Archive for the ‘Aqdas’ Category

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The Baha’i Faith is not Anti-Gay – Letter to a dogmatist

February 19, 2014

Dear S,

The text is “We shrink, for very shame, from treating the subject of boys. Fear ye the Merciful, O peoples of the world! Commit not that which is forbidden you in Our Holy Tablet, and be not of those who rove distractedly in the wilderness of their desire.”Baha’u’llah, page 58, Kitab-i-Adqas, 1992 English edition (click to view the source online)

In your comments you confuse pederasty (sex with children) with homosexuality. This is like blaming rape on heterosexuality. I hope you might now see how offensive it is to mix up something as horrific, as shameful as the sexual abuse of children, with someone’s sexual orientation.

My blog here goes into more detail about the context for this text by Baha’u’llah ( … the Arabic term Baha’u’llah used “ghulaam” refers to: slave, page; lad, or servant, and exclusively males. The ‘subject of boys’ is/was the middle eastern practice young boys being treated like a sex slave…) –

You then state: “Read this and know for yourself why flagrantly unrepentant homosexuals are shunned by the majority members of international Baha’i community.”

I as a Bahai find the above statement flagrantly offensive. Such statements bring the Baha’i Faith into disrepute.

I quote you only so that I can respond in the hope that you can be educated and to show the world that Baha’u’llah’s Teachings are not homophobic.

I hope one day more and more Baha’is will speak up to show that they support the Universal House of Justice’s 2010 policy, which is a change from earlier policies to one of urging the Baha’i community to support the rights of all gays and lesbians:

    “Whatsoever hath led the children of men to shun one another, and hath caused dissensions and divisions amongst them, hath, through the revelation of these words, been nullified and abolished.”

Baha’u’llah Gleanings, p. 95.

“…to regard those with a homosexual orientation with prejudice or disdain would be against the spirit of the Faith. Furthermore, a Baha’i is exhorted to be “an upholder and defender of the victim of oppression”, and it would be entirely appropriate for a believer to come to the defense of those whose fundamental rights are being denied or violated.” Universal House of Justice – letter to an individual, 27 Oct 2010.

My blog here goes into some detail on how I think L.S.A.s could work in line with this latest policy of the Universal House of Justice: link (Until recently, the Universal House of Justice referred to homosexuality as an aberration or as an illness, but this policy has changed. Since 2010, the policy of the Universal House of Justice asks Baha’i communities to work at removing any discrimination against gays or lesbians, whether they are Baha’is or not).

If you want to understand some background to Baha’u’llah’s text: “Ye are forbidden to commit zenaa’ (fornication), lewaat (sexual perversions) and kheyaanat (infidelity).” [Usually translated as “Ye are forbidden to commit adultery, sodomy and lechery.”] See: https://justabahai.wordpress.com/2013/09/20/a-bahai-view-of-homosexuality-and-gay-rights/#liwaat

Here, I’ve gone to the original Arabic to understand better what Baha’u’llah meant. You might wonder why I did this. Well sodomy doesn’t mean homosexuality. And my motive was to try and understand the Baha’i teaching of equality for all and the current official Baha’i policy –which is that unmarried gays are expected to be celibate. As far I know the Universal House of Justice has not made any policy for same sex marriage. In the 2010 letter they state that the Baha’i community should not take sides on the political question concerning marriage equality.

Admittedly the 2010 policy is a recent change in policy, but it surprises me when Baha’is such as yourself appear ignorant of how prejudiced it is to discriminate against gays and lesbians.

The Baha’i Teaching is not equality for all – except for gays and lesbians – is it? So I started hunting around to find out where these homophobic statements come from and I found that they don’t come from Baha’i Scripture – have another look at the notes section you referred to in the Kitab-i-Aqdas.

You wrote: “Homosexuality is listed as the eighteenth (xviii in Roman numerals) prohibition in the ‘Synopsis and Codification’ of the aforementioned book. Likewise, there is also Note 134 of the same book which is quite lengthy. Read this and know for yourself why flagrantly unrepentant homosexuals are shunned by the majority members of international Baha’i community.”

These notes are written in the third person in reference to Shoghi Effendi, so that means these were penned by the Universal House of Justice’s representative or the research department. They refer to letters written the Guardian’s behalf, not his own writing. I urge you to study the Will and Testament of Abdu’l-Baha, which outlines the authority of the Universal House of Justice to make and change its own policy. If you study the Baha’i Covenant you will discover that Baha’i Scripture is only penned by The Bab and Baha’u’llah; and we take anything penned by Abdu’l-Baha and Shoghi Effendi as authoritative on par with scripture. Letters penned on Shoghi Effendi’s behalf by his secretaries in the 1930s to 1950s, such as the letter on the condemnation of birth control, have a lower status or authority, where they were intended as advice or if it was clear in the letter that they were instructions for the specific person they were addressed to (see: The 1932 Letter Written on Behalf of the Guardian which addresses the status of these letters).

You are also mistaken about gays and lesbians being shunned by Baha’is. Perhaps in your own community they are shunned — but they are not in many other communities and some Baha’i communities celebrate and support their gay and lesbian members. In fact many Baha’is I’ve encountered in diverse communities around the world tell me they want to support full equal treatment for their gay and lesbian community members but seldom express this because they fear any cause for disunity. However by saying nothing, views such as yours end up being dominant — hence this “justabahai” blog which expresses my points of view as a Bahai.

According to the Universal House of Justice, it is time Baha’is started to stand up for the rights of our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters and encourage other Baha’is to do the same. More and more, people are doing that in a public forum of support and visibility run by Baha’is: http://gaybahai.net
So on one level I understand how you might think that gays and lesbians are shunned, because you might not hear Baha’is such as myself voice themselves publicly. But we do exist, just as much as the 10% of our brothers and sisters who are gay.

You wrote:
“As a member of an LSA I can tell that the most you would risk is a temporary or permanent loss of voting rights. Temporary if you change your ways to acceptable Baha’i ways and permanent if you are more committed to the homosexual ’cause’ than the Baha’i cause. Only an NSA can take away or restore someone’s voting rights. Someone who has lost their voting rights within a Baha’i community is no longer seen as a “true”, “loyal”, “committed” or “devoted” Baha’i. In other words, they are Baha’is in name only but not in deed.”

Well Baha’u’llah put it very well: “Let deeds, not words, be your adorning.”

Your use of the term “flagrantly unrepentant homosexuals” shows everyone by your words that you are prejudiced against gays and lesbians. On one level I’d say, that doesn’t show the universality of the Baha’i community in a very good light — but more importantly it misrepresents the Baha’i community as a community that discriminates. Discrimination is to make judgments about people because of their identity, in this case (in your words) as “flagrantly unrepentant homosexuals.”

