantly, it directly challenges Bahá’u’lláh’s forbidding sodomy which is intrinsically related to this issue as a sex act and the cause of numerous deaths from AIDS. You cannot be selective and say adultery is not permissible but in the name of justice sodomy is. You are a Bahaí so how can you selectively choose which laws you will obey or disobey in the name of “justice’? Clearly we are not perfect and all have to struggle to obey various Bahai laws and ethical exhortations but to simply dismiss them and say its okay to drink alcohol, engage in sodomy and adultery, etc. is faulty and erroneous thinking no matter how you try to justify it by appealing to justice or any other reason.

    “Ye are forbidden to commit adultery, sodomy and lechery. Avoid them, O concourse of the faithful. By the righteousness of God! Ye have been called into being to purge the world from the defilement of evil passions. This is what the Lord of all mankind hath enjoined upon you, could ye but perceive it. He who relateth himself to the All-Merciful and committeth satanic deeds, verily he is not of Me. Unto this beareth witness every atom, pebble, tree and fruit, and beyond them this ever-proclaiming, truthful and trustworthy Tongue.” Bahá’u’lláh

  20. Just to be clear. I would have the same problem with a blog arguing that breaking heterosexual laws is somehow related to justice or another rationale that the writer uses as a basis for their critique. My problem is not just about your defense of same sex unions but any position which defends behavior which is at variance with clear Bahai law and ethical exhortations. The House has referred to the materialism engulfing humanity and I would assert that a defense of pornography, marijuana (also increasingly legal – but does that make it right?) use, etc is just as faulty and erroneous. The influence of materialist ideology in naturalism on science was pointed out in peter macd’s post and we need to be careful to avoid falling into the trap of accepting prevailing materialist norms which are at variance with the latest of God’s Manifestation’s will for humanity.

    • I agree with this Namvar “we need to be careful to avoid falling into the trap of accepting prevailing materialist norms which are at variance with the latest of God’s Manifestation’s will for humanity.” But I do not see how this relates to treating those with a homosexual orientation with equality and justice. I make this argument because equality and justice for each individual appears to me to be a major Bahai Teaching. If Bahaúllah had written equality except for … , etc then we would be having another discussion. Find something written by Bahaú’llah or Abdul-Baha or Shoghi Effendi to prove me wrong. As a Bahai I do not see that the world is falling apart – of course there are those who focus on the materialist and those who focus on sex (usually these people are the ones who claim that homosexuality is wrong btw), but I prefer to focus on the positive. As a Bahai I am free to do this. I would even argue that it is a Bahai Teaching to see that the world and society progresses. Surely is this not what the Bahai principle of Progressive Revelation is all about?

  21. It is definitely a Bahai teaching that we to our utmost to ensure that the world and society progresses. However, this is definitely not what Progressive Revelation means.

    Progressive Revelation is a core teaching of the Faith that states that religious truth is revealed by God progressively and cyclically over time through a series of divine Messengers, and that the teachings are tailored to suit the needs of the time and place of their appearance.

    This does not mean that God’s Messengers will reveal religious truth in conformity with our limited expectations and assumptions re what being ‘progressive’ means. Indeed, both the Bab and Bahú’llah have reaffirmed core principles re adultery, sodomy, marriage, etc which exist in prior Revelations.

    Tens of millions thought it was progressive to solve another issue (poverty and income inequality) which has been a part of humanity, like LGBT people, for tens of thousands of years by embracing the leftist approach as they saw communism/socialism as the solution to poverty and income inequality. Many clerics even embraced Liberation Theology as a ‘progressive’ move on behalf of the poor and the Faith was heavily persecuted in the USSR and other countries. I suppose some Bahaís who embraced this ideology would have challenged me as you do on the basis that I am against justice for the poor of humanity (my peers who were not Bahaís certainly did this in the 70s-80s before the collapse of the USSR). It took many decades before the bankruptcy of this approach was understood leading to the abandonment of communism and socialism except in a few countries such as China.

    To argue that Progressive Revelation (confused with being progressive as they are two different things) is a basis for the fight for justice and therefore a reason to abandon the explicit prohibition of Bahaú’llah re sodomy is to reject His laws for humanity. One cannot pick and choose from the teachings to justify one’s agenda as various Christian denominations do to justify liberal versus conservative agendas.

    Please note that this is not equating sodomy with same sex unions as heterosexuals may engage in sodomy as well. It is simply that if you are going to fight for justice for a same sex union lifestyle you cannot explain away the sodomy prohibition anymore than you can do this re all the other prohibitions in the Faith. I reiterate that my line of reasoning is just as applicable to heterosexual behavior as there are many heterosexuals who want to be free to engage in activities which are also prohibited by Him.

    I end my contribution to the dialogue here and leave you to continue to justify the sodomy prohibition.

    • You have misunderstood my argument. When I referred to progressive relevation I was referring to the idea that society in general, progresses – gets better – not to the use of the term in the political world. Shoghi Effendi urges the Bahais to be at the forefront of progression which I read as meaning being involved with what is going on currently in the world. Again here is a link showing the context for Bahaullah’s mention of liwaat (illicit sex) and again, homosexuality does not equal sodomy. https://justabahai.wordpress.com/2013/09/20/a-bahai-view-of-homosexuality-and-gay-rights/#liwaat

  22. I note that you have chosen not to include my response commenting on your untenable position re the prohibition of sodomy in Baha’i scripture.

    Yet you state in why you founded your blog that It was because of the deletion of your response to PP in a Dutch Baha’i list. I have often found find that people with a strong confirmation bias such as yours advocate one thing but do another when it challenges there bias.

    It seems “openness” is not as strong a priority as you claim it is.

  23. Strange because when I viewed the page the comment had disappeared!
    I don’t agree with your (or should we say your husband Sen’s) line of reasoning in the link at all. The prohibition against sodomy is very clear.

    • Namvar, it is not the first time a sexist person has assumed because I am a married woman that my ideas come from my husband. This sexism is so annoying that I will no longer respond to any more of your comments until you make an apology. And I will not allow any more of your comments on my blog either. If you thought I was annoyed at your earlier comments you were wrong. Now I am annoyed because I am proud to be a feminist. I will put with Bahais who call me names but I will not tolerate sexist comments about my intelligence on this blog.

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