Archive for the ‘law of the land’ Category

h1

What does Baha’i Scripture say about homosexuality?

November 11, 2014

Nothing. For Baha’is, Baha’i Scripture is everything penned by The Bab and Baha’u’llah, and the interpretations by Baha’u’llah’s son ‘Abdul-Baha, and where Shoghi Effendi (‘Abdul-Baha’s grandson) wrote in his capacity as official interpreter of Baha’i Scripture. It is a source of pride for many Baha’is to be able to state that we have authoritative scripture. That is to have access to the actual texts (or accurate translations of texts) as the sources for Baha’i Scripture.
“Unity of doctrine is maintained by the existence of the authentic texts of Scripture and the voluminous interpretations of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and Shoghi Effendi, together with the absolute prohibition against anyone propounding “authoritative” or “inspired” interpretations or usurping the function of Guardian. Unity of administration is assured by the authority of the Universal House of Justice.”
Universal House of Justice, to the National Spiritual Assembly of the Netherlands, March 9, 1965: Wellspring of Guidance, pp. 52-53

The only mention of homosexuality in authoritative Bahai text (not Scripture) is in five letters written by secretaries on behalf of Shoghi Effendi penned between 1949 and 1955.
The authority of these letters is unclear. It seems clear that they were intended as advice for the addressee but the authority of this advice is not clear:
“The exact status which Shoghi Effendi has intended the friends to give to those communications he sends to individual believers is explained in the following statement written through his secretary to the National Assembly on November 16, 1932:
“As regards Shoghi Effendi’s letters to the individual Bahá’ís, he is always very careful not to contradict himself. He has also said that whenever he has something of importance to say, he invariably communicates it to the National Spiritual Assembly or in his general letters. His personal letters to individual friends are only for their personal benefit and even though he does not want to forbid their publication, he does not wish them to be used too much by the Bahá’í News. Only letters with special significance should be published there.”

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

However it is clear that Shoghi Effendi did not wish the status of these letters penned by secretaries to be confused with the authority of his own writing nor that of Bahai Scripture.
“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.”
Letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, 25 February 1951 in The Unfolding Destiny of the British Baha’i Community, p. 260)

However if you do a search on the internet you will find Bahais stating that it is a Bahai Teaching that homosexuality is forbidden and many Bahais have told me that Baha’u’llah forbids homosexuality. If Baha’u’llah had written on the topic of homosexuality we would have access to this by now. I think it is a stroke of genius by Shoghi Effendi to have secretaries pen these letters so there can be no confusion with anything he penned himself. Shoghi Effendi also stated that not everything he penned [footnote 1] is to be considered as authoritative on a par with Bahai Scripture, but given that he did not write on the topic of homosexuality there’s no need here to discuss what should be considered part of the canon of Bahai Scripture.
So if homosexuality is not mentioned in Bahai Scripture why do so many Bahais think it is? Prejudice against homosexuality has been around for a long time so that’s one reason. Another is that in 1983 the compilation book “Lights of Guidance” was published. It is a valuable source of quotations however, unfortunately, the author doesn’t make distinctions between what is Bahai Scripture and what isn’t, and she presents the Bahai Teachings as list of rules. If this book is used as a way to locate sources, all good and fine. I use it myself in this manner. But if it is used as a book of rules… well see screenshot below.

Screenshot from a page in the 1983 book,
Lights of Guidance, edited by Helen Hornsby.

Detail of one of the index pages in Lights of Guidance

Below I have noted the sources
1221. Letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, 1954
1222. Jan 12, 1973 letter from the Universal House of Justice.
1223. Letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, 1950
1224. refers to Baha’ullah’s reference to ‘boys’ (paederestry) + the notes added by the Universal House of Justice
1225. March 14, 1973 letter from the Universal House of Justice.
1226 + 1227. January 9, 1977 letter from the Universal House of Justice.
1228. July 16, 1980 letter from the Universal House of Justice.
1229. July 16, 1982 letter from the Universal House of Justice.
1230. Letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, 1955

Link to this index page on the Bahai Library

You will note only 3 of the sources refer to letters on behalf of Shoghi Effendi and all the others refer to policy of the Universal House of Justice. Since 2010 the Universal House of Justice no longer refers to homosexuality as a condition that needs curing or to be overcome and instead urges the Bahais to stand up for the rights of gays and lesbians. Therefore, I will only focus on the letters written behalf of Shoghi Effendi.

In the Bahai Faith we have two sources of authority. One is Bahai Scripture and the other is the authority of the Bahai Administration, headed by the 9-member Universal House of Justice.
‘Abdul-Baha made it clear that the Universal House of Justice was free to make and change its own policy and that in fact this flexibility to change policy is important. “(S)ubsidiary laws are left to the House of Justice. The wisdom of this is that the times never remain the same, for change is a necessary quality and an essential attribute of this world, and of time and place.”, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, “Rahíq-i-Makhtúm” vol. I, pp. 302-4; “Bahá’í News” 426 (September 1966), p. 2; cited in “Wellspring of Guidance” pp. 84-6 [footnote 2]

There is also a 4th letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi in the same book. These 4 letters have been repeated so often that it seems as if there are more, so I thought it was time to have these letters listed together with as much context as I can find for easy reference. There is a 5th letter too but I’ll come to this.

In the column on the right is the context for the 1953 letter which is below. I have inserted white spaces between each point so it is easier to read. The original flows as one text.

Clearly the tone of the whole letter is one of giving information and advice and not that of setting down Bahai law and definitely not a letter that could or should be confused with the status of Bahai Scripture.

