Archive for the ‘Bahairants’ Category

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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 principle of ‘mutatis mutandis’

June 10, 2010

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

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

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


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

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

(link to his paper on Scribd)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Persian Bayan, wahid 8 section 15

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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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.

h1

Mainly about Homosexuality…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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