Which is more praiseworthy in the world, and in my view for the Baha’i community, words such as yours, or words that express the Baha’i Teachings of spirituality, acceptance and oneness, and actions that reflect the Baha’i principles of equality, justice, and unity in diversity? (A list of the Bahai Principles is here)

Sorry to come down so hard on you here, but I think it is important that you realize that your words are based on your own prejudice. A Baha’i who has lost their voting rights is no less than any other Baha’i in terms of being a Baha’i. The sanction denies them participation in some Baha’i activities such as attending feasts and being able to vote – the degree of the sanctions on attendance depends on the N.S.A. who usually state what these specific sanctions entail. If a gay and lesbian Baha’i has their voting rights removed because of being a ‘flagrantly unrepentant homosexual,’ well… who is to judge what this even means? This is what a Letter Written on Behalf of the Guardian says about removal of administrative rights:

“Concerning your question as to the status of those individuals whom the Local Assembly or the N.S.A. have considered it necessary to deprive of the voting right and to suspend from local meetings and gatherings; such action which Local and National Assemblies have been empowered to take against such recalcitrant members, however justified and no matter how severe, should under no circumstances be considered as implying the complete expulsion of the individuals affected from the Cause. The suspension of voting and other administrative rights of an individual, always conditional and therefore temporary, can never have such far reaching implications, since it constitutes merely an administrative sanction; whereas his expulsion or ex-communication from the Faith, which can be effected by the Guardian alone in his capacity as the supreme spiritual head of the community, has far-reaching spiritual implications affecting the very soul of that believer. The former, as already stated, is an administrative sanction, whereas the latter is essentially spiritual, involving not only the particular relationship of a believer to his local or National Assembly, but his very spiritual existence in the Cause. It follows, therefore, that a believer can continue calling himself a Bahá’í even though he may cease to be a voting member of the community. But in case he is excluded from the body of the Cause by an act of the Guardian he ceases to be a believer and cannot possibly identify himself even nominally with the Faith.”
(Letter Written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, undated, Directives from the Guardian, p. 81 + 82, (click to view the source online). Copyright 1973 by the National Spiritual Assembly of the Hawaiian Islands. Published by the Bahá’í Publishing Trust, India. and which is also in “The Principles of Bahai Administration” (1973 edition)

And this is what the Universal House of Justice says:
“Although generally speaking a believer deprived of his voting rights is not restricted except as stated above, the following privileges have been expressly stipulated as not denied: He may attend the observances of the nine Holy Days. He may attend any Bahá’í function open to non-Bahá’ís. He may receive any publication available to non-Bahá’ís. He is free to teach the Faith as every individual believer has been enjoined by Bahá’u’lláh to teach. Association with other believers is not forbidden. He may have the Bahá’í burial service if he or his family requests it, and he may be buried in a Bahá’í cemetery. Bahá’í charity should not be denied him on the ground that he has lost he voting rights. Bahá’í institutions may employ him, but should use discretion as to the type of work he is to perform. He should have access to the spiritual Assembly.”
(Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 61-62)

If your voice was representative of Baha’i communities or LSA policy (which thankfully I know it is not) I would never go to another Baha’i feast because Baha’u’llah’s principles of equality and justice are too important to me. Please re-read your words above and do some reading of the Baha’i writings to address your prejudice against gays and lesbians.

You wrote:
“From the perspective of the Guardian, people who have lost their voting rights, are to be regarded by the mainstream Baha’i community as being “second-rate” covenant breakers, since they would rather be disobedient and follow their own will than that of God via His mouthpiece, Baha’u’llah. I shall pray you and others who are similarly afflicted. Please do for your own ultimate good, heed these words.”

These are not the words of the Guardian. These are your own ideas. See the words of the Guardian above. The following should give you an indication of the policy of the removal of voting rights:
” … Every case is different, and there is more than one variable consideration to take into account, for example, the circumstances of the individual, the degree to which the good name of the Faith is involved, whether the offence is blatant and flagrant. Over and over again the beloved Guardian urged Assemblies to be extremely patient and forbearing in dealing with the friends. He pointed out on many occasions that removal of administrative rights is the heaviest sanction which Assemblies may impose at the present time. These considerations apply to the types of problems you mention in your letter. In all such cases it is for the Assembly to determine at what point the conduct is blatant and flagrant or is harmful to the name of the Faith. They must determine whether the believer has been given sufficient warning before the imposition of sanctions.

While it can be a severe test to a Bahá’í to see fellow believers violating Bahá’í laws or engaging in conduct inimical to the welfare and best interests of the Faith, there is no fixed rule that a believer must follow when such conduct comes to his notice. A great deal depends upon the seriousness of the offence and upon the relationship which exists between him and the offender.

If the misconduct is blatant and flagrant or threatens the interests of the Faith the believer to whose attention it comes should immediately report it to the Local Spiritual Assembly. Once it is in the hands of the Assembly the believer’s obligation is discharged and he should do no more than pray for the offender and continue to show him friendship and encouragement – unless, of course, the Spiritual Assembly asks him to take specific action.

Sometimes, however, the matter does not seem grave enough to warrant reporting to the Spiritual Assembly, in which case it may be best to ignore it altogether. There are also other things that can be done by the Bahá’í to whose notice such things come. For example he could foster friendly relations with the individual concerned, tactfully drawing him into Bahá’í activities in the hope that, as his knowledge of the teachings and awareness of the Faith deepens, he will spontaneously improve his patterns of conduct. Or perhaps the relationship is such that he can tactfully draw the offender’s attention to the teachings on the subject – but here he must be very careful not to give him the impression of prying into a fellow-believer’s private affairs or of telling him what he must do, which would not only be wrong in itself but might well produce the reverse of the desired reaction.

If a believer faced with knowledge of another Bahá’í’s misconduct is unsure what course to take, he can, of course always consult his Local Spiritual Assembly for advice. If, for some reason, he is reluctant at that stage to inform his Spiritual Assembly, he can consult an Auxiliary Board member or Assistant.

Whatever steps are taken, it is vital that the believers refrain from gossip and backbiting, for this can only harm the Faith, causing perhaps more damage than would have been caused by the original offence.”
(Universal House of Justice to an individual, February 20, 1977)

Here are two links to a collection of policies by the Universal House of Justice regarding voting rights:
http://bahai-library.com/compilation_removal_administrative_rights;
bahairesearch.com

Please note that in this compilation there is no mention of the term ‘”second-rate” covenant breaker’ so I guess this is something you have made up and decided to claim that this a practice of “the mainstream Baha’i community.” I hope you take heed from the policy of the Universal House of Justice’s policy above, “If the misconduct is blatant and flagrant or threatens the interests of the Faith …”

How would you feel if I reported you for what I consider blatant prejudice and flagrant misrepresentation which threatens the interests of the Faith? Of course, I have no intention of doing such a thing, because I think it is better to write this to you in the hope that you might realize that whatever personal prejudice you may harbor against homosexuals and as an individual you are free to express, you should no longer make the statements you have made, as if your views represent the Baha’i community.

