Archive for the ‘Bahai Administration’ Category

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A Baha’i’s letter of resignation

April 25, 2016

Letter to the UHJ and NSA of the USA

FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 12, 2016

To the Universal House of Justice and the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States of America,

Last time I wrote you I was writing to ask permission to travel to Iran in order to pursue my study of Persian and Baha’i history. It was my hope to become a scholar of the Faith. That letter marked, in many ways, the pinnacle of my immersion in the Baha’i community. Growing up, Baha’i children’s classes were held at my house every weekend, and feasts, holy days, firesides, and potlucks joyfully paraded through my home with comforting regularity. I remember crawling out of bed and dangling my legs over the second floor banister to listen surreptitiously to the late night consultations and deliberations of the Local Spiritual Assembly, which included both of my parents. One day I hoped to join their ranks.

My father founded one of the first theater companies in the world to dedicate itself to themes and stories from Baha’i history, and when I was fifteen I began touring with him across the USA, UK, and Canada – enacting plays about the beloved heroes and heroines of the Faith. When I was eighteen I served at the Lotus Temple in New Delhi and later at my university plunged headlong into what could have been subtitled a degree in Baha’i Culture (Persian, Arabic, and Middle Eastern Studies). My marriage vows were Baha’i vows, my daily prayers Baha’i prayers, and my hopes for humanity and myself — those hopes outlined in the sacred writings of the Faith. I write all this, not to brag about my Baha’i pedigree, or to prove a legitimate degree of devotion, but to illustrate how fundamentally rooted I have been in the Faith and to contextualize my profound grief that this is a letter of resignation.

There was a time when the Faith was everything to me and the Baha’i community a family like no other, but for the last ten years I have had difficulty feeling that I belong to it or want to belong to it. There are perhaps several issues at play, but the most fundamental of them has been the official position espoused by the Universal House of Justice on homosexuality. I am a heterosexual woman and I am married to a man, but many of my dearest friends and colleagues belong to the LGBTQ community. You advise that I should consider their sexual orientation to be a kind of “handicap” which they should “pray to overcome”, but I find this position impossible to maintain.

As a child and young adult, I prided myself in belonging to a religion that was not weighed down by outdated social laws, not caught up in untangling and interpreting archaic customs to fit the modern age. In comparison to other religions, the principles of gender and racial equality which the Baha’i Faith upheld often felt revolutionary and refreshingly modern. Even in 1914, Abdu’l- Bahá encouraged the marriage of people of different races in America! It felt good to be ahead of the curve and on the right side of history. But when it comes to the civil rights issues pertaining to the LGBTQ community, Baha’is are so woefully behind the curve, that I have for many years been embarrassed to be associated with the community. Current attempts to legitimize the LGBTQ community, such as legalizing gay marriage, do not only represent “changing trends in popular thought” (which to my ear sounds like characterizing significant changes as a superficial fad) but the emancipation of a community that has existed in human society as long as men and women have existed.

Some years ago, when people asked me about my religious affiliation, I started answering that “I was raised as a Baha’i” instead of saying “I am a Baha’i.” After the birth of my first child a few months ago, I fell into a deep depression in regards to my ambiguous relationship to my own faith community. It grieves me deeply that I will not raise my daughter within the embrace of the Baha’i Faith, which has meant so much to me. But it disturbs me further that she would be raised to believe that to be loyal to Bahá’u’lláh means to categorize a substantial and precious portion of the human race as “self-indulgent”, “shameful”, “aberrant”, “abhorrent”, “immoral”, “disgraceful”, “handicapped”, or “afflicted”. When my daughter was born I plunged into a studious and thorough interrogation of the writings on the subject of homosexuality, hoping I would be able to justify a way to return. When I found your letter – dated 9 May 2014 – I realized instead that I would prefer to officially resign.

My father has pleaded with me in the past to stay — to remain in a state of questioning while maintaining my role in the community. He tells me that the Baha’i community needs ardent seekers to ask difficult questions, or it has no chance of evolving and meeting the needs and ailments of the current age. “Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water,” he has said – a metaphor that rings more profoundly in my ears now that I have a baby of my own! But when I read this sentence from your May 9th letter — “It would be a profound contradiction for someone to profess to be a Bahá’í, yet reject, disregard, or contend with aspects of belief or practice He ordained” — it feels as if the Universal House of Justice is calling me a hypocrite rather than encouraging those believers who struggle with aspects of the Faith to persevere. Regardless, I no longer want to live in a constant state of schizophrenia and contradiction. For a long time I maintained that the writings of Bahá’u’lláh are in fact not clear on the issue of homosexuality, and therefore the retrograde attitudes towards homosexuality in the Baha’i community might shift. In regards to the passage often quoted from the Kitab-i-Aqdas …

We shrink for very shame, from treating the subject of boys.

I was under the impression that “the subject of boys” implied the practice of pederasty, and did not extend to homosexuality in general. Why should it, when sex between an adult and a child (boy or girl) is so very different than sex between two consenting adults? The other passage which is often quoted…

Ye are forbidden to commit adultery, sodomy and lechery.

might seem more explicit, but in fact sodomy (if defined as “anal sex”) is anatomically impossible between two women and not strictly a necessity between two men who wish to bring each other to a sexual climax. It feels foolish to delve into the nitty-gritty particulars of the sex act, when it is our immaterial souls that religion should occupy itself with. As you write in your letter dated the 9th of May 2014, it is the role of religion “to cultivate spiritual qualities and virtues – the attributes of the soul which constitute one’s true and abiding identity.” And yet you have involved yourself in tracing clear prohibitions against the sexual acts of people of the same gender in the Baha’i community. So I feel it is important to be equally explicit that sodomy and pederasty are NOT synonymous with homosexuality. Even if this was not your opinion, you would be amiss to say that two women or two men cannot be part of the “the bedrock of the whole structure of human society” which supports and nurtures the next generation because they cannot issue forth children. I’ve witnessed many healthy households headed by same-sex parents. Surrogate motherhood, sperm and egg donation, not to mention adoption, has redefined the family structure in the contemporary world.

You write “if such statements are considered by some to be unclear, the unambiguous interpretations provided by Shoghi Effendi constitute a binding exposition of His intent.” I agree that the writings of Shoghi Effendi are less ambiguous than those enshrined within the Kitab-i- Aqdas, but are you not an infallible institution, capable of redefining his interpretations in a more enlightened manner without negating the divine covenant that has linked the series of institutions and individuals shepherding the Baha’i community towards its true potential? Do you not exist, not only to interpret and uphold what has already been written, but so that the Faith does not become calcified and intransigent — so that the Faith continues to be a living, thinking entity, able to adapt and respond to the needs and challenges of the age? As I write this letter, I realize I am writing it more for myself and my own sense of clarity than to enact any kind of response or change. I know a single letter cannot change the culture of a worldwide religion, and yet I would feel cowardly to leave the community without some clear act of protest or an attempt to communicate my grief. I wonder if you realize the emotional pain that you are inflicting upon the ardent believers of your community; radiant souls who want more than anything to be able to call themselves Baha’is.

Perhaps I am too rigid when I insist that this is a letter of resignation. The fact that I have decided that I can not be a part of the Baha’i community without being entirely a part of it, and so I must take myself entirely out of it, might, in itself, express a divisive breed of orthodoxy. Still, after much deliberation, I have concluded that this is the route I want to take.

I hereby relinquish my voting rights, and I ask that you strike me from the rosters.

