Archive for the ‘Gay Pride’ Category

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Mormons build bridges, should Bahais march in a Pride March as a group?

June 11, 2012

A friend of mine asked on a Bahai discussion group on Facebook:
“Can we ever envision a local Baha’i Community that would reach out with such a visible expression of love and inclusion to the LGBT community as this Salt Lake City Mormon group did by marching in the gay pride parade?”

First a few facts about a gay Pride March:

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.

Gay Pride, LGBT Pride or simply Pride is the positive stance against discrimination and violence toward lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people to promote their self-affirmation, increase their visibility as a social group, build community, and celebrate sexual diversity and gender variance. Pride, as opposed to shame and social stigma, is the predominant outlook that bolsters most LGBT rights movements throughout the world. What’s more, Pride has become synonymous with LGBT-themed organizations, institutes, foundations, book titles, periodicals, a library and even a cable TV station.

Stonewall Inn, NYC, in 1969

The Stonewall Inn, taken September 1969. The sign in the window reads: “We homosexuals plead with our people to please help maintain peaceful and quiet conduct on the streets of the Village—Mattachine”. (The Mattachine Society,
founded in 1950)

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stonewall_riots

Ranging from solemn to carnivalesque, Pride events are typically held during LGBT Pride Month or some other time that commemorates a turning point in a country’s LGBT history, for example Moscow Pride in May for the anniversary of Russia’s 1993 decriminalization of homosexuality. Some types of Pride events include LGBT Pride parades and marches, rallies, commemorations, community days, dance parties, and large festivals such as Sydney Mardi Gras, which spans several weeks.

Summarized from Wikipedia, accessed 9 June 2012.

The same page on wikipedia was some history about the extreme repression of LGBT individuals in the U.S. during the 1950s and 1960s including the “Stonewall riots” in New York in 1969 when for the first time in the U.S. people stood up against the persecution of LGBT people by the police. In response to this social and legal oppression, a number of groups coordinated some of the earliest demonstrations of the modern LGBT rights movement. These “Annual Reminders” were to inform and remind Americans that LGBT people did not enjoy basic civil rights protection.

Here in the Netherlands the Amsterdam Gay Pride is a celebration of gay culture, pure and simple, and so there are no demonstrations or protests. “Roze Zaterdag” (Pink Saturday: the last Saturday in June) is a day for solarity and demonstration for equality and is celebrated in a different city each year. It began in 1979 in response to a Roman Catholic bishop’s pronouncement against homosexuality and was called Pink Saturday in response to the Roman Catholic uses of the terms White Thursday and Good Friday.

Frank Kameny (81 years)
Photo by Todd Franson, 2006.
http://www.metroweekly.com/feature/?ak=2341

The anti-LGBT discourse of these times equated both male and female homosexuality with mental illness. Inspired by Stokely Carmichael’s “Black is Beautiful”, Frank Kameny, Gay civil rights pioneer and participant in the Annual Reminders, originated the slogan “Gay is Good” in 1968 to counter social stigma and personal feelings of guilt and shame.

“As one of the first gay Americans to refuse — very publicly — to be ashamed of his sexual orientation, Kameny has played a monumental role in changing the playing field in favor of gay people. Years before Stonewall, he was picketing in front of the White House.
In 1971, he ran as an openly gay candidate for D.C.’s non-voting seat in Congress. He may not have won the election, but he raised the visibility of gay people immeasurably. He coined the phrase ”Gay is Good” in 1968, when the distance between homosexuality and shame was a very short trip.”
Metro Weekly, 5 October, 2006

http://www.metroweekly.com/feature/?ak=2341

So back to the discussion on Facebook: a queer Bahai wrote:
“Pride parades can serve many purposes, depending on the locale, including: raising awareness of the existence of LGBTQ people, celebrating the culture and contributions of the LGBTQ community, showing support for LGBTQ people (and opposition to hate and discrimination), etc. Pride parades often include contingents from supportive churches/religious groups and social justice organizations. If you’ve never been to a Pride parade, I’d encourage you to check one out.”

and in response to another Bahai stating “Please keep matters of your sexuality in your bedroom because no one cares. It adds no value and it is completely pointless.”

she responded with:
“No one is talking about “homosexuality as an action” in this thread. This discussion is about whether or not large numbers of Baha’is will ever stand up for their LGBTQ brothers and sisters the way this group of Mormons has. As a queer Baha’i, I found this video both heart-warming and heart-breaking. It’s incredible to see so many Mormons (who don’t have a great reputation with regard to LGBTQ folks) standing in support, but disappointing to realize I’m not likely to see a Baha’i contingent in my local Pride parade anytime soon.”