“Homophobia impacts on all of us.
It diminishes our humanity”

Stephen Fry, 2013

Errata:
In my original blog above I’d used the following:
This is what the Guardian says about removal of administrative rights:

“A person whose administrative rights of membership in the Baha’i community have been removed is a Baha’i at heart if he still recognizes Bahá’u’lláh and believes in His Revelation. Since his spiritual commitment is not in question, his continuing Baha’i life can include worship of God through the prayers of the Báb, Bahá’u’lláh and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, and observance of the Fast, of the Baha’i Holy Days, and of all the personal and family occasions of the Faith. He has access to the literature of the Faith and, unless specified otherwise by the National Spiritual Assembly, may attend proclamation meetings and Baha’i school sessions that are open to the public. He may subscribe to Brilliant Star and World Order Magazine and other general publications, but he cannot receive The American Bahá’í. He cannot have a Bahá’í marriage or go on pilgrimage.”
(Shoghi Effendi, Principles of Bahá’í Administration p. 88 (click to view the source online)

But it now seems that this quotation might not be authentic and it appears that it is probably a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi and not something penned by Shoghi Effendi, and so I replaced it with another similar quotation. The reason it appears not to be authentic is that the passage doesn’t appear in a hard-copy of the fourth edition, 1976, and there’s no mention of any revision since the first edition in 1950 — although there do seem to have been minor revisions to account for the Universal House of Justice taking over functions formerly held by the Guardian. The American Baha’i did not exist during the lifetime of Shoghi Effendi. The first issue of The American Baha’i was published (Vol. 1, no. 1) in January 1970. Bob Ballenger was the editor and he was the one who came up with the name.
The U.S. Bahai produced magazine, World Order existed at the time of the Guardian, and had been suspended during the Depression. Then it was later restarted.
However the publication “Principles of Baha’i Administration” doesn’t distinguish between Shoghi Effendi’s own writing nor Letters Written on his behalf (See “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,…“) nor does it date anything nor give any sources.

There is a reference to the American Bahai Magazine being suspended during Shoghi Effendi’s time, as a 1957 letter on his behalf states:

…As regards the “Herald of the South” magazine, … it is some years since the American Bahá’í Magazine was abandoned for similar reasons, and the Guardian feels that you can do so in Australia, and the funds be used to better advantage, at this time.
(Arohanui – Letters to New Zealand, p. 76, Letter Written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, July 19th, 1957)

In the undated text above a typist might have substituted “The American Baha’i” for “The American Baha’i Magazine” or perhaps “Baha’i News.”

The 1973 edition of “Principles of Baha’i Administration” online at http://bahai-library.com; also does not have this quotation.

Admittedly these points are minors things and typing errors are part and parcel of life, but my goal is to only to refer to texts that can be authenticated. It seems most likely that The American Bahai Magazine might have existed in the time of Shoghi Effendi, and then was suspended and perhaps a typist in the undated text, dropped the word, “Magazine.” If we could find out the dates for the publication of “The American Bahai Magazine” then that would be way to date this text and then perhaps to find a source for this.
Bob Ballenger wrote:
“For the record, as far as I know, the name “The American Baha’i” was never used previously. In the late 1960s, there were enough old timers such as Charlotte Linfoot still working in Wilmette, that I think either I or my boss would have heard if the name had been used previously. Of course, it is possible that there was an “American Baha’i Magazine” published before I came up with the name in the fall of 1969. But, my feeling is that, if there had been a publication with that name, it would have been fairly distant in the past. There was, of course, “Baha’i News,” which was an official publication of the National Baha’i Center but, if memory serves, that had petered out well before I came to Wilmette in the September, 1969. When I was brought on board to start a monthly newspaper, there was some discussion about the name. My boss in Wilmette, Salvatore Pelle (who later moved to Hawaii and served on its NSA for a number of years) wanted to call the publication the “Baha’i Star” or perhaps the “Baha’i Tribune.” I felt those names were a bit too generic and I argued for “The American Baha’i.” I think that title made some folks a bit uneasy because they felt, as a world religion, calling the newspaper “The American Baha’i” sounded too nationalistic. My argument was that this publication was for the American Baha’i community and its title should reflect that.” (personal correspondence with Sonja van Kerkhoff, 20 February 2014)

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Baha’is and the LGBTQ Community – Part Two

January 1, 2014

Does Baha’i scripture limit marriage to a union between only one man and one woman?

Not as far as I know. I have found nothing in the Baha’i writings that specifically prohibits same-sex marriage. It’s my personal opinion that the question of how Bahaí communities are to respond to the new phenomenon of same-sex marriage is in the hands of the Universal House of Justice, the democratically-elected body that administers the global Baha’i community. The Universal House of Justice has yet to make a policy that deals specifically with the question of individuals in legally and socially recognized same-sex marriages. I think it is very likely to be a policy which gives National Spiritual Assemblies a major role because conditions vary so much in terms of social acceptance and the law.
The Kitab-i-Aqdas, Baha’u’llah’s book of laws, refers to marriage between men and women. That’s why most Baha’is assume that marriage means only a heterosexual union. But in the same book, it is also assumed that men take journeys while women stay at home. In fact all of the laws are presented in the context of the customs of the 19th century middle east which when this was written.

Because no specific scripture stipulates that only men may take journeys, for example, the Universal House of Justice applies the law of “mutatis mutandis” (Latin for changing what needs to be changed) to the gender-specific laws in the Kitab-i-Aqdas. In other words, all of the Baha’i laws apply equally to men or women unless the context makes this impossible.

Is same-sex-marriage impossible for Baha’is today? There’s no text that stipulates marriage is only between one man and one woman and Baha’u’llah provided ways for the Baha’i Faith to adapt and change over time. Baha’is believe that science and religion agree, and that religion should not conflict with science. That’s why the Universal House of Justice can make new policy and change old policy on any issue not defined in Baha’i Scripture.

The Universal House of Justice can also decide to stipulate whether such rulings apply universally or locally. An example of Baha’i policy being applied differently in line with prevailing social conditions in various cultures, is the changing policy on males and females living as roommates in the same house. Even today in some societies such arrangements would be perceived as scandalous, while other cultures view it as completely acceptable. In the same way, some societies view same-sex couples as just as morally upstanding as any heterosexual couple, and civil and marriage laws are rapidly changing to reflect this.

Given that the current policy of the Universal House of Justice — that marriage can only be between a man and woman — what should local Baha’i communities do if a same-sex couple wants to join the community? Or if a gay Baha’i asks for a Baha’i wedding?

According to Shoghi Effendi, the Guardian of the Baha’i Faith, Baha’i administration should be flexible:

“…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 Baha’u’llah, be safely embodied therein.”
The World Order of Baha’u’llah, p. 22.

Shoghi Effendi also wrote:
“Let them proclaim that in whatever country they reside, and however advanced their institutions, or profound their desire to enforce the laws, and apply the principles, enunciated by Baha’u’llah, they will, unhesitatingly, subordinate the operation of such laws and the application of such principles to the requirements and legal enactments of their respective governments.” The World Order of Baha’u’llah, p. 65

In the past, the policy of the Universal House of Justice was that gay couples were not allowed to join the Bahai community:
“… if persons involved in homosexual relationships express an interest in the Faith, they should not be instructed by Bahá’í institutions to separate so that they may enroll in the Bahá’í community, for this action by any institution may conflict with civil law. The Bahá’í position should be patiently explained to such persons, who should also be given to understand that although in their hearts they may accept Bahá’u’lláh, they cannot join the Bahá’í community in the current condition of their relationship.” – Universal House of Justice letter to an individual, 5 March 1999.

That policy from Universal House of Justice has been followed by this 2010 policy:
” … to regard those with a homosexual orientation with prejudice or disdain would be against the spirit of the Faith. Furthermore, a Baha’i is exhorted to be “an upholder and defender of the victim of oppression”, and it would be entirely appropriate for a believer to come to the defense of those whose fundamental rights are being denied or violated.” – Universal House of Justice letter to an individual, 27 Oct 2010.

However some Bahai communities might still refuse married gays admittance to the Bahai community. For example the author of the current Wikipedia entry for “Homosexuality and the Baha’i Faith” states: “someone involved in a same-sex marriage or union will be prevented from registering as a Baha’i and joining the community.” (last accessed, 1 January, 2014) When the 1999 policy was written, same-sex marriage didn’t exist. Today it exists in many countries and the principle that Bahai policy must be subordinate to the laws of the land, would be another consideration by Bahai communities.