I have no doubt that I will continue to love and respect the founders of the Faith, and to turn to their writings for guidance. I desperately hope that the official position of the Baha’i community in regards to LGBTQ individuals will change one day. If that day should come in my lifetime, I will be your valiant ensign once more.

Sincerely, Anisa George Philadelphia, PA

This was posted on gaybahai.net and there has been a lot of discussion by Bahais on facebook of the merits or not of this letter. The gay/lesbian Bahai story project is a resource for those interested in social history.
My only dispute with her beautifully expressed letter is that Shoghi Effendi never wrote a word on homosexuality, but many Bahais often mix up the status of these letters penned by secretaries with that of Shoghi Effendi’s own status as official interpreter of Baha’i Scripture. So her views on the status of these letters are similar to what many Bahais say. In the end it boils down to the Universal House of Justice to make a change in their policy, if there is to be any change in the way gay or lesbians are treated by the Bahai community in general. I say in general because there is nothing to stop Bahai communities making it clear in their practice or publicity that they do not discriminate against lesbians or gays. And as individuals we are free (and encouraged) to stand up for the rights of all, inside and outside of the Bahai community. And below a response to Anisa’s letter which shows the current status of the understandings of the Universal House of Justice on the topic of homosexuality. I say current because I have not seen any Bahai scripture that states that marriage can only be between a man and woman. If there was text that showed this I think that by now this would have been made available. Perhaps one day the Universal House of Justice will show us how they come to their current understanding or perhaps they will come to another understanding of Bahai scripture, or perhaps not.

THE UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE
DEPARTMENT OF THE SECRETARIAT

12 April 2016

Mrs. Anisa George U.S.A.

Dear Friend,

Your email letter dated 4 February 2016 has been received by the Universal House of Justice and your comments concerning the Bahá’í Teachings and homosexuality have been noted. Your desire to withdraw your membership in the Bahá’í community is, of course, respected, and it is understood that the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States, to which your letter was also addressed, has removed your name from its membership roll. We have been asked to comment as follows.

The House of Justice cannot change the Bahá’í Teachings, which are set forth in the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh and the authorized interpretations of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and Shoghi Effendi.

Nevertheless, it wishes to assure you that there is a vast difference between those who accept Bahá’u’lláh’s teachings as the remedy prescribed by the Divine Physician for this age yet acknowledge that they may not grasp the wisdom of certain teachings or struggle in applying them in their personal lives and those who reject, disregard, or contend with them. Indeed, even in cases where believers had a homosexual orientation, Shoghi Effendi encouraged them not to withdraw from the community and to continue to engage in active service, for in one way or another, he explained, we are all tested, and he added that they should receive the encouragement and support of the community. Further, it is entirely against the spirit of the Faith to regard homosexuals with prejudice or disdain.

The House of Justice wishes you well in your efforts to be of service to humanity.

Yours sincerely,

Department of the Secretariat

cc: National Assembly of the United States

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Critiquing the Universal House of Justice

May 22, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE
DEPARTMENT OF THE SECRETARIAT

9 May 2014

Transmitted by email: ……U.S.A.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“It should also be borne in mind that the machinery of the Cause has been so fashioned, that whatever is deemed necessary to incorporate into it in order to keep it in the forefront of all progressive movements, can, according to the provisions made by Bahá’u’lláh, be safely embodied therein.”
– Shoghi Effendi,
The World Order of Baha’u’llah, p. 22-23

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Two views of the Baha’i view on homosexuality

October 18, 2013

Recently in a discussion a Bahai asked what would happen if a Baha’i started a pledge similar to this one where members of the Jewish community pledge at working at ending homophobic bullying or harassment of any kind in their synagogues, schools, organizations, and communities.

In response: a Baha’i wrote:

The official policy of Baha’is toward gays is demeaning…what to do? I mean that first statement in the pledge implies that we see each gay or lesbian as created in the image of the divine. This doesn’t quite go with the image of gays as inherently handicapped and in need of repair to their basic nature. Not that I don’t appreciate your intention…I just don’t see how it all fits together in an intelligible and consistent way

So here are two differing responses to the question
“What is the Baha’i perspective of homosexuality”

Baha’i A: “This is an attempt on my part to give us “the flavor,” of the Baha’i teachings on homosexuality where I have capitalized certain words. The following quotations (shown in brown and inside quotation marks) are selections taken from the BNASAA (Baha’i Network on AIDS, Sexuality, Addiction and Abuse) website, under the section “Sexuality”, subsection “Homosexuality” [Last accessed on 18 October 2013]

“Ye are forbidden to commit adultery, sodomy, and lechery.”
This reference from Baha’u’llah is offered without any explanation of what the terms translated as “sodomy” and “lechery” mean in the original Arabic, and how they might relate to the subject of homosexuality today, or how they relate to heterosexual activity. The infamous “subject of boys” passage in the Aqdas (Book of Laws), which is also offered under the heading of “homosexuality” clearly refers to pederasty, or pedophilia, an altogether different subject, although the Guardian, according to the Universal House of Justice, is supposed to have interpreted it to apply to all homosexual relationships. There are no references penned from Abdu’l-Baha or Shoghi Effendi specifically regarding homosexuality. The remaining references are pulled from letters written by secretaries on behalf of the Guardian, or from correspondence from the Universal House of Justice or, in the case of the final three quotations, from a paper published on the BNASAA website.


“IMMORALITY of every sort is really forbidden by Baha’u’llah, and homosexual relationships He looks upon as such, besides being AGAINST NATURE…through the advice and help of doctors, through a strong and determined effort, and through prayer, a soul can overcome this HANDICAP.”
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, 26 March 1950; Letter from the Universal House of Justice to National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States, published in American Bahá’í, 152, 23 Nov 1995 on Bahai-Library; Lights of Guidance, p. 366, #1223)

‘Baha’u’llah makes provision for the Universal House of Justice to determine, according to the degree of offence, penalties for adultery and sodomy.”
(The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, Notes Section, p. 223, authored by the U.H.J, 1992)

“Sex relationships, of any form, outside marriage are not permissible … whoso violates this rule will not only be responsible to God, but will INCUR THE NECESSARY PUNISHMENT FROM SOCIETY.”
(Letter written on behalf of the Guardian to an individual believer, 5 September 1938; Cited in a Letter from the U.H.J. All National Spiritual Assemblies 6 February 1973, on Bahai-Library; Lights of Guidance, p. 346, #1157 – Here a date for this letter is not given)

“Baha’u’llah has spoken very strongly against this SHAMEFUL SEXUAL ABERRATION, as He has against adultery and immoral conduct in general.”
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, 25 October 1949. Cited in a 1993 compilation on homosexuality by Research Department of the Universal House of Justice.)

“The Guardian cannot tell you what the attitude of God would be towards a person who lives a good life in most ways, but not in this way. All he can tell you is that it is forbidden by Baha’u’llah and that ONE SO AFFLICTED SHOULD STRUGGLE AND STRUGGLE AGAIN TO OVERCOME IT.”
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, 26 March 1950. Cited in a 1993 compilation on homosexuality by Research Department of the Universal House of Justice.)

“The person should have it brought to his attention that such acts are CONDEMNED BY BAHA’U’LLAH, and that he must mend his ways, if necessary CONSULT DOCTORS, and make every effort to OVERCOME THIS AFFLICTION, which is CORRUPTIVE FOR HIM AND BAD FOR THE CAUSE. If after a period of probation you do not see an improvement, he should have his VOTING RIGHTS TAKEN AWAY. The Guardian does not think, however, that a Baha’i body should take it upon itself to denounce him to the Authorities unless his conduct borders on INSANITY.”
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, 20 June 1953 to the National Spiritual Assembly of Canada, published in “Messages to Canada” p. 39; cited in a compilation on homosexuality by Research Department of the Universal House of Justice, 1993, p. 4., on Bahai-Library.)