I can imagine that a group of Bahais -could- participate in a pride march, showing Bahai support for equal rights and even marriage rights for gays – but not that they would represent any particular Bahai community because of the need to keep politics and religion distinct.

In a talk Abdu´l-Baha gave in London on 3 October 1911, for which there are Persian notes making this authentically Baha’i Scripture, he said:
“The ninth [teaching of Baha’u’llah]: religion is separated from politics: religion does not enter into political matters, in fact, it is linked with the hearts, not with the world of bodies. The leaders of religion should devote themselves to teaching and training the souls and propagating good morals, and they should not enter into political matters.”
(Translation by Sen McGlinn)
senmcglinn.wordpress.com/2010/10/27/eleven-essentials-the-bahai-principles-as-taught-by-abdul-baha-in-london/#09

So there would be nothing wrong with a group of Bahais showing support as a visible group at a Pride March. To quote a 2010 letter from the U.H.J.

“…With respect to your question concerning the position Baha’is are to take regarding homosexuality and civil rights, we have been asked to convey the following.
The purpose of the Faith of Baha’u’llah is the realization of the organic unity of the entire human race, and Baha’is are enjoined to eliminate from their lives all forms of prejudice and to manifest respect towards all. Therefore, to regard those with a homosexual orientation with prejudice or disdain would be against the spirit of the Faith. Furthermore, a Baha’i is exhorted to be “an upholder and defender of the victim of oppression”, and it would be entirely appropriate for a believer to come to the defense of those whose fundamental rights are being denied or violated.”
(Link to the letter cited in a message from the N.S.A. of the U.S.A.)

And so it would be entirely appropriate for a group of Bahais to support equal marriage rights for gays.

It would be nice if one day Bahais in general (as a rule rather than as exception) would see it as natural to support causes and events for human rights publically, but so far we only see Bahais doing this in a visible manner in connection with the plight of the Bahais in Iran and sporadically in connection with racial equality. I am not saying that LSAs or the Bahai administration should be involved in such things. In fact I think they should not be organizing such things.

“The signature of that meeting should be the Spiritual Gathering (House of Spirituality) and the wisdom therein is that hereafter the government should not infer from the term “House of Justice” that a court is signified, that it is connected with political affairs, or that at any time it will interfere with governmental affairs.
Tablets of Abdu´l-Baha Abbas vol. 1, page 5

But my impression is that most Bahais think they cannot participate in events unless the Bahai administration endorses or initiates this. So first we need a culture where Bahais behave more freely before we could have a group such as these Mormons. Also if Bahais behave more freely, then in the public eye, this will be seen as diversity and individual freedom of expression and not as representing collective positions. No one would think for a moment that these Mormons represent the Mormon church: Bahais need to act likewise. If we don’t, then we show the world that the Bahai Faith does not have room for freedom of expression.

We have the unfortunate incident of a Bahai who rightly or wrongly was seen as a Bahai representative in the “Interfaith Rainbow Coalition Against Homosexualitythat resulted in associating the name of the Bahai community with anti-gay demonstrations in Uganda in newspapers around the world. So to counter this impression that the Bahai community is anti-gay, I’d say that it would be a very good idea to have Bahais do as these Mormons did. To make a public show of support for gay rights. It doesn’t mean that all Bahais in that community would agree that it would be a good thing to show this support, but it shows that this community is flexible enough not to object to a diversity of actions by its members. Again let me stress, these Bahais would present themselves as the Mormons did in the Youtube clip, as Bahais in a certain community but not as representing that community. If such a group of Bahais carried signs stating “humanity is one” or “We are all leaves of the same tree” and so on, I do not see how any Bahai could object given that the Bahai teachings are against all forms of prejudice.