As a Baha’i, I hope that the tide of marriage equality now sweeping the world will eventually extend to people of every Faith.

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Is there homophobia in the Baha’i community?

July 30, 2010

Art by Sonja van Kerkhoff

First Lessons in Relativity
an installation
by Sonja van Kerkhoff

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Below are the comments I posted in this Facebook discussion.

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

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

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

My 18 May 2010 response

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Another of my responses to BB about a week later

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

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

“Although the secretaries of the Guardian convey his thoughts and instructions and these messages are authoritative, their words are in no sense the same as his, their style certainly not the same, and their authority less, for they use their own terms and not his exact words in conveying his messages.
He feels that in any future edition this fault should be remedied, any quotations from Bahá’u’lláh or the Master plainly attributed to them, and the words of the Guardian clearly differentiated from those of his secretaries.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“In regard to the question as to whether people ought to kill animals for food or not, there is no explicit statement in the Bahai Sacred Scriptures (as far as I know) in favour or against it.”
(9 July 1931, Letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi)

Is this expressing the Guardian’s limited knowledge, or the secretary’s?
There are tablets from Abdu’l-Baha [and Baha’u’llah] on this topic.
Do we assume from this that Shoghi Effendi was inconsistent or made a mistake or forgot, or that it doesn’t matter as these are not Shoghi Effendi’s own words but words of another authority.

There are more examples here

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

My response to MDB

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“As for marriage, this falls entirely within the social laws.
…In short, whatever ruling the House of Justice makes on this question, that is in truth the decisive decree…
…For whenever a difficulty may arise and a local decision is required, at that point, since the House of Justice delivered the previous ruling, the secondary House of Justice, can issue a new national ruling on a national case and topic, in the light of local imperatives. To entirely avoid any risks, the rulings that the House of Justice has made, it can also abrogate.”

More of this quotation is here

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

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

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

My response to WW

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If there was a Bahai teaching that stated that all religious law not specifically abrogated by Baha’u’llah would be applicable, then the Universal House of Justice wouldn’t be able to make law on issues not specifically “mentioned in the book” They couldn’t “gather in a certain place and deliberate upon all problems which have caused difference, questions that are obscure and matters that are not expressly recorded in the Book.
Whatsoever they decide has the same effect as the Text itself. Inasmuch as the House of Justice hath power to enact laws that are not expressly recorded in the Book and bear upon daily transactions, so also it hath power to repeal the same.”
(The Will and Testament of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 20, see)

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

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

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

Later responses to WW

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WW asked “how would you define sodomy?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Responses to DD + WW

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The principle of ‘mutatis mutandis’

June 10, 2010

I started writing occasional blogs for Bahai Rants (bahairants.com) several years ago and I intend to continue to do this as time permits. In August 2009 I wrote a blog on the topic of homosexuality and equal rights in response to recent changes in the U.K. (linked here).

There are over 500 responses on this blog. So I started a blog here listing some of my responses and thoughts. This blog is now ‘Part two’ because that got too long.

Responses to this blog are moderated, mainly for practical reasons: I couldn’t cope the traffic that the Bahai Rants blog has. If you wish to be 100% sure your response is aired, then post it on Bahai Rants where I am likely to find it and if not, someone else will. Each of my comments below links to where it appears on bahairants.com:


Sonja’s comment posted on 24 April 2010
BahaiReply wrote: “We both know that neither R. Jackstrong-Ingram nor R. Jackson Armstrong-Ingram are authoritative interpreters of the sacred writings”
Jackson didn’t make up the principle of ‘mutatis mutandis’, his quotation:

“Following from the principle of mutatis mutandis it is not simply a case of what is expressed as from a man to a woman incorporates from woman to man, and vice versa, but that gendered language is in fact rendered degendered. This is made explicit in other writings where it is stated that women are as men in this dispensation. Gendered textual usage should be read as gender inclusive.
Thus, although licit sex is limited to marriage, it could be regarded as a valid reading of the text to consider the sexes of the partners unspecified and irrelevant.”

(link to his paper on Scribd)

is a response to the following quotation from the introduction of the Kitab-i-aqdas, penned by The Universal House of Justice.

“In general, the laws of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas are stated succinctly. An example of this conciseness can be seen in the fact that many are expressed only as they apply to a man, but it is apparent from the Guardian’s writings that, where Bahá’u’lláh has given a law as between a man and a woman, it applies mutatis mutandis between a woman and a man unless the context makes this impossible.
For example, the text of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas forbids a man to marry his father’s wife (i.e. his stepmother), and the Guardian has indicated that likewise a woman is forbidden to marry her stepfather. This understanding of the implications of the Law has far-reaching effects in light of the fundamental Bahá’í principle of the equality of the sexes, and should be borne in mind when the sacred Text is studied. That men and women differ from one another in certain characteristics and functions is an inescapable fact of nature and makes possible their complementary roles in certain areas of the life of society; but it is significant that ‘Abdu’l-Bahá has stated that in this Dispensation “Equality of men and women, except in some negligible instances, has been fully and categorically announced.”
p. 8, accessed from: http://reference.bahai.org/en/t/b/KA/ka-2.html

BahaiReply continues: “so are u saying when Bahá’u’lláh said, “Beware that ye take not unto yourselves more wives than two” he also meant two husbands? That doesn’t make much sense. He is obviously referring to a specific Islamic tradition that he was changing.”

It seems that you are choosing to ignore the introduction and the principle of equality expressed in the use of the principle of ‘mutatis mutandis’ and have decided you know that Baha’u’llah’s intentions were only from a male point of view in a marriage, whereas to quote Sen on his blog,

“(m)any laws that are stated briefly in the Aqdas are detailed in the Bayan”
and if you went to the Bayan and can read Persian, you would find what Sen has translated into English on his blog:

“If a man or woman proves incapable of having a child, it is legitimate for the spouse who is not infertile (whichever it may be) to marry again after having obtained the permission of the other party, but not without her permission”

Persian Bayan, wahid 8 section 15

Link to Sen’s blog, “The puzzle of the Aqdas…” which discusses this more

Sonja’s comment posted on 9 Feb 2010
The article by Jackson Armstrong-Ingram,
“The Provisions for Sexuality in the Kitab-i-Aqdas in the Context of Late Nineteenth Century Eastern and Western Sexual Ideologies” is

here: bahai-library.org/conferences/sex.aqdas.html and available on Scribd

In the Questions + Answers section of the Aqdas, liwaat is translated as sodomy. In the Aqdas, the section referring to ‘boys’ is translated as pedaesty.
This correlates with Jackson’s argument that “Both zina and liwat are sexual relations that take place outside of a context in which the long term rights of both participants are regarded. Unlawful sex is literally unprotected sex — it takes place in relationships that are not associated with social supports and long-term obligations. Lawful sex, as defined in the Aqdas, takes place in marriages, which are relationships embedded in a network of familial support and providing for the mutual development of the partners.”

In my searching around the only texts I have found that refer to homosexuality have been penned by secretaries writing Letters on behalf of Shoghi Effendi.

When Shoghi Effendi was writing in his role as official interpreter of the Bahai
Writings he cites the scripture he is interpreting. Sen’s essay “More interpretive principles” bahai-library.org/articles/interpretive.principles.html gives some examples of this.