There is a world of difference in meaning between how the text is presented on the right and how it is presented in the book Lights of Guidance which I have copied below. In the book, the editor has added the title.

“185. Homosexual Acts Condemned by Bahá’u’lláh”

“Regarding the question you asked him about one of the believers who seems to be flagrantly a homosexual–although to a certain extent we must be forbearing in the matter of people’s moral conduct because of the terrible deterioration in society in general, this does not mean that we can put up indefinitely with conduct which is disgracing the Cause. This person should have it brought to his attention that such acts are condemned by Bahá’u’lláh, and that he must mend his ways, if necessary consult doctors, and make efforts to overcome this affliction, which is corruptive for him and bad for the Cause. If after a period of probation you do not see an improvement, he should have his voting rights taken away. The Guardian does not think, however, that a Bahá’í body should take it upon itself to denounce him to the Authorities unless his conduct borders on insanity.”

(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to the National Spiritual Assembly of Canada: Messages to Canada, p. 39)

Haifa, Israel,
June 20, 1953.

National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of Canada.

Your letters … have been received by the beloved Guardian, and he has instructed me to answer you on his behalf.
He regrets very much the delay in answering your letters. Unfortunately he has had to delay in replying to all national bodies during the last year, because of the pressure of work here, which has steadily increased during this Holy Year.

ACQUISITION OF NATIONAL HEADQUARTERS AND SHRINE
The purchase of your national headquarters, he feels, was an important milestone in the history of the Faith in Canada, and he hopes that it will be put to good use, during the coming years, by your Assembly. To this institution you will soon be adding the Maxwell Home+E18 in Montreal, which should be viewed in the nature of a national shrine, because of its association with the beloved Master, during His visit to Montreal. He sees no objection to having one room in the house being used as a little museum associated with Mr. and Mrs. Maxwell.
He was most happy to hear that all of your goals were achieved. This augurs well for the future of your activities, especially during the Ten Year

Plan just launched. He wishes through your body to thank all the pioneers, teachers and Bahá’ís who helped achieve this great victory. They have every reason to feel proud of themselves, and grateful to Bahá’u’lláh. Undoubtedly His divine assistance, combined with their determination and faith, enabled them to fulfill their objectives.

He was very happy to know that Charlottetown not only achieved Assembly status, but that the believers there are mostly self-supporting, as this is a sound basis for the expansion of the work in any place, especially in such a difficult one.
The Bahá’í Exhibit held at the Canadian National Exhibition was an excellent means of obtaining publicity. He hopes that advantage will be taken of similar opportunities in the future.

He urges your assembly to press for recognition of the Bahá’í marriage in Ontario, and, gradually, where the Cause is strong enough, in other Provinces.
Regarding the question you asked him about one of the believers who seems to be flagrantly a homosexual–although to a certain extent we must be forbearing in the matter of people’s moral conduct because of the terrible deterioration in society in general, this does not mean that we can put up indefinitely with conduct which is disgracing the Cause. This person should have it brought to his attention that such acts are condemned by Bahá’u’lláh, and that he must mend his ways, if necessary consult doctors, and make efforts to overcome this affliction, which is corruptive for him and bad for the Cause. If after a period of probation you do not see an improvement, he should have his voting rights taken away. The Guardian does not think, however, that a Bahá’í body should take it upon itself to denounce him to the Authorities unless his conduct borders on insanity.
The Guardian attaches the greatest importance, during this opening year of the Ten Year Campaign, to settling the virgin areas with pioneers. He has informed, or is informing, the other National Assemblies that there is no reason why believers from one country should not fill the goals in other countries. In other words, Canada should receive foreign pioneers for her goals, who would operate under her jurisdiction; likewise, Canadians could go forth and pioneer in other countries’ goal territories if the way opened for them to do so. Naturally, they must feel their first responsibility should be toward the Canadian part of the Plan, as they are Canadians, but sometimes health, business openings or family connections might take people into other goal countries.

He realizes that the objectives in the far north are perhaps the hardest. On the other hand, the harder the task, the more glorious the victory.
You may be sure that he is praying for your success, and, what is more, he is confident that this young, virile Canadian Community can and will succeed in carrying out its share of the World Spiritual Crusade, so vast and challenging, upon which we are now launched.

With warmest Bahá’í love,
R. RABBANI.

Below is the context for the letter which was given the title “1223. Through Advice, Help of Doctors, and Prayer, Can Overcome This Handicap ” in Lights of Guidance.

Mar 1950 letter with response

The letter was written by an American who was serving as a member of the National Spiritual Assembly at the time the letter was written.

Do note that below the letter penned by the secretary, Ruhiyyih Khanum, Shoghi Effendi’s own note is a note of encouragement while making no reference to the content of the letter itself.

In Lights of Guidance the excerpt from following letter, shown below in full, was given the title: “1221. Acts of Immorality” by Helen Hornsby. Read the letter yourself and see that such a title is an accurate reflection of the tone of this letter.

21 May 1954
To an individual believer
Dear Bahá’í Sister:
Your letter of April 19th has been received by the beloved Guardian, and he has instructed me to answer you on his behalf.
He is very happy to have this opportunity of welcoming you personally into the service of our Faith; and hopes that, both in your professional career as a social worker, and in your life as a Bahá’í, you will be able to help many needy and troubled souls.
Amongst the many other evils afflicting society in this spiritual low water mark in history, is the question of immorality, and overemphasis 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 it is a permissible way of life; which, alas, is all too often the accepted attitude nowadays.
We must struggle against the evils in society by spiritual means, and medical and social ones as well. We must be tolerant but uncompromising, understanding but immovable in our point of view.
The thing people need to meet this type of trouble, as well as every other type, is greater spiritual understanding and stability; and of course we Bahá’ís believe that ultimately this can only be given to mankind through the Teachings of the Manifestation of God for this Day.
He will pray that you may be successful in your services to mankind as a Bahá’í.
With kind regards,
R. Rabbani
[From the Guardian:]
Assuring you of my loving prayers for your success and spiritual advancement,
Your true brother,
Shoghi

[The above letter is online here]

For the following letter I have only been able to find the excerpt as it is recorded in Lights of Guidance.