“Homosexuality … IS SPIRITUALLY CONDEMNED … we do not believe that it is a permissible way of life.”
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, 21 May 1954; Lights of Guidance, p. 365, #1221)

“We must struggle against the EVILS IN SOCIETY by spiritual means, and medical and social ones as well.”
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, 21 May 1954; Lights of Guidance, p. 365, #1221)

“The thing people need to meet THIS TYPE OF TROUBLE, as well as every other type, is greater spiritual understanding and stability.”
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, 21 May 1954; Lights of Guidance, p. 365, #1221)

…any friends who are FLAGRANTLY IMMORAL should be assisted, and, if possible, restrained. If their activities overstep all bounds and become a matter of PUBLIC SCANDAL, then the Assembly can consider depriving them of their voting rights.
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to a National Spiritual Assembly, 20 August 1955; Lights of Guidance, p. 369, #1230)

“Homosexuality is HIGHLY CONDEMNED…Any individual SO AFFLICTED must, through prayer, and any other means, seek to overcome this HANDICAP.”
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to a National Spiritual Assembly, 6 October 1956)

“…no sexual act can be considered lawful unless performed between lawfully married persons.”
(Letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi no date nor further information – cited in Lights of Guidance, pp. 364, #1220)

“…homosexuality is not a condition to which a person should be reconciled, but is a DISTORTION OF HIS OR HER NATURE WHICH SHOULD BE CONTROLLED OR OVERCOME.”
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, January 12, 1973: cited in Messages from The Universal House of Justice, 1968-1973, p. 110-111; Lights of Guidance, p. 366, #1222)

“If an individual violates the spiritual laws for his own development HE WILL CAUSE INJURY NOT ONLY TO HIMSELF BUT TO THE SOCIETY IN WHICH HE LIVES.”
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer; excerpts to all National Spiritual Assemblies, February 6, 1973: Messages from the Universal House of Justice, 1968-1973, pp. 105-106. Lights of Guidance, p. 343-344 #1146)

“…Baha’i law restricts permissible sexual intercourse to that between a man and the woman to whom he is married.” (From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to an individual, 14 March 1973; Lights of Guidance, pp. 365, #1225

“Thus, it should not be so much a matter of whether a practicing homosexual can be a Bahá’í as whether, having become a Baha’i, the homosexual can OVERCOME HIS PROBLEM.”
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to an individual, 14 March 1973; Lights of Guidance, pp. 365, #1225

“While recognizing the divine origin and force of the sex impulse in man…it must be controlled, and Baha’u’llah’s law confines its expression to the marriage relationship. … You can be confident that with the help of doctors, by prayer and meditation, by self-abnegation and by giving as much time as possible to serving the Cause in your community you can eventually succeed in OVERCOMING YOUR PROBLEM.” (From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, January 9, 1977; Lights of Guidance, pp. 368, #1227)

“If you are sincerely intent on OVERCOMING YOUR PROBLEM…The more we occupy ourselves with teaching the Cause and serving our fellow-man in this way, the stronger we become in resisting THAT WHICH IS ABHORRENT TO OUR SPIRITUAL SELVES.”
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, July 16, 1980; Lights of Guidance, pp. 368, #1228)

“Both you and your Baha’i friend must first recognize that a homosexual relationship SUBVERTS THE PURPOSE OF HUMAN LIFE and that determined effort to overcome the wayward tendencies which promote this practice which, like other sexual vices, IS SO ABHORRENT TO THE CREATOR OF ALL MANKIND…”
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, August 23, 1982; Lights of Guidance, pp. 368, #1229)

“…the Faith does not recognize homosexuality as a “natural” or permanent phenomenon. Rather, it sees this as

AN ABERRATION SUBJECT TO TREATMENT…To the question of ALTERATION OF HOMOSEXUAL BENTS, much study must be given, and doubtless IN THE FUTURE CLEAR PRINCIPLES OF PREVENTION AND TREATMENT WILL EMERGE. As for those now afflicted, a homosexual does not decide to be a PROBLEM HUMAN, but he does…have decision in choosing his way of life.”
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, 22 March 1987. Cited in a compilation on homosexuality by Research Department of the Universal House of Justice, 1993, p. 7., on Bahai-Library.

“You mention recent research which indicates that there may be a genetic basis for homosexuality; you accept the Baha’i view of this matter, but you question the use of such terms as “ABNORMALITY, HANDICAP, AFFLICTION, PROBLEM, ETC.” since they can create misunderstandings. ON THE CONTRARY, THE HOUSE OF JUSTICE FEELS THAT JUST SUCH WORDS CAN BE A GREAT HELP TO THE INDIVIDUALS CONCERNED.”
Cited in a compilation on homosexuality by Research Department of the Universal House of Justice, 1993, p. 11., Letter from the Universal House of Justice to an individual dated, 16 March 1992. on Bahai-Library.

“Some people nowadays maintain that homosexuality is not an abnormality…The Faith, on the contrary, makes it abundantly clear that HOMOSEXUALITY IS AN ABNORMALITY, is a GREAT PROBLEM for the individual SO AFFLICTED, and that he or she SHOULD STRIVE TO OVERCOME IT. The social implications of such an attitude are very important.”
Cited in a compilation on homosexuality by Research Department of the Universal House of Justice, 1993, p. 11., Letter from the Universal House of Justice to an individual dated, 16 March 1992. on Bahai-Library.

“One could have concluded that HOMOSEXUALS COULD WELL ESTABLISH STABLE RELATIONSHIPS WITH ONE ANOTHER FOR MUTUAL SUPPORT, similar to the marital relationship of a heterosexual couple who cannot have children. This, indeed, is the conclusion that some churches and governments have come to. BUT BAHA’U’LLAH…SHOWS THAT SUCH A RELATIONSHIP IS NOT A PERMISSIBLE OR BENEFICIAL SOLUTION TO A HOMOSEXUAL’S CONDITION.”
(Cited in a compilation on homosexuality by Research Department of the Universal House of Justice, 1993, p. 12., Letter from the Universal House of Justice to an individual dated, 16 March 1992. on Bahai-Library.

“Human beings need not only assistance in defining acceptable behavior of one person towards another, but also guidance which will help them to refrain from doing that which is SPIRITUALLY DAMAGING TO THEMSELVES.”
(Letter from the Universal House of Justice to National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States, published in American Bahá’í, 152, 23 Nov 1995 on Bahai-Library)

“Whether DEFICIENCIES are inborn or acquired, our purpose in this life is to overcome them…”
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual, 17 September 1993. This letter is cited in full by Bill Collins on on the e-list soc.religion.bahai, 31 Aug 1994)

“You state that “homosexuals cannot be altered into heterosexuality, all such trials have failed and homosexuals remain so until the day they die.” THIS IS A STATEMENT WHICH IS STILL OPEN TO DISPUTE, AND WHICH BAHA’IS SHOULD QUESTION.”
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual, 17 September 1993. ibid)

“Baha’i Assemblies can testify to the number of Baha’is who, although having had homosexual orientations, have been able to lead normally happy married lives and raise families.”
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual, 17 September 1993. ibid)

“The condition of being sexually attracted to some object other than to a mature member of the opposite sex, A CONDITION OF WHICH HOMOSEXUALITY IS BUT ONE MANIFESTATION, is regarded by the Faith as a DISTORTION OF TRUE HUMAN NATURE, as a PROBLEM TO BE OVERCOME, no matter what specific physical or psychological condition may be the immediate cause. Any Baha’i who suffers from

such a DISABILITY…should be helped to control and overcome it.”
(Letter from the Universal House of Justice to National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States, published in American Bahá’í, 152, 23 Nov 1995 on Bahai-Library.