In the Aqdas there is no source given in the section of the Letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, so I can only assume that it is not the case that the secretary who wrote that letter actually could read Baha’u’llah’s mind, rather the writer wrote this assuming, based on his or her own’s knowledge of the Bahai Faith, that this was a Bahai Teaching.

“A clear distinction is made in our Faith between authoritative interpretation and the interpretation or understanding that each individual arrives at for himself from his study of its teachings.
While the former is confined to the Guardian, the latter, according to the guidance given to us by the Guardian himself, should by no means be suppressed. In fact such individual interpretation is considered the fruit of man’s rational power and conducive to a better understanding of the teachings, provided that no disputes or arguments arise among the friends and the individual himself understands and makes it clear that his views are merely his own. Individual interpretations continually change as one grows in
comprehension of the teachings…”

(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to an individual
believer, May 27, 1966) (Compilations, Lights of Guidance, p. 311-312)

That leaves us with the question then, when is something penned by Shoghi Effendi to be considered interpretation, hence unchangeable, and how can we treat the status of the ten of thousands of Letters written on his behalf.


Sen has written a few posts on these topics. One is here:
“Anything Shoghi Effendi said is Baha´i doctrine”
[click to read this in a new window]

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Mainly about Homosexuality…

April 12, 2010
Sarah Brown, wife of the British Prime Minister in the July 2009 London Pride march. Photograph copyright of Marco Secchi.

Sarah Brown, wife of the British Prime Minister in the July 2009 London Pride march. Photograph copyright of Marco Secchi.

In December 2004 Baquia started the blog “Bahai Rants“.

I refer to Baquia as “her”, just as I tend to refer to the creative forces that I think of as God, as feminine, explains her motives for the blog here: which I identify with
strongly, particularly this:
“I believe in an open and
transparent due
process; secrecy and justice can not coexist side by side. This point has been demonstrated repeatedly through human history and needs no further arguments. I sincerely hope that the voices within the administration which advocate opacity (however it is excused) will remember that justice is the best beloved in His sight.”

Over the past few years I’ve been impressed by the openness of debate and discussion on this blog, and because of this openness, have felt that I have found a Bahai community here.

There’s an archive listing here, currently spanning 340 posts and 8,318 comments, ‘within the meager confines of 16 categories’.

I started writing occasional blogs for Bahai Rants a year ago and I intend to continue to do this as time permits. In August 2009 I wrote a blog on the topic of homosexuality and equal rights in response to recent changes in the U.K. (linked here).

There are now 583 responses to this blog and I get lost trying to find just my own responses or thoughts, and in some cases to follow particular threads, so I decided to cut and paste some of my responses here as a reference. Each post has a link back to its location on the Bahai rants, should you wish to read the other responses surrounding this and you can make your response there.

Responses to this blog are moderated, mainly for practical reasons: I couldn’t cope the traffic that the Bahai Rants blog has. Also my purpose here is just to have a reference for my own responses on particular topics. I am not looking at creating a forum or community. So if you wish to be 100% sure your response is aired, then post it on Bahai Rants. Also I am often away, so silence doesn’t mean anything. Posting it on Bahai Rants means I’m likely to find it there and even better, you would have the bonus of feedback from the diversity of a community.

After I wrote my blog “Change is a Law of Nature” accompanied by this stunning photograph by Marco Secchi (see above) this was my first reponse:

Sonja’s comment posted on 18 August 2009 (each title has a link to where it appears on bahairants)
F wrote: “These rules cannot be changed other than by the decision of the UHJ who at the moment does not believe that gay marriages will one day be endorsed in Baha’i administration.”https://justabahai.wordpress.com/2010/04/12/mainly-about-homosexuality/#k-i-apreface

What rules Farhan? The UHJ has not made any on homosexuality but you have assumed that they have? So that’s another theme for a topic of discussion. The distinctions between the UHJ as lawgiver and that fact that only Shoghi Effendi’s own writing (in his own words) can be considered official interpretation of Bahai Scripture. Baquia if you could make a link here to where this is already discussed on your blog that would be great.

As far as I know many letters from the UHJ infer that gay Bahais must live celibate lives, but it is an inference not a rule. It is an important point because otherwise then our discussion would be about the rule that the UHJ has made concerning gay Bahais. If you claim that they have made a rule, then please share the ruling with us.

That is why I’m focussing on what is in the Bahai Writings, first on the theme of the ability of Bahai Institutions and in relation to that, of Bahai communities to adapt, and to have a flexible relationship with a changing world.

It seems to me that many homophic attitudes stem from Letters written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi. Those letters, written by various secretaries in the 1930s till 1957 relate to attitudes of the times. Some of these letters clearly cannot be treated as Scripture because it is clear from the content of some letters that the secretary had some limited knowledge of the Bahai Teachings which Shoghi Effendi would have known about.
But more importantly than my concern with consistency is that Shoghi Effendi himself wrote very clearly that his authority was purely as interpretator of Bahai Scripture and not as law giver. The role of making law is for the UHJ.

What was common in previous decades was for gay Bahais often to live in a position of not telling and not being asked by their NSAs and not being sanctioned either. One example is of Mark Tobey who lived for decades with a male acquaintance and was a personal friend of Shoghi Effendi.
This practice of not saying publically one was gay was also an exigency of time and place, but a number of countries have moved on, have changed not only laws but much more importantly attitudes towards homosexuality. What I find sad is that it seems that now the way homosexuals are being treated by the Bahai administration in some countries is moving further and further from “the exigencies and requirements of time and place”

Times have changed, and while I can understand that the UHJ would be very unlikely to wish to make any ruling, because it could endanger Bahais lives in countries where any statement regarding equal treatment of homosexuals might be used to imprison or kill Bahais, that doesn’t mean that by their silence on making a ruling, that the opposite can be assumed as a rule. As Bahais we must obey the rules of the UHJ, but as for interpreting and understanding the Bahai Writings we must use our own reasoning -our own interpretations of the principles of the Bahai Faith.
And so back to the original theme of my blog. First look at the Bahai Writings and see if any principle there would endorse this inequality, and then return to the practices of current Bahai adminstration to see if there’s a way to understand the current practice of removing voting rights in some cases and in other cases not doing this.


Sonja’s comment posted on 23 August 2009
thanks for your post M:
You wrote: “You apologize with your comparison of Bahá’í law to Dutch law”

No, I didn’t mean to imply that Dutch law is less than Bahai law, but i’ll elaborate on this below. I made that comment because when I write here, I see myself as writing to a Bahai audience and wanted to be sure no one would think I was disregarding the relevance of Bahai law.

As Bahais we must obey the laws of the country. Or put more strictly, Bahai Law states this, so actually it is Bahai Law which places more importance to a law of the country.

“None must contend with those who wield authority over the people; leave unto them that which is theirs, and direct your attention to men’s hearts.”
Baha’u’llah, The Kitab-i-Aqdas, p. 54

“God hath committed into your hands the reins of the government of the people, that ye may rule with justice over them, safeguard the rights of the downtrodden, and punish the wrongdoers.”
Baha’u’llah, The Summons of the Lord of Hosts, p. 188

So I agree, of course, Dutch law dominates over Bahai law. Baha’u’llah has stated this himself.