“The question of how to deal with homosexuals is a very difficult one. Homosexuality is forbidden in the Bahá’í Faith by Bahá’u’lláh; so, for that matter, are immorality and adultery. If one is going to start imposing heavy sanctions on people who are the victims of this abnormality, however repulsive it may be to others, then it is only fair to impose equally heavy sanctions on any Bahá’ís who step beyond the moral limits defined by Bahá’u’lláh. Obviously at the present time this would create an impossible and ridiculous situation.
He feels, therefore, that, through loving advice, through repeated warnings, any friends who are flagrantly immoral should be assisted, and, if possible, restrained. If their activities overstep all bounds and become a matter of public scandal, then the Assembly can consider depriving them of their voting rights. However, he does not advise this course of action and feels that it should only be resorted to in very flagrant cases.”
From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States, August 20, 1955; cited in Lights of Guidance, #1230, p. 367-368.

You might note that the latest letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi on the topic of homosexuality stresses tolerance and to only to take action in exceptional cases. In Lights of Guidance, the title given to this letter, “Homosexuality, Immorality and Adultery Are Forbidden in the Faith” misses what appears to be the main point: tolerance and the possibility of the loss of voting rights in extreme cases where it could or would be a matter of public scandal. Bahais could understandably read the title “Homosexuality, Immorality and Adultery Are Forbidden in the Faith” and interpret the title as a Baha’i law.

If anyone has more context for this letter or any of these letters please let me know. Indicate with the word “private” if you do not wish your response to me to be made public. I will then cut and paste your comment so you can remain anonymous.

I found reference to a 5th letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi in a 1993 compilation published by the Universal House of Justice, and unfortunately the excerpt is so short so I have no idea of the context. Here is the excerpt: “Bahá’u’lláh has spoken very strongly against this shameful sexual aberration, as He has against adultery and immoral conduct in general. We must try and help the soul to overcome them.” 25 October 1949

In the Kitab-i-Aqdas Baha’u’llah refers to shame – “We shrink, for very shame, from treating of the subject of boys.” Perhaps in the 1949 it was a common assumption among Baha’is to think this referred to homosexuality? It refers to a practice of the time, in parts of the Middle East, for a man to take a younger male as a form of sex slave. The word Baha’u’llah uses can also mean slave. [footnote 3]
However, it seems to me that the reference to adultery and immoral conduct in the excerpt indicates that the secretary who penned this letter is thinking of the quotation by Baha’u’llah where he mentions liwat and not homosexuality. See my blog where I look at the original text by Baha’u’llah

Until 2010, when the Universal House of Justice wrote “to regard those with a homosexual orientation with prejudice or disdain would be against the spirit of the Faith,” [Footnote 4] letters from the Universal House of Justice referred to homosexuality as “an aberration subject to treatment” (22 March 1987) or “ “abnormality, handicap, affliction, problem, etc.”… the House of Justice feels that just such words can be a great help to the individuals concerned.” (16 March 1992) [Footnote 5]. Searching on the internet will show that Baha’is still prefer to refer to this earlier policy.
In the same 2010 policy the Universal House of Justice wrote “The Baha’i Writings state that marriage is a union between a man and a woman and that sexual relations are restricted to a couple who are married to each other. Other passages from the Writings state that the practice of homosexuality is not permitted.”
The Universal House of Justice does not have the authority to interpret Baha’i Scripture, that is to say what the Bahai Scriptures mean, so in my view, the way to read this statement is that this understanding underlies their policy. Their understanding and their policy can change. I am not suggesting that I know whether, or how, the Universal House of Justice may change its policy on Bahai marriage and I see the wisdom in not issuing any statement until Baha’i communities around the world have ceased to associate homosexuality with ideas such as handicap or affliction. But this poses a catch 22 for gay Bahais, unless their local community takes an approach of tolerance or that their local or national assembly provides an exemption should a Bahai choose a civil wedding ceremony because a Bahai one is not possible. It also poses a problem for the local Bahai community if the law of their country considers this discrimination. My next blog will consider the principles that apply if a married same sex couple wish to join the community. For me personally, being part of a community where members appear to believe there is anything wrong with homosexuality is a problem in itself. I believe such displays of discrimination do not fit with the Bahai concept of “unity in diversity,” and this dissonance is what forces me to write on this topic.


Notes

1. In a 1974 letter from the Universal House of Justice, the House refers to two letters written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, the 1944 one (sorry I have no further information about the dating of this letter) states: “The infallibility of the Guardian is confined to matters which are related strictly to the Cause and interpretation of the teachings; he is not an infallible authority on other subjects, such as economics, science, etc. When he feels that a certain thing is essential for the protection of the Cause, even if it is something that affects a person personally, he must be obeyed, but when he gives advice, such as that he gave you in a previous letter about your future, it is not binding; you are free to follow it or not as you please.”
An undated Letter on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, Directives from the Guardian, published in 1973, p. 88

The 25 July 1974 Universal House of Justice letter which has a shorter excerpt dates this was being 1944 (Read it online here)
I realise that a letter on behalf of Shoghi Effendi has a lesser status than anything penned by Shoghi Effendi himself. When I find a suitable text penned by Shoghi Effendi I will add it here.