“…homosexual intercourse by a Baha’i is AN OFFENCE AGAINST THE LAW OF GOD and is STRONGLY CONDEMNED. Strict laws of sexual behaviour are important, we believe, not merely for the individual, but also for society in general…we certainly do not fully understand their long-term implication; THESE WILL BECOME APPARENT AS SOCIETY EVOLVES. Baha’is believe that the LOVE OF GOD IS EVIDENT IN ALL HIS LAWS, NO MATTER HOW SEVERE SOME OF THEM MAY APPEAR TO BE.”
(U.H.J., 17 September 1993. This letter is cited in full by Bill Collins on the e-list soc.religion.bahai, 31 Aug 1994)

“…while science may find that a predisposition to homosexuality is caused by genetic aberration, and in that sense may be considered “natural”, IT DOES NOT FOLLOW THAT IT IS “NATURAL” FOR SOME PEOPLE TO BE HOMOSEXUAL …The statistics which indicate that homosexuality is incurable are undoubtedly distorted by the fact that many of those who overcome the problem never speak about it in public, and others solve their problems without even consulting professional counselors. Furthermore, contrary evidence may will exist but may be overlooked by scientific reporting that is, for one reason or another, biased.”
(Letter from the U.H.J. to the N.S.A. of the U.S., published in American Bahá’í, 152, 23 Nov 1993, On Bahai-Library)

“…the Baha’i Faith STRONGLY CONDEMNS all blatant acts of immorality, and it includes among them the expression of sexual love between individuals of the same sex.”
(U.H.J., Letter to an individual, 11 September 1995. The letter is cited in full on 6 Feb 1996 on the Talisman e-list)

“The view that homosexuality is a condition that is not amenable to change is to be questioned by Baha’is.”
(U.H.J., 11 September 1995. ibid)

“…the standard which they are called upon to uphold is the Baha’i standard. A flagrant violation of this standard DISGRACES THE BAHA’I COMMUNITY IN ITS OWN EYES even if the surrounding society finds the transgression tolerable.”
(U.H.J., 11 September 1995. ibid)

…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 enrol 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 BAHA’I COMMUNITY in the current condition of their relationship. They will then be free to draw their own conclusions and act accordingly. Within this context, the question you pose about the possibility of the removal of administrative rights should, therefore, not arise.”
From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual 5 March 1999

Bahai B wrote: If I want to know the Bahai position, I look to Baha’u’llah. Then to ‘Abdu’l-Baha, Shoghi Effendi, etc for clarification of what Baha’u’llah says. I don’t start with the House and work “backwards” for clarification. For me, that seems to lead to confusion and tends to relegate Baha’u’llah to the footnotes, where he possibly doesn’t deserve to be.

But, if by “Baha’i position” you mean the current dominant and generally-seen-as-authoritative view then, yes, you pretty much have to look at what the House is saying and quoting. And, yes, “the official policy of Baha’is toward gays is in itself demeaning”.

But the House could stop quoting Shoghi Effendi’s secretaries, particularly where they appear to describe [the] homosexuality [of their time] in demeaning ways. When I’m trying to understand “the Bahai position” (second, deprecated, definition), I look at what the House has stopped quoting and what it’s stopped saying. That’s a generally a reliable guide to changes of position.

At the moment, the House has started talking more about the human and civil rights of homosexuals but — as you observe — it hasn’t stopped quoting Shoghi Effendi’s secretaries, who describe homosexuality as a “problem”, “sickness”, etc. So, not much change. At least, not where it counts.

Bahai A: Thanks for the clarification. Baha’i law on this issue hasn’t changed – homosexual behavior is still a punishable offense among Baha’is. Would you remind me what Baha’u’llah and Abdu’l-Baha give us in the way of clarification on the issue of homosexuality? I know about letters written on Shoghi Effendi’s behalf, of course, and that he signed off on such letters. And I certainly accept that the views of homosexuality in those letters represented the time in which they were written, and for the Faith to have openly accepted gays at that time would no doubt have put the Faith in a questionable light, so no problem there – I get it. But the House, despite its discussion of human and civil rights for gays, and its decrying prejudice toward them, seems to feel that they cannot go beyond the mindset that was represented in such letters, and thus can never get beyond the portrayal of gays as having an “affliction”. I’m sure that they can find a way around this…despite their saying they can’t. Until then, homosexuality is still criminalized in Baha’i law – it is a “shameful aberration” and most Baha’is will agree that this is Baha’i belief, and that Baha’is are not to display any prejudice toward gays, despite their apparent affliction, and are to come to their aid if their civil rights are being abused. It’s an interesting predicament, isn’t it? Progress is being made, in that homosexuality can now be discussed in Baha’i communities, and mean/ugly behavior toward gays is not to be tolerated but, as someone else said, religion still trumps science here.

I will admit that I haven’t visited BNASAA website for a while, to see if all this stuff about homosexuality is still up there – if it is still there, then I assume it represents Baha’i thought as coming from the House – surely they would not allow such prejudiced-seeming and negative material to remain on a public website which represents Baha’is on this issue, unless it represented their current views. If this material is removed by instruction of the House, there would be some question as to whether it represented the House’s current view, and I would immediately cease to circulate this material.

Bahai B wrote: You wrote: “Baha’i law on this issue hasn’t changed – homosexual behavior is still a punishable offense among Baha’is….”
My understanding is that the Aqdas discusses illicit forms of sexual conduct (zina and liwat) and it discusses marriage.

There are many forms of both homosexual and heterosexual behaviour that fall into the category of illicit sexual conduct. On the other hand, same-sex marriage seems to be in a category of its own. Is it “illicit sex”, is it “another form of marriage”, or is it something new that isn’t in the book?

I lean towards options two and three. I can’t see where homosexual behaviour has been made a punishable offence — at least no more than that all forms of heterosexual behaviour (except one) are a punishable offence.
“…Would you remind me what Baha’u’llah and Abdu’l-Baha give us in the way of clarification on the issue of homosexuality?”

Baha’u’llah said little if anything about homosexuality. And not much about liwat. Modern-day homosexuality in general, and same-sex marriage in particular, effectively didn’t exist in their time and place — so there’s nothing said about that. But they did say a lot about unity, amity, harmony, diversity, tolerance, a sin-covering eye, about religion being in line with science and about an unfolding revelation. Maybe it’s important that we don’t lose sight of those other things they said?”

Bahai A: “You are absolutely right – thank you. The problem with sexual behavior, of course, is that sex outside of marriage, whether hetero- or homosexual, is strictly forbidden, and of course same-sex marriage is forbidden, thus far, for Baha’is. Thus, heterosexual Baha’is have a way to express their sexuality, and strictly homosexual Baha’is do not, without risking sanctions. Even if they marry outside of the Faith, if they are fortunate to live in an area where such marriage is now legal, they are not yet, so far as I know, accepted as a same-sex couple in the Faith – though I realize this might change, and I hope it does. And I appreciate your emphasis on the positive – I just don’t want to gloss over any injustice that might exist. I do think it helps to discuss these things, to let Baha’is know that they can discuss them and can allow themselves to grow in their understanding of homosexuality. I have been allowed to grow in my understanding, and I would like for others to have the same chance. ”

Baha’i B: You wrote: “And I appreciate your emphasis on the positive – I just don’t want to gloss over any injustice that might exist.”
I didn’t realise that I was emphasising the positive. I thought I was emphasising the source. Back to the pledge.