However a number of voices in this Facebook discussion suggested that this would be impossible because it could seen as supporting homosexual behaviour (whatever “behaviour” means to those people). So I think that the comment “clearly the part we all agree on is that discrimination against LBGT folks must end” is too optimistic.

When Bahais refer to ‘behaviour’ what they often mean is visibility. Being seen as being gay. And this has nothing to do with morality or sex. Bahais are free to say that they think being gay is wrong, but to tell other Bahais that being gay is wrong as if this is a Bahai Teaching when it is not, is a hurdle that has be faced. However change (yes, I am advocating change — a change from the image the world has, that the Bahai community is anti-gay, to one in which the community is seen as coming to the “defense of those whose fundamental rights are being denied or violated”) happens in diverse ways: by discussions such as the one on Facebook, so that perhaps Bahais who normally would object loudly to discovering that there are Bahais who support equal rights for gays can move on to accept that it is possible for Bahais to follow the Covenant and yet have views that they would never consider for themselves, and also by Bahais biting the bullet and getting out there to show the world that there are Bahais who celebrate and value LGBT voices and contributions.

A Bahai wrote: “I’m not trying to make anyone feel guilty or seeking any special attention. I, like DD, am wondering if the Baha’i community will ever join the ranks of the churches that make a visible show of support for LGBTQ folks (who are subject to much hatred and discrimination) by participating in a Pride parade.”

Another Bahai posted: “The friends must, at all times, bear in mind that they are, in a way, like soldiers. The world is at present in an exceedingly dark condition spiritually; hatred and prejudice, of every sort, are literally tearing it to pieces. We, on the other hand, are the custodians of the opposite forces, the forces of love, of unity, of peace and integration, and we must constantly be on our guard, whether as individuals or as an Assembly or Community, lest through us these destructive, negative forces enter into our midst. In other words, we must beware lest the darkness of society become reflected in our acts and attitudes, perhaps all unconsciously. Love for each other, the deep sense that we are a new organism, the dawn-breakers of a New World Order, must constantly animate our Bahá’í lives, and we must pray to be protected from the contamination of society which is so diseased with prejudice.”

(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to the Spiritual Assembly of Atlanta, February 5, 1947. Page 406, Lights of Guidance, complied by Helen Hornsby.
Note: A Letter Written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi is not Bahai Scripture.
See this link for what is Bahai Scripture,
or about the authority of Letters Written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi. The letter above was printed underneath this heading made by the author of the book: “We Must Pray to be Protected from the Contamination of Society“)

A Bahai responded with:
“I think, that we may be coming to this conversation with a different understanding of what that “darkness” is. When I read the letter you just posted, I hear a very clear message that we are to shield ourselves from hatred and prejudice. These are the flaws of society. While some folks (including Baha’is) may engage in behaviors that are not permitted under Baha’i law (such as alcohol consumption and extra marital sex), this is not the “darkness of society” that is tearing the world apart. Rather, when we judge others for their differences (in action or opinion), we are contributing to the darkness of discrimination.”

And just before the administrators deleted the whole thread a Bahai wrote: “This is, in their own words, why the Mormons were marching: ‘Each step we take will be an outward demonstration of our commitment to loving our neighbors. We are marching for the values of empathy and compassion that the Mormon faith teaches. Recognizing that silence (though coupled with good intentions) may leave some LGBT individuals to seriously question their self-worth in their homes, congregations, and before God, we are marching to save lives.’ What a beautiful expression of love and compassion, which should not be so difficult for Baha’is to match.”

This is not the first time a discussion on a Bahai list I’ve participated in, related to the topic of homosexuality, has been shut down (here is one from 2010), and in fact the very reason I started this blog was in response to being removed from a Dutch Bahai discussion list because of my own views on the topic of homosexuality. I am sharing a few of the thoughts expressed in this deleted Facebook discussion here because one of the biggest problems in the Bahai community still seems to be a fear of discussing gay visibility. Once we get past that hurdle, I hope we do see a Bahai visibility at Pride events, just as I hope to see a Bahai presence at any event in support of human rights. Perhaps in getting more comfortable in being with, and expressing support for, a group which has been the focus of so much bias and hatred, Bahais might realise that they are free to publically express support for events and causes they know other Baha’is in their own community might not choose to support. I’d call these diverse responses: “unity in diversity.”

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Mainly about Homosexuality…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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