As to your reasoning for Dutch law being superior Baha’u’llah makes a similiar argument in his tablet to Queen Victoria:
“We have also heard that thou hast entrusted the reins of counsel into the hands of the representatives of the people. Thou, indeed, hast done well, for thereby the foundations of the edifice of thine affairs will be strengthened, and the hearts of all that are beneath thy shadow, whether high or low, will be tranquillized. It behoveth them, however, to be trustworthy among His servants, and to regard themselves as the representatives of all that dwell on earth.” Baha’u’llah, The Proclamation of Baha’u’llah, p. 33

And I agree with you, a law is much better if as you wrote: “is a collection of principles derived by groups of people working together from secular reasoning, anticipating the future by observing historical lessons, and building on that solid foundation by a system of common law that allows for new and dynamic interpretations of these aforementioned principles.”
This is the way social laws work best but I wouldn’t too happy if a group people used those same procedures for how we should say prayers. Symbollic values and questions of truth are not decided by majority vote. Culture is an influence and civil law can certainly affect culture. Such as here in the Netherlands where in general there is tolerance towards a diversity of sexual identity. But the political processes has its limits.

So if a law of a country is to dominate what is religious law for?

You wrote that Bahai law: “is a collection of random articles of faith, general principles abstracted from then-current wisdom, and specific behavioral prohibitions and prescriptions that were important from the perspective of one Iranian nobleman a few hundred years ago. They are, in other words, utterly irrelevant by any objective standard of ethical reasoning or any important measure of normative evaluation.”

We have Bahai principles such as equality, independent investigation of truth, the balance of religion and science and so on and then we have the text of the Kitab-i-Adqas which seems to come out of a medival age.
Bahai Law has two components: The text of the Aqdas and the “Questions and Answers” and similiar tablets by Baha’u’llah, and then what the UHJ legistrates and the NSAs + LSAs apply and refine, etc.
In the form and content the Aqdas imitates Islamic law. Because it imitates Islamic law, it can supercede Islamic law in a society. Islamism (the idea that Islamic law is also state law) is a twentieth century innovation. In Baha’u’llah’s time religious laws were mainly in the private sphere and state administered (the state had control). So one way to view this aspect of Bahai law, is as a response to Islamic law. For example, in Islamic law a woman had to have permission from her father to marry. Baha’u’llah changed this so that men had to ask as well, and to have their mother’s permission. Instead of abolishing something with deep cultural roots he has used the principle of equality to modify it.

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

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

Baha’u’llah states that he doesn’t give just us a code of laws. I would argue that the code of laws he established is the UHJ as legistrator of laws. A UHJ which is flexible and free to change its own laws in a changing world.
It is fantastic that you end your posting on the question of the nature of marriage because this is going to the topic of my next blog. I’m busy these days, but hope it will be there in a month or so.

Sonja’s comment posted on 23 August 2009
So much of what you state in your post as Bahai this or that had me in fits of laughter. Incase you are serious, I’ll respond to one of your points.

“You may protest that Bahá’u’lláh did not actually speak about homosexuality as such, but that is completely irrelevant.”
Well, well, sorry to contradict you, but it is very relevent at least to Bahais!

Sonja’s comment posted on 23 August 2009
My apologizes M, I really thought you were joking.

In my posting you were responding to, I thought I clearly showed (that’s why I used so many quotations – i want get past what people say they think the Bahai Writings are about, to what the Bahai Writings actually say) that Shoghi Effendi never penned anything on the subject of homosexuality either. And the point of my post was that it boiled down to the policies of the UHJ.
Your response ignored all of that to state that “the Universal House of Justice and Shoghi Effendi both agree the law of homophobia cannot be repealed”

I don’t even know where to start in way of response to this statement as I’ve already clearly shown that this is not the case. So I assumed you were joking. I was not laughing at you.

Sonja’s comment posted on 23 August 2009
Various posters have made varying claims about the Bahai Writings from saying that homosexuality is forbidden to that homosexuals cannot have partnerships.

What is really in the Bahai Writings? And if not, where do these homophobic ideas come from? And is it possible for the Bahai community to ever treat individuals, regardless of their sexual orientation, with equality?


So to the Bahai Writings as much as I know relying on English translations only here.
I’m focussing on the Bahai writings because to start with this is what the Bahai Faith is based on and secondly these writings are not subject to change. So anything authentic (meaning tablets or writings with a signature or seal on the original or written by a known copyist of Baha’u’llah or ‘Abdul-Baha). And this is a complicated issue because in some cases there are several copies of some tablets that are considered authentic Bahai scripture.

And then add to this that what we have in English are translations and translations can never be exact for all cases of writing.

Bahais accept the Bahai Writings as being only that authored by The Bab, Baha’u’llah and ‘Adbul-Baha. And Shoghi Effendi’s own writing only defines the Bahai teachings where it interpretes the Bahai Scriptures. Shoghi Effendi had excellent English so we can look at his own texts ourselves

So let’s start with the Kitab-i-Aqdas as we have it in English because it is the only place in a text of Bahai Scripture where there is something concerning homosexuality mentioned.


In the preface to this book it is written by the Universal House of Justice or the Research department (no author is given in the 1992 edition for the preface) that:
“In 1953 Shoghi Effendi, the Guardian of the Bahá’í Faith, included as one of the goals of his Ten Year Plan the preparation of a Synopsis and Codification of the Laws and Ordinances of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas as an essential prelude to its translation. He himself worked on the codification, but had not finished it when he died in 1957. The task was continued on the basis of his work, and the resulting volume was released in 1973. That publication included, in addition to the Synopsis and Codification itself and explanatory notes, a compilation of the passages from the Kitáb-i-Aqdas which had already been translated by Shoghi Effendi and published in various books.”
The Kitab-i-Aqdas, Preface, vii

Nothing indicates which parts where penned by Shoghi Effendi in his role as interpretator of the Baha’u’llah’s Writings and what was not written by him, so we have to take all text apart from what is in the Aqdas as either something the UHJ is interpreting, which we know they cannot do or as commentary open for debate, even should the UHJ then decide that some point in the commentary is now to be law they have legistrated on.

I make this point, because even should the UHJ make a law to legistrate that, for example, same sex marriage is forbidden by Bahais, we as Bahais would still be free to discuss and debate this. The laws that the UHJ makes one year, it can also change next year. Obedience to laws doesn’t mean silence.
And of course, if Bahais may not discuss or debate laws the UHJ have made, well, that leaves very little wriggle room for the Bahai principle of independent investigation, let alone the possibility for Bahai communities to address or relate or to understand these laws.

So now to the text of the Aqdas as it is in the 1992 edition in English:
“We shrink, for very shame, from treating of the subject of boys.”
Baha’u’llah, The Kitab-i-Aqdas, p. 58


And now to what is now in the notes to the Aqdas.
The Research department or the UHJ have written in the notes section:

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

Notes in the Kitab-i-Aqdas, p. 223

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

“I wish to call your attention to certain things in “Principles of Bahá’í Administration” which has just reached the Guardian; although the material is good, he feels that the complete lack of quotation marks is very misleading. His own words, the words of his various secretaries, even the Words of Bahá’u’lláh Himself, are all lumped together as one text.
This is not only not reverent in the case of Bahá’u’lláh’s Words, but misleading. Although the secretaries of the Guardian convey his thoughts and instructions and these messages are authoritative, their words are in no sense the same as his, their style certainly not the same, and their authority less, for they use their own terms and not his exact words in conveying his messages.
[emphasis added]

He feels that in any future edition this fault should be remedied, any quotations from Bahá’u’lláh or the Master plainly attributed to them, and the words of the Guardian clearly differentiated from those of his secretaries.”
Letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, The Unfolding Destiny of the British Baha’i Community, p. 260

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

Sen has an essay on this here (“COMMENTARY on Seena Fazel and Khazeh Fananapazir´s “Some interpretive principles in the Bahá´í Writings.”)