Yes, a really strong pledge that reframes the issues in terms of the most important Bahai provisions could certainly be created. I’m sure it will take both persuasion and encouragement to deal with the ignorance and fear surrounding the signing of a pledge. I don’t normally get excited about pledges and petitions, but this one sounds interesting.

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“A gay Baha’i writes to the Universal House of Justice”

October 1, 2013

In response to “A mother writes to the Universal House of Justice” I was sent the following:

15 October 2008

To The Universal House of Justice


Dear Sirs,

I would like a clear and final decision on how openly gay couples and individuals would be treated in the Bahai community. Would we have our voting rights removed for openly stating that we are gay and living with a partner? Or would we be fully accepted with voting rights and all?

I understand the difficult decision that you must face. On the one hand you feel that you must follow the admonitions written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, on the other there is tremendous damage being done to gays inside the Bahai community. I am just one of those individuals who suffered as a gay youth in the Bahai community.

I have a solution that may be worth investigating. Baha’u’llah extols his followers to seek professional medical help when they have an illness. For this reason, no Bahai would ever lose his voting rights for drinking a medicine with alcohol that is prescribed by a doctor, correct? Letters written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi also state that homosexuality is a disorder- one that may need the help of competent physicians. Then in the exact same way, if a homosexual has consulted a competent physician (all of whom do NOT recommend that a homosexual try to overcome his sexuality) and is now living a happy spiritual life- he should be FULLY accepted by the Bahai community. To remove this individual’s voting rights or make him hide his sexuality in order to function in the community would be an incredible injustice and the height of hypocrisy.

I hope to hear an unambigious reply from your office. For now, I have decided to remain inactive, but with the hopes that your leadership will bring the Bahai community to not only greater acceptance of gay families, but encourage the Bahahi community to evolve into a haven for such families and individuals. I will leave you with an incredible link to a book that I hope you will read. I just pray that the religion of my forefathers will act differently from those in this book: www.crisisbook.org

PP

 

Letter from the Universal House of Justice
10 December 2008

Transmitted by email

Dear Bahá’í Friend,

     The Universal House of Justice has received your email letter of 15 October 2008, and we have been asked to convey to you the following.

     Your comments about your experience in the Bahá’í community have been noted. We are to assure you that to regard homosexuals with prejudice and disdain would be entirely against the spirit of the Teachings.

     With regard to your suggestion that Bahá’ís be allowed to live with a partner in a homosexual lifestyle without losing their voting rights if a physician were to recommend this course of action, the Bahá’í writings unambiguously affirm that marriage is a union between a man and a woman, and sexual relations are only permissible between a couple who are married to each other. These teachings are set forth in the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh and in the authoritative statements of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and Shoghi Effendi and are not susceptible to change by the House of Justice. Therefore, it cannot adopt your suggestion.

     The doors are open for all of humanity to enter the Bahá’í community, irrespective of their present circumstances. Associated with this invitation is the expectation that all those who accept Bahá’u’lláh as a Manifestation of God will make a sincere and persistent effort to modify those aspects of their conduct which are not in conformity with His Law. For some, this may involve a prolonged personal struggle. However, it would be a profound contradiction for someone to profess the intention to be a Bahá’í, yet consciously reject, disregard or contend with aspects of belief or practice ordained by Bahá’u’lláh.

 

With loving Bahá’í greetings,

Department of the Secretariat

His response to the letter above to which there has been no response.

December 2008

First thank you for your response. But I have to say I’m disappointed in your response, yet it is what I expected. You will allow people to consume alcohol if prescribed by a doctor (something specifically forbidden by Baha’u’llah). But, you disregard a prescription by a doctor to allow a homosexual to find stability and peace in a healthy/intimate relationship. You condemn gay families (not Baha’u’llah; I’ve yet to see a specific quote from Him in regards to adult consenting gay relationships) but you still believe that this is not prejudice. What then is prejudice? You have pre-judged the relationship of two same sex adults and their children as not worthy of fully participating in Bahai community life.

I am still a Bahai (albeit not active) and I always will be. I believe that justice is the most important thing before God’s eyes, not blind adherence to what was written by the secretaries of Shoghi Effendi to individual believers years ago.

I pray for the Bahai youth being brought up, like I was, to regard their sexuality as a disorder to overcome. You say that the Faith stands against any type of prejudice against homosexuals, yet the Bahai community by insisting that gay couples are not fully welcome in the community, you are discriminating. Your views only feed Bahais in other countries to continue to discriminate not only inside the Bahai community, but outside as well. Did you know for instance in 2003, the Guyana NSA wrote to the government against a proposed non-discrimination law that would protect gays/lesbians as well as others in society. And of course the recent protests in Uganda againsts gays where the Bahais were involved. Such actions by local Bahais, the trauma felt by Bahai youth (some whom I’m sure have committed suicide since they couldn’t “overcome”) and the loss of activity of thousands of good Bahais fall squarely on your shoulders because of the rigidness of your views.
Good day.

Note: a few minor typos were corrected,
and below are links to blogs I’ve written on topics that are mentioned above.
Uganda protests against gays + the Bahai involvement with the Interfaith Rainbow Coalition Against Homosexuality
Statement by the N.S.A. of Guyana
Letters written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi on the topic of homosexuality

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“A mother writes to the Universal House of Justice”

September 30, 2013

I was recently sent the following:

11 March 2011

“To The Universal House of Justice


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Warmest Baha’i Love
RR

13 May 2012

Dear Bahá’í Friend,

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

With loving Bahá’í greetings,

Office of Correspondence


 
Letter from the Universal House of Justice
22 April 2013

Transmitted by email

Dear Bahá’í Friend,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

With loving Bahá’í greetings,

Department of the Secretariat

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

27 October 2010

Transmitted by email: …

Mr. …

Dear Bahá’í Friend,

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

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

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

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

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

With loving Bahá’í greetings,
Department of the Secretariat

cc: National Assembly of …

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Baha’u’llah & “The Subject of Boys”

June 25, 2011

A few months ago Baquia wrote a blog of the same name where s/he noted:

“If we search Baha’u’llah’s writings, we find something quite remarkable. Nowhere in Baha’u’llah’s writings is there an explicit mention of homosexuality (and neither by Abdu’l-Baha). Arguably, the only reference we have is an extremely brief mention in the Aqdas (more on that a bit later).

To understand why there is no wider mention of homosexuality and what exactly Baha’u’llah was referring and what Shoghi Effendi translated to the seemingly cryptic words, “the subject of boys”, we have to take a few steps back.

Ban on Interracial marriage between the 1660s and 1967

Dates of repeal of US anti-miscegenation laws by state

Sexual dynamics and mores differ greatly between cultures and time periods. What may be accepted sexual behavior at one point in time or within a specific society may be completely unknown or unacceptable in another time or place.”

(See: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-miscegenation_laws_in_the_United_States)

Later in the blog Baquia writes: “That does not mean however that homosexuality did not exist at all in one guise or another during Baha’u’llah’s time. Homosexuality, after all, has been observed in nature among hundreds of species as well as throughout human history.

So while the current definition of homosexual relationships may not have existed, there certainly have always been some forms of homosexuality in human society, just as there have been many other acceptable sexual expressions, beyond the institution of marriage between a man and a woman.