2. In his text, “The World Order of Baha’u’llah” under the heading: ‘A Living Organism,’ Shoghi Effendi explains why it is important that the Universal House of Justice is free to change its own policy.
“…the machinery of the Cause has been so fashioned, that whatever is deemed necessary to incorporate into it in order to keep it in the forefront of all progressive movements, can, according to the provisions made by Bahá’u’lláh, be safely embodied therein. To this testify the words of Bahá’u’lláh, as recorded in the Eighth Leaf of the exalted Paradise: “It is incumbent upon the Trustees of the House of Justice to take counsel together regarding those things which have not outwardly been revealed in the Book, and to enforce that which is agreeable to them. God will verily inspire them with whatsoever He willeth, and He, verily, is the Provider, the Omniscient.” Not only has the House of Justice been invested by Bahá’u’lláh with the authority to legislate whatsoever has not been explicitly and outwardly recorded in His holy Writ, upon it has also been conferred by the Will and Testament of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá the right and power to abrogate, according to the changes and requirements of the time, whatever has been already enacted and enforced by a preceding House of Justice.”
(Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Baha’u’llah, p. 22-23)

3. See my blog: mainly-about-homosexuality/#paederasty

4. “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.” Universal House of Justice, 27 October, 2010

5. Both quotations are from a 1993 compilation by the compiled by Research Department of the Universal House of Justice.
“…the Faith does not recognize homosexuality as a “natural” or permanent phenomenon. Rather, it sees this as an aberration subject to treatment, however intractable exclusive homosexuality may now seem to be. To the question of alteration of homosexual bents, much study must be given, and doubtless in the future clear principles of prevention and treatment will emerge. As for those now afflicted, a homosexual does not decide to be a problem human, but he does, as you rightly state, have decision in choosing his way of life, i.e. abstaining from homosexual acts.

Your plea for understanding and of justice extended to homosexuals is well taken in many respects, and the House of Justice assures you of its concern for the large number of persons so afflicted. Your work with the homosexual community is praiseworthy, and it permits you personally to exercise the support which is necessary for these often harassed persons, support which you call for in your essay. Moreover, your interest cannot but be therapeutic, at least for the more superficial elements of the problem; however, definitive therapy of the underlying predisposition, which you consider to be innate but the Teachings do not, may have to await additional investigations. As for the responsibility of Assemblies and of individual Bahá’ís, certainly all are called upon to be understanding, supportive and helpful to any individual who carries the burden of homosexuality.

As a young physician, you may wish to use this quotation, taken from a letter written by the Guardian to an individual believer in March l9S0, as your guidance: “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.”
Universal House of Justice or the Research department, to an individual, 22 March 1987

and

“You mention recent research which indicates that there may be a genetic basis for homosexuality; you accept the Bahá’í view of this matter, but you question the use of such terms as “abnormality, handicap, affliction, problem, etc.” since they can create misunderstandings. On the contrary, the House of Justice feels that just such words can be a great help to the individuals concerned. Human beings suffer from many problems, both physical and psychological. Some are the result of the individual’s own behaviour, some are caused by the circumstances in which he grew up, some are congenital. Some human beings are born blind, some suffer from incapacitating accidents or diseases. Such conditions present the individual affected, and those around him, with serious problems, and it is one of the challenges of the human condition that all those concerned should strive to overcome such problems and have understanding and sympathy for the individual so afflicted.

There is a wide range of sexual abnormalities. Some people nowadays maintain that homosexuality is not an abnormality and that homosexuals should be encouraged to establish sexual relations with one or more partners of the same sex. The Faith, on the contrary, makes it abundantly clear that homosexuality is an abnormality, is a great problem for the individual so afflicted, and that he or she should strive to overcome it. The social implications of such an attitude are very important.

The primary purpose of sexual relations is, clearly, to perpetuate the species. The fact that personal pleasure is derived therefrom is one of the bounties of God. The sex act is merely one moment in a long process, from courtship through marriage, the procreation of children, their nursing and rearing, and involves the establishment of a mutually sustaining relationship between two souls which will endure beyond life on this earth.

Some couples are unable to have children, and that, in itself, is an affliction, but this fact does not vitiate all the other bounties of the marital relationship. Some individuals for various reasons are unable to find a spouse, or choose to remain single; they must develop their natures and talents in other ways. One could have concluded that homosexuals could well establish stable relationships with one another for mutual support, similar to the marital relationship of a heterosexual couple who cannot have children. This, indeed, is the conclusion that some churches and governments have come to. But Bahá’u’lláh, having divine knowledge of human nature, shows that such a relationship is not a permissible or beneficial solution to a homosexual’s condition. If a homosexual cannot so overcome his or her condition to the extent of being able to have a heterosexual marriage, he or she must remain single, and abstain from sexual relations. These are the same requirements as for a heterosexual person who does not marry.

This law is no reason for Bahá’ís to consider homosexuals as outcasts. If they are not Bahá’ís there is also no reason to expect them to obey the Bahá’í law in this respect any more than we would expect a non-Baha i to abstain from drinking alcohol.

(16 March 1992)
in the June 5, 1993 compilation by the Research department of the Universal House of Justice, online here.

 

h1

Is it better to walk away?

August 17, 2014

Click to view this full size on Pinterest

caption: Spirituality is less about ‘doing’ & more about ‘being’ our truest most authentic self everywhere we go.- Emmanuel Dagher.