If something is considered part of the Bahai Writings, it cannot be changed. That is, sex with children can never be OK in Bahai law, because this is part of what Baha’u’llah’s text in the Aqdas. All the texts in the notes have been penned by others and unless the texts in the notes refer to quotations from the Bahai Scripture themselves, they are all open to change by the UHJ.

I would also imagine that if the UHJ were to make a law, that it would clearly state that it was making a law. So in my view, it is unclear to me what the actual status is of the texts in the notes section.

I make this point because in 1992 when the Aqdas was first printed in English a list of corrections was distributed about 6 months later. In regards to the Aqdas, the corrections were minor things like typos, but in the notes, sometimes a whole paragraph was deleted, such as in note 108. I can only assume that this paragraph no longer reflects the position or thinking of the UHJ whereas at an earlier time it did.

The UHJ is free to change the texts of the notes as it wishes. Perhaps this could be seen as them making laws? I don’t know.
Rather than debating whether or not the UHJ make law when they make statements in official Bahai documents, I prefer to focus on the principle of Bahai Law as I understand it, in general behind this. That is, anything UHJ decides or states is subject to change by a later UHJ.

If any statement on the wrongs of homosexuality is by UHJ, then it is subject to change.

Sonja’s comment posted on 26 August 2009
You wrote: “I would be very surprised if the UHJ or any other Baha’i institution approbated the idea of a child being thrown out of home for homosexuality”

Daniel’s voting rights were removed because he was married and the reason given by the NSA which I quoted in the blog above was because of ‘same sex marriage’ and his “support of homosexuality as an acceptable lifestyle for Baha’is”.

Luckily Daniel’s son is no longer a child, but surely if I follow your argumentation (which I agree with personally) that Bahais should try and use the Bahai principles to guide their actions. Then removing a Bahai from the membership rolls because they married is going against the rules and prescriptions of supporting family life. While other Bahais have same sex partners in the same country and do not marry and are not punished. And worse, their children grow up understanding that in the eyes of the Bahai community their parents are not treated with the respect other couples are.

You state that losing one’s voting rights is not a big deal, but it is the intent. The removal and the reason for removal that is extremely important.
One of the reasons, that obviously, something seems terribly wrong with removing Daniel’s voting rights, is because the NSA’s letter give his marriage as a reason. A NSA is punishing someone for making the life-long commitment of marriage!

Change is happening and actually change in attitudes towards Bahai communities accepting all people as equal members with equal responsibilities + rights will come. I do believe this and I do see change happening, but many Bahais then ignore the Bahai Writings or do as F, make argumentation for rules in differing categories, etc. If you follow this argumentation, then the implication is that for gays it would be better not to declare themselves to join the Bahai community. The Bahai Teachings, surely, should be there for all. I do not think Baha’ullah would have intended that the rules for membership would mean, only some types of people.
What my goal is with this blog is to look and see if there is anything in the Bahai Writings that contradicts an equal acceptance of diverse sexual identities, because, surely, the Bahai Faith shouldn’t require Bahais to live with double standards. One for their gay friends and one for their straight friends. It seems to me that F is trying to do this (admirable, b.t.w.) because he sees that – I assume – the homophobic attitudes in the letters written by secretaries on behalf of Shoghi Effendi as part of the unchangeable Bahai Scripture. I don’t, so I don’t think there is a need for Bahais to create “if” and “but” clauses for the Bahai teachings in order to accept our LGBT brothers and sisters on equal terms.

That the UHJ seems to treat the letters written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, also doesn’t mean that the UHJ is forever locked into the unchangeable. The UHJ is free to be flexible. Free to make law. Free to change its policies.
However, naturally, it will only make a policy or change one if it sees a need.
The practice of how our LGBT Bahais are treated by the Bahai administration is diverse. This is not in itself terrible if Bahais see this as something in transition. So, in some countries openly accepting gay marriage for example might endanger other Bahais or Bahais in other countries, but, to actively remove Bahais from the rolls because they marry is quite another matter.

Sonja’s comment posted on 29 August 2009
“The Lesbian | Gay Baha’i Story Project” as a title and suggest that you make it as a blog….

Barb then went ahead and created the Gay/Lesbian Bahai Story Project:
a celebration for Gay and Lesbian Bahais
http://www.gaybahai.net

Sonja’s comment posted on 8 September 2009
re: “So what happens when a person is not logical or doesn’t possess our kind of logic?”
I don’t see this in such black and white terms.
For example, I brought up the issue of the status of the Letters of Shoghi Effendi as being an aspect of what is changeable because these are not part of Bahai Scripture, but in response to me various posters continued to quote these letters as if they were scripture. For me, this seemed illogical. Obviously to those posters, they either didn’t see my point or ignored it or for them my idea that they are not part of scripture is illogical.

That’s part of the reason I’ve been silent (I’m also extremely busy). I didn’t know where to start because it seemed logical to me that Bahai Scripture were the writings of Baha’u’llah, ‘Abdul-Bahai, and the official interpretations of Shoghi Effendi and that all other texts, while not necessarily less important, have the potential for change because they are not in the former category which is not subject to change.

So, G, my point here. If you want to communicate with F in a different manner, take another approach or try to find some common ground and work from that. F, I don’t agree with most of what you have written but I thank you for continuing with your comments because some other Bahais might share your views and more importantly, in airing our diverse views and discussing these we can all learn how to express ourselves better and I’ve found that I’ve been able to develop a lot of my ideas from those I’ve disagreed with.

Sonja’s comment posted on 9 September 2009
NO! I did not and have never written that the writings of Shoghi Effendi have less validity than ‘Adbu’l-Baha or Baha’u’llah.
Please read my post again: I said that
“it seemed logical to me that Bahai Scripture were the writings of Baha’u’llah, ‘Abdul-Bahai, and the official interpretations of Shoghi Effendi and that all other texts, while not necessarily less important, have the potential for change because they are not in the former category which is not subject to change.”

The 1000s of letters written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, not Shoghi Effendi’s own writing are what I’d put in the category that is not Bahai Scripture.

In my post of 2 weeks ago on this same thread I quoted one of the Letters of Shoghi Effendi which spoke of the status of these letters:

I wish to call your attention to certain things in “Principles of Bahá’í Administration” which has just reached the Guardian; although the material is good, he feels that the complete lack of quotation marks is very misleading. His own words, the words of his various secretaries, even the Words of Bahá’u’lláh Himself, are all lumped together as one text.
This is not only not reverent in the case of Bahá’u’lláh’s Words, but misleading. Although the secretaries of the Guardian convey his thoughts and instructions and these messages are authoritative, their words are in no sense the same as his, their style certainly not the same, and their authority less, for they use their own terms and not his exact words in conveying his messages.
He feels that in any future edition this fault should be remedied, any quotations from Bahá’u’lláh or the Master plainly attributed to them, and the words of the Guardian clearly differentiated from those of his secretaries.