So to understand the extremely limited or non-existent Baha’i treatment of homosexuality, we have to first understand the sexual traditions prevalent in the Middle East during the 1800′s.”

One issue I was unaware of was a form of “lesbianism. It is sometimes referred to as sisterhood sighe and involved the consensual relationship between two women that was sexual in nature but not exclusively so. This was practiced in a society that allowed woman to travel together and spend time together (especially in harems where women were only allowed to frequent with other women freely).” [Link to this blog]

This was news to me and so since this existed during Baha’u’llah’s time, surely he would have made mention of this if this was an issue. In Kitab-i-Adqas Baha’u’llah wrote:
“”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.” (page 58, Kitab-i-Adqas, 1992 English edition)

Baquia then illustrated use and context for the Arabic term Baha’u’llah used “ghulaam” which refers to: slave, page; lad, or servant, and exclusively males.
The rest of the blog goes into the ‘subject of boys’ that is, the middle eastern practice young boys being treated like a sex slave. The English 1992 edition of Kitab-i-Adqas has a reference to note 134 on page 223 where the research department or the Universal House of Justice has noted that this refers to paederasty. The next sentence in that note states that Shoghi Effendi has interpreted this reference as a prohibition on all homosexual relations, but as far as I know Shoghi Effendi never wrote anything the topic of homosexuality. What we have and what is then quoted next in the same note is a Letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi.

The blog continues: “These relationships are markedly different from the homosexual relationships that we see practiced today. It is not a relationship between equals. Instead the adult male has resources, power, rank and authority and in effect ‘owns’ the younger male. He provides for the boy’s needs but expects certain reciprocation.”

book cover, Sexual Politics in Modern Iran by Janet Afary 1992, Cambridge University PressAnd then quotes:

“Nineteenth-century Iranian society did not adhere to modern definitions or sensibilities concerning same-sex relations. Although legally prohibited, homosexual sex was common, and homoerotic passion was accommodated. Falling in love with a youth and celebrating that love were recognized practices, as long as the lovers remained circumspect and observed certain conventions. Elite urban men often flouted these conventions. In the royal court and among government officials, wealthy merchants, and clerics, the practice of keeping boy concubines was widespread and commonly known; close, homosexual relations between free adult men were less often discussed or divulged, however.”

p. 104, “Sexual Politics in Modern Iran”, by Janet Afary 1992, Cambridge University Press.

And further in the blog: “Through this vice, livat [lavat], betsche bazi [bacheh bazi], is strongly rebuked in the Qur’an and can even be punishable by death, it is nevertheless today generally widespread, among the lay people, especially… officers, schoolteachers, and even clerics. It is so overt that no one makes an attempt to conceal it. In almost every house of standing there is such a boy, even many, who are there to serve this purpose. No one is reserved about introducing them publicly. Indeed, one takes pride in possessing a splendid specimen. One is especially jealous about them. They are carefully watched and protected from seduction.”
(Polak [1861] excerpt from account of the court gynecologist and obstetrician, Dr. Polak cited in “Sexual Politics in Modern Iran”1982, p.41) [Link to Baquia’s blog where there is more from this book]

Baquia then quotes the essay, Sexuality in the Aqdas by R. Jackson Armstrong-Ingram:

“It was simply taken-for-granted in Middle Eastern tradition that all men find boys sexually attractive and that men who are attracted to boys are not a ‘different’ type of men but, on the contrary, ‘normal’ men who desire intromissive ejaculation for which a boy taken in liwat is as fit as a woman taken in liwat or vaginal intercourse.

Although egalitarian relationships between pairs of adult men that involved mutual sexual activity have not been unknown in Middle Eastern societies, there was no specific term to cover such liasons before recent decades. They fell outside regular socio-cultural categories, and they were not subsumable under liwat.

If we note the widespread use of dancing boys dressed as girls for prostitution in the Middle East; and the practice of female prostitutes dressing as boys to increase their appeal to customers who would engage in either anal or vaginal intercourse with them; and remember that the customers of both the dancing boys and the travesti girls are married men: It is evident that expecting recent western terms like ‘homosexual’ and ‘heterosexual’ to be readily applicable in this socio-cultural milieu in any meaningful way is futile.
The Provisions for Sexuality in the Kitab-i-Aqdas in the Context of Late Nineteenth Century Eastern and Western Sexual Ideologies by R. Jackson Armstrong-Ingram, 1996. The underlined text is my emphasis.

Baquia’s blog continues with more details and information.

The blog then quotes from another article by R. Jackson Armstrong-Ingram.

“A remark that it is shameful to keep a catamite presumably means first and foremost that it is shameful to keep a catamite. But from specific comments we may also develop generalizations. We are likely to be aided in generalizing by an understanding of the context in which the statement was made and received. However, apart from this there are two basic directions in which we may take our generalizing. The statement may be generalized to a condemnation of a broader range of homosexual acts; or it may be generalized to a condemnation of those in a position of power exploiting their dependents for their own ends. One type of generalization operates on the basis of presumed analogies among specific outward acts and the one in the statement; the other operates on the basis of a concern for the principles that may be inferred from the statement and how these may be related to motives, responsibilities, and relationships.
The important question is which type of generalization is more likely to produce results that may support a global value system that can flourish and develop in all cultures. Is God more interested in people’s actions than their hearts? Is the road to salvation a mechanically instrumental one? Of course actions matter, but what underlies the actions must matter at least as much if we are not to espouse a materialist view of existence. And not only individual actions matter but also the broader patterns of social interaction in which these actions are situated.

Bahá’í Faith and Sexuality, by R. Jackson Armstrong-Ingram, February 1996. The underlined text is my emphasis.

Baquia finishes by noting that “we of course pay attention to the translation and interpretation of the Guardian. Juxtaposing the two may provide us with a deeper insight into the discussion of the views and attitudes of the Baha’i Faith towards homosexuality.
Similar to the line of reasoning provided by R. Jackson Armstrong-Ingram above, but with one important distinction, here is a question to ponder:
By ignoring the homosexual relationships between women, which were marked by consensual agreement between adult equals, and condemning specifically a despicable act of ritualized pederasty marked by the abuse of power and dominance of an adult over less fortunate minors, was Baha’u’llah telling us more about equality, justice and human rights than about merely a sexual act or orientation?”

About 2 weeks later I commented on 3 May 2011

SS wrote: What do you think of:
“Amongst the many other evils afflicting society in this spiritual low water mark in history, is the question of immorality, and over-emphasis of sex. Homosexuality, according to the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, is spiritually condemned. This does not mean that people so afflicted must not be helped and advised and sympathized with. It does mean that we do not believe that it is a permissible way of life; which, alas, is all too often the accepted attitude nowadays.”
(From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to an individual believer,
May 21, 1954)

Some Bahais might think to use birth control is against the teachings of the Bahai Faith because a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi states it “as constituting a real danger to the very foundations of our social life.”
(A link to the letter is here – scroll to the comments below for the full letter)

So SS if you choose to treat everything penned by a secretary writing Letters on Shoghi Effendi’s behalf, as if this is scripture to be followed to the letter, I can only assume that you might have problems with Bahais who practice some form of birth control or anything else penned in these letters. As an individual there is nothing to stop you from following the advice in these letters, unless, and this is just my own opinion, your actions contradict any Bahai Teaching.

Some Bahais interprete anything penned by a secretary as if this has the same status as Bahai Scripture so here is a link to some statements about the status of these letters.

These letters have status, but not the same as anything penned by Baha’u’llah, Abdul-Baha, or Shoghi Effendi and here is a link to some of these letters which either contradict Bahai Scripture or have inaccuracies.