When a gay friend wrote:
My energy could be better served not fighting for inclusion but by focusing on doing good works. I’m starting to see why many people just give up on God completely and decide that, dogma, worship and religious labels get in the way of working towards creating a better world. A world that doesn’t exclude or hurt people.

I was reminded of ‘Abdul-Baha who said that if religion is not a cause of love and unity then it better not to have a religion. [footnote 1] Some have suggested to me that it is always better to walk away, that unity is most important. I don’t think Baha’u’llah nor ‘Abdul-Baha intended their teachings to be a mouthpiece for the majority. I think Baha’u’llah was serious when he said that ” [t]he best beloved of all things in My sight is Justice” [Hidden Words] but more importantly I think any community, religious or not, needs to value diversity because of the fresh inputs diverse people bring. If those from minority backgrounds are to have a voice, those from a majority perspective need to make it clear that there is ‘space’ for them in their community. In my view, it isn’t about tolerance or sympathy or looking good, but about developing a community where diversity is valued. Diversity doesn’t just happen, it needs to be worked at just as many Baha’i communities have and do work at racial diversity.

I think most Baha’is care very deeply about the importance of diversity, except, it seems, when it comes to our gay and lesbian brothers. I am often told that there is no such thing as a “LGBTQ” voice because we are all one. We are all equal. I agree with the sentiment but by ‘voice’ I mean a particular perspective on the world and society that is different to a majority voice.

I am a human being first and this means acknowledging others as equals, acknowledging that their differing perspectives are of value, however odd or ‘wrong’ they might seem to me personally.

So the next time there’s a gay or lesbian at a Baha’i event, do your best to treat that individual not as an ‘other’ – because they might not be there next time – threat them as an equal and a welcome element of diversity. And if there are no gays or lesbians in your community, then ask yourself why? What is it about your community that does not show to a 10% minority or so of humanity, that they are welcome?

A Baha’i recently told me that she felt embarrassed to say she was a Baha’i because she didn’t have the words to counter statements such as Homosexuality, according to the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, is spiritually condemned [footnote 2]. Then a work colleague, an out of the closet lesbian, said she had heard that she was a Baha’i and that it sounded like a nice religion and asked her about it. My Baha’i friend kept the conversation brief because she didn’t want her to find out that lesbians and gays are treated differently. For my friend, this is a huge crisis of faith. Personally she sees nothing wrong with homosexuality, but she knows that the public image of the Baha’i community conflates homosexuality with immorality or disease, and she can’t see how she can do anything to change this. I suggested that she could speak about her discomfort in her own Baha’i community. If others in the community share her views, suggest that they state in their publicity something like: “a Bahai teaching is equality for all regardless of their cultural background, race or orientation.” If these Bahais find such a public statement problematic, then host a study class on the topic to find out why and use the opportunity to find ways to present the Baha’i community that work best while still showing the world that this particular Baha’i community is working at reducing discrimination against gays and lesbians.

Like any form of discrimination, the issue affects everyone, not just those who are being oppressed. Looking the other way means doing nothing to address the public perception that the Baha’i community is not coming “to the defense of those whose fundamental rights are being denied or violated” [Universal House of Justice, 27 October, 2010] of those who identify as GLBTQ.

Back to my question: is it better to walk away?

My gay friend continued: I ask myself “why do I have pain and suffering?” Is it because I want there to be a true Faith that makes existence make sense? I desire God and want a religion. In a way, it is selfish. And the result is pain, because the only Faith that makes sense to me, is just like all the other religions: it divides the world into “us” and “them,” even though it claims it doesn’t.
 
Like a child having a tantrum, I am angry and mad and fighting for this not to be so. But the fact of the matter is … it *is* this way. So, I feel the right way is to stop desiring there to be a God or an afterlife or even a religion or Faith that tries to make sense of existence.
 
I want those things because I’m selfish and want inclusion and want some sense of order. If I abandon my desires for these things and accept what is, then I no longer suffer with the pain that comes with the rejection from the Bahai Faith that is caused by being a gay man. And if I stop worrying about an afterlife and the “why” of existence, I can finally live free and at peace.

Is the anger because of attachment? Or injustice? What is more important – passion, involvement or detachment?

As for myself, if I thought the Baha’i Teachings (Link to a blog outlining ‘Abdul-Baha’s eleven principles) endorsed treating gay and lesbian Baha’is differently, I would have leave the Baha’i Faith and in turn, I would be less sure about the existence of God more than ever, as I am one of those Baha’is whose idea of God borders on the agnostic. I am not sure about the existence of God but the Baha’i Writings ring true as does my belief in spirituality.

I would have to leave the Baha’i Faith because if gays and lesbians are treated differently because of their orientation, then it means that the Baha’i principle of equality is meaningless. It is not possible to preach equality and then add, “except for those people”. Baha’is might say things such as “homosexuality is spiritually condemned” but if it is not in Baha’i Scripture, then as far as I am concerned it is not part of the Baha’i Teachings. I realise it is easier for me. I have the confidence to say this.

A friend nailed it by saying: I’ve had to recently acknowledge the fact that deep inside me I feel like I don’t have the right to be happy because I’m gay. God hates us, unless we’re celibate. And it affects my relationships, my self-esteem, and it certainly has played a huge part in my history of enjoying various substances.