Shoghi Effendi,
The Unfolding Destiny of the British Baha’i Community, p. 260

Shoghi Effendi never considered his own station nor writings to be the same as that of Baha’u’llah or ‘Abdu’l-Baha:
“Though the Guardian of the Faith has been made the permanent head of so august a body he can never, even temporarily, assume the right of exclusive legislation. … ”

“Exalted as is the position and vital as is the function of the institution of the Guardianship in the Administrative Order of Bahá´u´lláh, … its importance must, whatever be the language of the Will, be in no wise over-emphasized. The Guardian of the Faith must not under any circumstances, and whatever his merits or his achievements, be exalted to the rank that will make him a co-sharer with `Abdu´l-Bahá in the unique position which the Center of the Covenant occupies-much less to the station exclusively ordained for the Manifestation of God. So grave a departure from the established tenets of our Faith is nothing short of open blasphemy.”
Shoghi Effendi, World Order of Baha’u’llah page 150-151
reference.bahai.org/en/t/se/WOB/wob-40.html#pg150

Sonja’s comment posted on 24 August 2009
F,
I am guessing that you bring up lefthandedness because I’ve done this in the past. Your suggestion that the oppression and suffering I had as a child who was forced to write with her right-hand is somehow ‘justified’ is as offensive to me as are the comparisions you have made of homosexuality with illness.

Obviously you do not have a clue. Yes, I am furious! How dare you assume that it is OK to beat a 5 year old because she is born left-handed. Shame on you. And if you didn’t realise that kids were beaten for writing with their left-hand, now you know. Even as an adult I still have visions of the strap or the ruler that used to come slamming down onto my left-hand. That as a 5 year old, I had to pretend I was using my right-hand while it covered over my left hand doing the writing, when the teacher was on the other side of the room.

Just think, a 5 year old learning to write has to watch out for the punishment – either of using her lefthand or because she couldn’t make her right hand co-ordinate like the other kids in the room. – imagine it. A kid having to learn to be subversive – while other kids could just learn to write.

That I was the only kid in the class at 8 years of age who couldn’t write, when the nuns decided that it was better to have a kid who wrote with her left-hand after all than one who couldn’t write at all. Funnily enough they let me draw with my left-hand and perhaps that’s why I draw much better than I write 🙂
The idea that an adult uses their other hand for a while is quite a different issue. The disorders come from oppression, supression, the belief that you are wrong (as a young child or as an adult) and the treatment of others (being beaten up by the other kids because of my oddness is no joke).
-If- you are suggesting in your comparision with lefthandedness and homosexuality that there’s no reason in the world why people born with diversity should be discriminated against, ok, yes. Please stop making comparisions of homosexuality with illness in that case. Think about it, being lefthanded is not an illness anymore than homosexuality is. It is not any more ‘deviant’ than racial diversity.

Sonja’s comment posted on 19 September 2009
And what about the straight Bahais who want our gay Bahai input into making our communities more colourful?

I don’t think Baha’u’llah was referring to only some types of flowers or to just the straight leaves on the tree of humanity.

In fact, I’d argue that any Bahai who thinks that gays need to ‘leave’ are going against Baha’u’llah’s teachings of equality and diversity. The unity is already there as we come from the same tree, right?

Sonja’s comment posted on 1 October 2009
Someone sent me this link:
letters-of-the-living.blogspot.com/2009/09/iranian-queer-railroad.html which is your blog A., and I love the sharp “let deeds not words be your adorning” reference for Bahais 🙂

and now I realise you made this film which I”d seen somewhere else (sorry don’t remember the context now).
www.youtube.com/watch?v=Guidl-7oGn4&
It is beautifully made … but you mis-attribute quotations. Shoghi Effendi never wrote any of those things.

I realise many Bahais do like-wise but I prefer to stick what is actually in the Bahai Writings. I kinda wish you’d remake the movie with these things corrected because the point is fantastic. Making poeple aware and trying to get Bahais to stand up for equality and human rights.

This blog blew me away:
www.moralcourage.com/get-involved/moral-courage-champion-fights-for-iranian-gay-rights

Sonja’s comment posted on 4 April 2010
Personally, I think the official Bahai stance on homosexuality is the biggest pressing issue at the moment because it goes so clearly against the principle of equality. Women being not eligible on the the UHJ is also another, but in my view less pressing, because in not being eligible for the UHJ, my personal and family life is not harmed as it is at the moment for gay and lesbian Bahais.

Sonja’s comment posted on 19 April 2010
[note: a discussion of homosexuality started under another blog topic but I’m putting my responses here under one topic so the arguments follow each other]

In response to the recent responses and quotations from the bible on the UHJ election results thread. I’ll post the link Baquia posted on this blog some time ago.
www.youtube.com/watch?v=rHaVUjjH3EI#

Surely we should be looking that what is Bahai law and what is not on the issue of homosexuality and treat everything else as being flexible, including laws made the U.H.J. A flexible law, that is, a law made by the UHJ, doesn’t mean it is less meaningful. Anyway enjoy the video!

Sonja’s comment posted on 24 April 2010
Peyam, “BahaiReply”‘s idea that religious laws not specifically abrogated or changed by Baha’u’llah mean that Bahais must follow these, is obviously crazy and his own invention, and clearly not a Bahai teaching. “BahaiReply” has yet to prove it is a Bahai teaching.

Think for example of these Islamic laws:
that when on pilgrimmage do not to tie any knots or wear any stitched items, no use of any cosmetics or scented things, do not cut your nails or trim your hair or beard, and of course no sex or eating meat. And that’s just from the pilgrimmage law.

It is not up us to show “BahaiReply” is wrong, but that “BahaiReply” should stop stating his own ideas as if they are Bahai Teachings. If he thinks that what he claims is Bahai Teaching, he needs to quote the Bahai Writings or show how the Bahai community behaves accordingly. The examples above from the Pilgrimmage law show that this is clearly not the case.

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

So sure, like in the video clip, some people might think you have to do all of these things to be religious and if “BahaiReply”‘ has chosen to live his life as Bahai in this manner, he is welcome to. He just cannot insist that it is a Bahai law or teaching.

Sonja’s comment posted on 24 April 2010
in response to a discussion of these comments by someone else:
human rights issue? the baha’i faith is voluntary, nobody makes you do anything.

How is the following statement by the N.S.A. of Guyana not about human rights?

“The National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of Guyana asks that your Government ensure that any legislation enacted safeguards the rights of all, but only insofar as the limits of morality may not be transgressed. It would not be acceptable for example, if the Constitution implicitly allows same sex persons to demand the right to be married. We do not believe this may have been the intention of the Amendment, but it should be sufficiently carefully constructed that such a situation does not automatically follow.”

accessed from: http://www.gy.bahai.org/amendment.html

And just to make the point clear, the N.S.A. here is attempting to encourage discrimination, not just discrimination for Bahais who are gay.

The main issue, the issue of human rights, is the belief that homosexuality is wrong, or at best a handicap, so that Bahai teenagers, discovering that they are gay go through hell coming to terms with either leaving the faith (that they might love dearly) or leading double lives (another type of hell).
Why I ask, is this necessary?
What is so terrible with being gay and a Bahai? And why can’t gays have equal rights and responsibilities as Bahais? That is the human rights issue. Whether or not one’s voting rights are removed is a result of this, but it is not the real issue.