As Bahais we need to learn to see these distinctions if we want our Bahai community (here Shoghi Effendi is referring specifically to our administration) to: “be conceived as an instrument and not a substitute for the Faith of Baha’u’llah, that it should be regarded as a channel through which His promised blessings may flow, that it should guard against such rigidity as would clog and fetter the liberating forces released by His Revelation.”
(Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Baha’u’llah, p. 9)

So in short Shoghi Effendi seems to be saying, let the priniciples of the Bahai Teachings guide us in our actions.

Now to the Letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi which you posted: I googled the phrase: “Homosexuality, according to the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, is spiritually condemned.” and found it is sourced all over the place, including wikipedia, bahaikipedia and so on. However nowhere have I found anything in the Baha’u’llah’s Writings to back this up. Of course I realise many of His tablets are not yet translated but my argument here is, if there is a tablet somewhere that states clearly that homosexuality is spiritually condemned, it would be sourced or a priority would have been given, so such statements in Letters Written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi would have some scriptural basis. We cannot assume that those secretaries had the power of divination to ‘know’ what was in a tablet without having read this themselves. It is not a Bahai Teaching to believe that Bahais such as those who served as secretaries had super-human powers.

But I can understand that anyone using the internet would think, well it must be somewhere in the Bahai Writings, otherwise why would this quotation often be the first thing quoted in places such as wikipedia. I would agree, I find this odd. Why does it seem to be that Bahais are so keen to damn homosexuality? Why do not more Bahais question this? Are Bahais more likely to damn homosexuality than any other individual? If you think so, then I’d say, do something about this.
Asking questions (to others or oneself) and investigating the truth are Bahai Teachings. We as individuals make what the Bahai community is in society – no people, no community. We need to do the investigating ourselves. It is our own responsibility.

Why does a religion that celebrates diversity and has equality as a teaching, have homosexuality as an exception? Where does the idea that homosexuality is bad come from? That’s my question. If it comes from those letters written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, and other issues mentioned in these letters are treated as advice for the particular individual/s it was addressed to, or not given a focus, then why are those mentioning homosexuality treated differently?

We cannot blame those letters written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi either, because it us, the Bahais, who are who treating the status of these letters differently to how other letters are being treated. Sen has written a blog which goes into some detail about the Letters written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi.

SS then asked me:
In that case, what are your views on this:

“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.”

(The Universal House of Justice: The Kitab-i-Aqdas: N 134, p. 223)

I responded on 5 May 2011:

I wrote about this on this blog some years ago and this is a direct link to the same post.

Here I show that since the notes section (the quotation you use) is penned by the U.H.J. or the Research department acting on their behalf.


“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.
Thus for example, the House of Justice enacteth today a certain law and enforceth it, and a hundred years hence, circumstances having profoundly changed and the conditions having altered, another House of Justice will then have power, according to the exigencies of the time, to alter that law.
This it can do because these laws form no part of the divine explicit Text. The House of Justice is both the initiator and the abrogator of its own laws.”

(Abdu’l-Baha, The Will and Testament, p. 20)

I give more background on this here

Baquia has also pointed out the same in earlier comments. That there is no reference to homosexuality by Baha’u’llah or Abdul-Baha. And Shoghi Effendi did not write a word on the topic either. His secretaries did.

7 May 2011 SS asked me:
In response to your comment re: the authority of letters written on behalf of the Guardian: In a postscript appended to a letter dated 7 December 1930, written on his behalf to an individual believer, Shoghi Effendi described the normal procedure he followed in dealing with correspondence written on his behalf: I wish to add and say that whatever letters are sent in my behalf from Haifa are all read and approved by me before mailing. There is no exception whatever to this rule.

Posted on 25 June 2011
[sorry, I didn’t realise that this response didn’t get sent. It has been sitting here in the queue since May]

SS, I don’t want to clog up Baquia’s blog with repeating things I’ve already written on this blog, but I realise that it is hard to find links to particular comments, so that is why I posted the link.

Here it is again.  And in particular this link discusses the quotation you mention which is also a Letter Written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, not penned by Shoghi Effendi himself.

I suggest that you look at the other letters written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi on my blog (all linked from the first link here) and if I’ve missed a letter you know of, then please do quote this, or if you disagree, or see a flaw in my argumentation, please address that here.

Surely you know the difference between ‘reading and approving’ and writing something yourself. And then when Shoghi Effendi was so clear when he was writing in his role as the Guardian. The letters have status, they needed to have status so Shoghi Effendi would not need to write them, so he could focus on his work as Guardian. But having status for the addresse is not the same as Bahai Scripture.

This is also why it doesn’t matter that these letters on his behalf contain errors and inconsistences. Their status was never intended to be treated as if they were interpretation on par with Shoghi Effendi and Shoghi Effendi set limits on his own role here as well.

I find it noteworthy that at those times when clearly Shoghi Effendi did not like the way these letters were being treated that his vehicle for expressing this was to have a secretary pen a letter. What this says to me is that he was being consistent. Using those letters for communication of another status to his role as Guardian. It seems to me, that he knew clearly the status of his writings as interpretator and so refrained from penning anything that did not fit within this framework. It would also mean that it would harder for letters penned by secretaries to become part of the canon of Bahai Scripture, but my guess is that he would operate from principle. That the principle was his role as official interpreter was not the same status or authority or role as those letters written on his behalf, often in response to a question.

Of course Shoghi Effendi did pen personal letters, and exactly what is the status of these and whether the status of all letters written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi are all the same is something that can be debated. Personally I would treat the status of these letters as being applicable to the addresse because that is has been stated.

The medium Shoghi Effendi used is part of the message.
Sen’s blog has more on this here

So my suggestion would be, if something isn’t clear, go to Bahai Scripture and if it is not there, then assume this is an area the Universal House of Justice can rule on and that a future Universal House of Justice can change.

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The Universal House of Justice membership and related topics

May 1, 2010
Detail of the "Chronological Membership of the Universal House of Justice" from www.bahairants.com

Detail of a graph at the bottom of Baquia’s blog: Universal House of Justice: Results of By-Election

Bahai Rants” began in December 2004 and I wrote a summary about the Bahai Rants blog here.

In March 2010 Baquia wrote a blog in response to two new members being elected to the Universal House of Justice and noted that both had been previously members of the International Teaching Centre, to which they had been appointed to by the UHJ itself.
B’s statement:
“The most important trend is that we have, since 2008, a membership drawn completely from the ITC – which itself is appointed by the Universal House of Justice. So in essence, there is a closed loop with the UHJ appointing its future candidates”
is supported by a graph showing the history of the membership of the Universal House of Justice, a detail of which is above. The orange sections indicate the individuals who were previously members of the ITC.

Below are a few of my comments that I posted on Bahai rants. Each post has a link back to its location on Bahai rants, should you wish to read the other responses surrounding this and you can make your response there.
Responses here are moderated, mainly for practical reasons: I couldn’t cope the traffic that the Bahai Rants blog has. Also my purpose on the blog 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. 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.

Sonja’s comment posted on 2 April 2010
So L, I’m one of “the rest of the Bahais” [you refer to] and I’m all for nuance, diversity, open debate, change, and going to the source of the Writings (as much as is possible and in ways which will always involve flexibility and change) till the day I drop.