“Justice and equity are twin Guardians that watch over men. From them are revealed such blessed and perspicuous words as are the cause of the well-being of the world and the protection of the nations.” (Baha’u’llah)

If you are not treated with equality, of course it affects your self-esteem. If you are expected to hide your orientation, of course that creates an imbalance. I think that is why the Baha’i Teachings place such importance on equality, justice, independent investigation, and science and religion being in harmony and why ‘Adbul-Baha wrote: “The divine religions must be the cause of oneness… and the means of unity and love; they must promulgate universal peace, free man from every prejudice, bestow joy and gladness, exercise kindness to all men and do away with every difference and distinction. Just as Bahá’u’lláh addressing the world of humanity saith: ‘O people! Ye are the fruits of one tree and the leaves of one branch.'” [Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 28]

We can use reason to overcome prejudice and hopefully make a conscious effort to improve the state of humanity”. [Bahaiteachings.org]

I do not want my religion to be used to hurt another gay or lesbian and I hope for the day when Baha’i communities demonstrate publicly by action that in their community they treat their gay and lesbian members as equals.

‘Abdul-Baha spoke of the diversity of the flowers in the garden of humanity being diverse as a good thing and as a metaphor for the diversity of humanity (being a good thing). I hate it that public statements present as homosexuality being: an aberration subject to treatment or abnormality, handicap, affliction, problem or an abnormality … a great problem for the individual so afflicted … that he or she should strive to overcome it“. (all these quotations are from the Wikipedia “Homosexuality and the Baha’i Faith” page. See footnote two). Where are the examples of Baha’is showing that within the Baha’i community there are those who value the diversity of those who identify as LGBT?

Although the Universal House of Justice’s current 2010 policy states that a “marriage is a union between a man and a woman” I wish that marriage was the only issue here, but it isn’t. Not only are gays and lesbians expected to live solitary lives while others may raise families and enjoy the support and companionship of a life-partner, this distinction is then enlarged by Baha’is to say things such as homosexuality is a transgression or a disease.

Don’t get me started on gender and how many a Baha’i has tried to justify the absence of female Universal House of Justice members as being based on supposed differences in capacity between women and men. I think it is human nature to look for reasons and the tendency to create them when there doesn’t appear to be a reason. But then the danger is, just as in discussions on gender equality, difference is then used as a means to enlarge on the inequality.

The Universal House of Justice letter states that “The Bahá’í Writings state that marriage is a union between a man and a woman” but it doesn’t state the situation of already married gays or lesbians becoming Baha’is or that unmarried gays and lesbians should be treated differently to unmarried straights. The Universal House of Justice does not give a source in Baha’i Scripture (See my blog on this topic), and if there is nothing in Bahai Scripture that restricts marriage to a man and a woman, a later Universal House of Justice is free to take a different approach. It is not clear to me here whether The Universal House of Justice is making a policy on what is a Bahai marriage or telling us what they think is in Baha’i Scripture.

Of course I do see the catch 22 here for those in countries where it would break the law of the land to discriminate against legally married same sex couples. What can Baha’is do? I guess one day the Universal House of Justice is likely to make a policy on same sex marriage, but until they do, I would suggest that any N.S.A. or L.S.A. to view this as a new phenomenon and deal with this in the way that seems closest to the teachings of Baha’u’llah and the latest policy of the Universal House of Justice, while respecting the right of government to define civil marriage.

But I find it horrific that a Baha’i could say that treating a gay or lesbian differently is based on Baha’i Scripture, because it is not true.

In light of such attitudes, I don’t blame this gay friend for writing: it is religion and my desire to be a part of it and my desire to be loved by the Creator. If the Creator doesn’t love me, what is the point of trying to love the Creator? These are thoughts I usually hold down but I don’t see the usefulness (anymore) in pretending these feelings aren’t there. I’m sure I’m not alone. And I’m sharing with you to process and discuss”.

The very idea that some people are less worthy because of their nature, their race, or orientation is repulsive to me. I can’t match this idea with anything in the Bahai Writings, however another of my gay friends wrote: Lately I have been heavy on fighting for inclusion, perhaps to the exclusion of good works. But it may be time for a recalibration…. As regards your comments about desire producing pain, I have found that detachment from religion and people (even the most well intentioned) helps me maintain my sanity and my faith.
 
My view of humanity is much more melancholic than it used to be as a result. But I find that this detachment combined with a regular prayer/meditation practice works for me. When I get particularly depressed by people I turn to the prayers and writings of ‘Abdul-Baha for comfort.

So why should gays and lesbians have to suffer? What justification is there for prejudice against gays and lesbians to continue in the Baha’i community?

My friend Daniel who runs the blog “Revolked”: wrote in response to having his voting rights removed in 2009 by the American Baha’i community for being legally married in California: The Buddhist sangha really helped me… there was something about total inclusion mixed with a semi-Baha’i administration (all volunteer committee of 12 who coordinate the whole shabang), and 40 minutes of silence… with a short (very firesideesque) talk after… that helped me heal.
 
I felt listened to, and I am talking about listened to by Baha’u’llah/Buddha for the first time…
 
I needed (still do) help with dealing about my anger related to organized religion, how the Baha’is treated me, and my overall distaste for any organized spiritual anything…
 
It really helped … sitting every Sunday with really nice, good, smart people who don’t push, nor judge … other folks will find other ways to heal.
 
But I have come to realize that at least for me, Baha’i doesn’t work. It’s a nice idea, and I desperately love and accept Baha’u’llah… but the community … they reject people like me

This is the first case I know of in which a legal same-sex marriage was the reason for applying a Baha’i administrative sanction. I hope it is the only case and that one day that Daniel receives a letter of apology, because it is a Baha’i principle to follow the laws of one’s country. Shoghi Effendi was very firm about this when he wrote “they will, unhesitatingly, subordinate the operation of [Baha’i] laws and the application of [Baha’i] principles to the requirements and legal enactments of their respective governments.” (The World Order of Baha’u’llah) To me, this principle implies that the assemblies – local as much as national – must do their best to avoid any actions or statements that might be misconstrued as a rejection of the rights of government and the legitimacy of civil laws.