In a nutshell, what I think we lost with not having the guardianship, is flexibility. Look at Shoghi Effendi’s own writings, how one of his main missions seemed to be to limit and to spread power.
Getting back Baquia’s original blog here, I think one of the problems of the elected becoming more and more, it seems, a consequence of being appointed is a loss of flexibility that comes with new blood and differing views. Locally, what is happening is that now individuals appointed by the NSA or by cluster things or by the Ruhi system, are managing things where previously elected bodies such as the LSAs did this. I haven’t done my homework on this, so it would be good hear from others of their experiences on this change from the elected to the appointed at local community levels.

And finally, when the first UHJ was to be elected, the Hands of the Cause (who had been appointed) informed everyone that they were not eligible for election, thus keeping in the spirit of openenss and new blood. The UHJ could easily announce that members of the ITC cannot be elected onto the UHJ if they wanted to. It could help keep a balance of the appointed and the elected distinctive. A feature I think Abdul-Baha and Shoghi Effendi intended.

Sonja’s comment posted on 4 April 2010
I wrote: “The UHJ could easily announce that members of the ITC cannot be elected onto the UHJ if they wanted to. It could help keep a balance of the appointed and the elected distinctive.
A feature I think Abdul-Baha and Shoghi Effendi intended.”

L wrote: “Interesting idea could you support it?”

My response: The differences between the appointed and elected institutions, and ways they complement each other, have been worked out in many UHJ messages, but they derive ultimately from the fact the Will and Testament refers to both the Guardianship and the Hands (appointed), and the Houses of Justice (elected). That already indicated a complementary relationship with different roles, which Shoghi Effendi then detailed in his World Order letters.
For example:
“It must be also clearly understood by every believer that the institution of Guardianship does not under any circumstances abrogate, or even in the slightest degree detract from, the powers granted to the Universal House of Justice by Bahá’u’lláh in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, and repeatedly and solemnly confirmed by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in His Will. It does not constitute in any manner a contradiction to the Will and Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, nor does it nullify any of His revealed instructions. It enhances the prestige of that exalted assembly, stabilizes its supreme position, safeguards its unity, assures the continuity of its labors, without presuming in the slightest to infringe upon the inviolability of its clearly-defined sphere of jurisdiction.”
(Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Baha’u’llah, p. 8 )

“An attempt, I feel, should at the present juncture be made to explain the character and functions of the twin pillars that support this mighty Administrative Structure — the institutions of the Guardianship and of the Universal House of Justice. … these twin institutions of the Administrative Order of Bahá’u’lláh should be regarded as divine in origin, essential in their functions and complementary in their aim and purpose. Their common, their fundamental object is to insure the continuity of that divinely-appointed authority which flows from the Source of our Faith, to safeguard the unity of its followers and to maintain the integrity and flexibility of its teachings. Acting in conjunction with each other these two inseparable institutions administer its affairs, coordinate its activities, promote its interests, execute its laws and defend its subsidiary institutions. Severally, each operates within a clearly defined sphere of jurisdiction; each is equipped with its own attendant institutions — instruments designed for the effective discharge of its particular responsibilities and duties. Each exercises, within the limitations imposed upon it, its powers, its authority, its rights and prerogatives. These are neither contradictory, nor detract in the slightest degree from the position which each of these institutions occupies. Far from being incompatible or mutually destructive, they supplement each other’s authority and functions, and are permanently and fundamentally united in their aims…. ”
(Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Baha’u’llah, p. 147-8 )


and lots more, see
http://reference.bahai.org/en/t/se/WOB/wob-40.html


L then wrote: “if the master was against the appointed serving on the UJH why did he make the Guardian (an appointed person) a life time member of the UHJ? it seems that he had no problem with a member of the appointed serving on the UHJ. and none of the experts provided suggest otherwise. Im sorry but no where do they say that the appointed should not be elected to the UHJ in these quotes provided. Could you post some that do please?”

my response: I was explaining the principle of having the elected and the appointed as “twin pillars that support this mighty Administrative Structure” (Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Baha’u’llah, p. 8 ) and in support of this principle, I gave the example of how the Hands of Cause chose not to make themselves available for election to the UHJ. I saw their action as meaning, they saw the need for new blood as a good thing. Perhaps they even thought that being appointed and in the public positions each of them had, that unless they did this, they would have been elected to the UHJ?
Of course, I have no idea what their motive was, all I am saying is that they did this and my suggestion is that if the members of the ITC chose to do this, this would help maintain this principle of having the elected and the appointed as complimentary aspects of the Bahai administration.

L: the source for this is:
“The Hands of the Cause in their message of November 4, 1961, referred to the election of the Universal House of Justice in these terms:
“That all male voting members throughout the Bahá’í world are eligible for election to the Universal House of Justice. The Hands do not limit the freedom of the electors. However, as they have been given the explicit duties of guarding over the security and ensuring the propagation of the Faith, they ask the electors of the House of Justice to leave them free at this time to discharge their duties. When that Supreme and Infallible Body has been elected, it will decide on all matters concerning its own membership.”

(Custodians, Ministry of the Custodians, p. 392)

At the moment what is happening at the highest level of the Bahai administration is that individuals are being appointed by the UHJ to the ITC, and then the males of the ITC are being elected to UHJ. The issue is that membership of the UHJ has become a result of the UHJ chosen appointments. Given that membership on the UHJ is a matter of just 9 members, my suggestion is: if the UHJ decided to make ITC members ineligible or if members of the ITC chose to make themselves ineligible, then surely there are plenty of other males perfectly suitable to serve on the UHJ. That’s my suggestion based on the above thinking. I am not suggesting it is bad to have appointed members of the ITC move to the UHJ, but when since 2008 (see Baquia’s graph) ALL NINE members of the UHJ come from the ITC, then it indicates that the electoral process is not bringing in any new blood. Here’s just one of the many quotations in the Bahai writings on the importance of new blood.

“Upon the local Assemblies, whose special function and high privilege is to facilitate the admission of new believers into the community, and thereby stimulate the infusion of fresh blood into its organic institutions,…”

(Shoghi Effendi, January 30, 1938, Messages to America, p. 11)

Sonja’s comment posted on 5 April 2010
in response to:
Surly you must have some excerpt that supports your claim that Abdul-Baha and Shoghi Effendi did not intend for members of the appointed to serve on the UHJ

L: Please read my posts more carefully, I wrote:
“It could help keep a balance of the appointed and the elected distinctive.
A feature I think Abdul-Baha and Shoghi Effendi intended.”

The second sentence refers to the former sentence, a balance. The point of my responses has been to see how the principle of this balance could work better.

re: your idea that the Guardian was intended to be a member of the UHJ:
Abdu’l-Baha wrote in the Will and Testament:
“By this body [the UHJ] all the difficult problems are to be resolved and the Guardian of the Cause of God is its sacred head and the distinguished member for life of that body. Should he not attend in person its deliberations, he must appoint one to represent him.”
(Abdu’l-Baha, The Will and Testament, p. 14)

From this we can see that the Guardian is not eligible for election (he is appointed), and that he is not just a member of the UHJ, since he can appoint someone else to represent him. It is not stated that the Guardian does not have a vote on the UHJ, but this is implied, first because nothing is said about whether the Guardian’s representative would have a vote, and second because that would mean there are ten votes rather than nine, which would be allow for the possibility of a 5-5 split. I’d say that it’s unlikely that Abdu’l-Baha would discard the symbolism of 9, and raise the possibility of a hung vote, by making the UHJ a ten-member body.

Instead it seems, in preserving this principle of the distinctions of the elected and appointed, the Guardian or his representative who could have been a woman, would not be a member of the UHJ but rather that s/he sat at meetings and participated, and most likely did not have a say in the final decisions that would be made.