As far as I know this applies as long as a Baha’i law or teaching is not transgressed and even then, such as in the case of apartheid in South Africa, Baha’is were encouraged not to confront the law of the land. As far as I know the Universal House of Justice has not made a ruling on same sex marriage, only statements concerning homosexuality outside of marriage and the statement that a Baha’i marriage “is a union between a man and a woman”. So I assume that until the Universal House of Justice makes a ruling on same-sex marriage it is up to local or national Bahai communities to decide what is best in light of the Baha’i principles for those who are already Baha’is as much as for married couples who choose to join the community.

Some days I think the fight is worth it because I hope my actions help Baha’is to be more tolerant and for Baha’i from diverse perspectives to feel equally welcome. I am selfish about this. I want the Baha’i community to be more inclusive. Other days, I think it is better to be more involved in the art world (I am an artist) because it is so diverse and energizing. Perhaps in the end I can do more as an artist to help my gay and lesbian brothers and sisters than trying to work for tolerance and openness within the Bahai community. Who knows? It’s odd though, each time when I think this might be my last blog on the topic of gay rights, it feels as if Baha’u’llah is pushing me – as if this can’t be the last word.

I dedicate this blog to all my gay and lesbian friends who given me the honour of sharing their voices with me for three decades.

Footnote 1: The passage “If religion becomes a cause of dislike, hatred and division, it were better to be without it, and to withdraw from such a religion would be a truly religious act. For it is clear that the purpose of a remedy is to cure; but if the remedy should only aggravate the complaint it had better be left alone. Any religion which is not a cause of love and unity is no religion.” is often quoted by Baha’is but the source here, Paris Talks, consists of notes made by an interpreter of the talk given in French by a translator, which in turn were translated into English.

An authentic source in Abdul-Baha‘s own wording is: “Third: religion is the foundation of harmony and love, of solidarity and unity. If religion is made the cause of enmity it yields not solidarity but rather troubles, and the absence of religion is better than its existence. The abandonment of religion is preferable to this.” [A provisional translation by Sen McGlinn from notes in Persian that had been checked by Adbul-Baha

Footnote 2: In footnote 8 on the “Bahai Faith and Homosexuality” Wikipedia page (Last accessed 17 August 2014) is the statement Homosexuality, according to the Writings of Baha’u’llah, is spiritually condemned. Admittedly this page is currently dominated by the opinions of two Baha’is (Back in May 2014 I failed to get them to modify their opinions because they were not backed up by the sources they referred to). And so like any Wikipedia page that deals with a sensitive topic, those with the most friends with the skills and time, win. It is a weakness of the Wikipedia system that, like the worst aspects of party politics, majority voices are able to drown out other voices. But just because a system can be misused doesn’t mean it is bad system. I love Wikipedia!

Anyway if most Baha’is believe that somewhere in Baha’i Scripture same-sex marriage is excluded then that is an accurate picture of the state of play in the Baha’i community, regardless of whether it is true or not. Wikipedia is a fabulous resource which is flexible, and one day when the current views are minority views, this page will be changed.
So I hope this explains why quite a few of the statements [as accessed on August 17th, 2014] on this Wikipedia page are inaccurate. I hope the day is sooner rather than later when these inaccuracies are removed. However it is a fight, that for now at least, I have chosen to walk away from. Here is what I am referring to as being inaccurate:
The Bahá’í Faith teaches that the only acceptable form of sexual expression is within marriage, and Baha’i marriage is defined in the religion’s texts as exclusively between one man and one woman (Wikipedia, accessed 17 August 2014)
I had replaced the text: “in the religion’s texts as exclusively” with “in Bahai law as being” because the UHJ creates Bahai law or policy. If there is a religious text stating this, then it needs to be found or shown. All Wikipedia references used by these two Baha’is either led to statements made by the Universal House of Justice or references to marriage as a monogamous relationship between a man and woman [click on p. 147 + ”In the Glory of the Father: The Baha’i Faith and Christianity, p. 100”]. Bahai’s would not call policy made the Universal House of Justice ‘religious texts’ because that would confuse the Universal House of Justice’s authority with that of Baha’i Scripture. Saying that a marriage is between a man and woman is not the same as saying this is exclusive.

By now you might be wondering why I am putting all of this into a footnote here. Well, should a Baha’i feel uncomfortable about the phrase defined in the religion’s texts or anything else in that Wikipedia article, this might help. Opinions expressed as if they are supported by secondary literature when in fact they are not [my major argument with these two] is one thing, but these opinions create the impression that Baha’i Scripture is prejudiced against gays and lesbians, when it is not. It might seem petty, but for me it is an important distinction because Baha’i Scripture cannot be changed while statements by the Universal House of Justice can be changed by a later policy of the Universal House of Justice.
You might say, but, there is much more on that page, such as the assumption that homosexuality is a transgression [accessed 17 August homosexuality over other transgressions in the second paragraph] when in fact current Universal House of Justice policy since 2010 is that “to regard those with a homosexual orientation with prejudice or disdain would be against the spirit of the Faith.” Well, I thought I’d just start with the first sentence on the Wikipedia page and see how that went before going any further. Perhaps I should write a blog about the exchanges I had on the ‘talk’ behind the scenes page, because until then I had not realised how easy it was for the views of just two individuals with the skills, to dominate a Wikipedia page. I was used to an academic environment where if a reference is made, then it relates to the statement. These two repeatedly added material where in some cases marriage wasn’t mentioned at all. Admittedly they removed most of these when I pointed this out, but it took a lot of time to look up the books. In the end they won because they just kept deleting my edits. It was not pleasant so I understand perfectly why Baha’is might walk away from that fight as I have.

h1

Is homosexuality spiritually condemned?

May 9, 2014

Claiming that someone else's marriage is against your religion is like being angry at someone for eating a doughnut because you're on a diet

“Claiming that someone else’s marriage
is against your religion
is like being angry
at someone for eating
a doughnut because you’re
on a diet”


Recently I was sent a link to a document written in 2007 entitled “Position Paper on Homosexuality for the NSA of the Bahá’ís of the UK.”

My impression of this sermon of certainty was, well, if this author’s biased and
unsubstantiated views were representative of the teachings of the Bahai Faith on this subject, few people (myself included) would be interested in joining such a religion.

The first four sentences say it all: “Between obliviousness and puritanism stand Bahá’ís, who say that homosexuality is wrong, but homosexuals are kindred souls. The Bahá’í Faith is a religion of unity, revealed by Bahá’u’lláh. Remembering this context is essential when saying that the Bahá’í position on homosexuality is spiritual condemnation. As a Bahá’í, I believe that morality is foundational to spiritually healthy individuals and, therefore, to a united society; and this applies to a sexual morality that excludes homosexuality.”

This statement just doesn’t hold water for a Bahai such as myself, because I know that all of the above is based on the author’s own prejudice. What he is saying is that a united society is not possible unless its sexual morality excludes homosexuality. The author claims all sorts of ridiculous notions as if these are based on Bahai teachings.
Admittedly his text is noted as ‘draft 2,’ but the author, Saleem Vaillancourt, clearly thought it important enough to put his essay entitled “Position Paper on Homosexuality for the NSA of the Bahá’ís of the UK” online, and in 2011 there is an interview with him in his capacity at the UK Bahá’í Community’s Office of Public Affairs, so some readers might give his views some weight.
Below is a table with the author’s claims (in green) adjacent to my responses. Decide for yourself if it is a Bahai teaching that homosexuality is spiritually condemned.

…this applies to a sexual morality that excludes homosexuality. ‘Ye are forbidden to commit adultery, sodomy and lechery.’
Page 1.
    1. Sodomy is not homosexuality.
2. Bahaú’llah is condemning three forms of illicit sex-related activities, not homosexuality. (See the context here)
The author assumes that homosexuality is illicit, but the question is, is homosexuality illicit within a marriage?
Bahá’ís consider the condition of homosexuality to be spiritually condemned and reject the act, they would never reject homosexual people.
Page 1.
    “Justice and equity are twin Guardians that watch over men. From them are revealed such blessed and perspicuous words as are the cause of the well-being of the world and the protection of the nations.”
– Baha’u’llah, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 13

There is nothing in Bahai Scripture that even hints that justice and equality are conditional on being a heterosexual.

We believe that the teachings of Bahá’u’lláh are the ‘breath of life unto all created things’, that the exhortations and prohibitions of a Bahá’í life comprise the great education and the great enablement, not the great lockdown.

Through obedience to the laws, Bahá’ís work to discipline themselves according to spiritual standards that outstrip average notions of appropriate living, and this discipline allows the individual to respond to grander impulses than physical desires or psychological complexes.

Furthermore, spiritual discipline frees us from our own selves and offers a life fulfilled through clarity of purpose and devoted service to our fellow humans.
Page 1.

    Many of Bahaú’llah’s “Hidden Words” speak of the nature of humanity as being in God’s image.
“Thou art My lamp and My light is in thee. Get thou from it thy radiance and seek none other than Me. For I have created thee rich and have bountifully shed My favor upon thee.”

Baha’u’llah wrote many mystical, metaphysical and philosophical texts and one book of laws. This book was in part a response to questions put to him of how to deal with existing Islamic laws. Significantly Baha’u’llah wrote: “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. To this beareth witness that which the Pen of Revelation hath revealed. Meditate upon this, O men of insight!” (Kitab-i-Aqdas, p. 121)

So rather than the Bahai Faith being a religion focussed on a list of laws, it is a religion based on principles, where we are asked to use our insights to understand the laws. Baha’u’llah created the institution of the Universal House of Justice so that the rule-making part (and authority) of the Bahai community, because its rulings are distinct from Bahai Scripture, is able to change what is considered Bahai law (See Abdul-Baha’s Will and Testament).

The authors’ comment ”being freed from our own selves” implies that Bahais are expected to obey rules and not to use their own insights. The House of Justice has not laid down rules on subjects such as homosexuality, instead leaving many matters to individual conscience and the Bahai communities that exist in diverse social settings.
“The Universal House of Justice does not feel that the time has come for it to provide detailed legislation on subjects such as abortion, homosexuality and other moral issues. …

It has been a human tendency to wish to eliminate these grey areas so that every aspect of life is clearly prescribed. A result of this tendency has been the tremendous accretion of interpretation and subsidiary legislation which has smothered the spirit of certain of the older religions. Universal House of Justice to an individual, 5 June 1988.

Marriage itself is considered a divine institution and a ‘fortress of well-being and salvation’ that can shelter a man and woman from loneliness and drift, which can save them from the emotional pains of physical satisfaction in unhealthily transient relationships.

The reality for homosexuals in the Bahá’í Faith, therefore, is the same as unmarried heterosexuals: a spiritual obligation to be chaste. On this most important moral consideration, the Bahá’í Faith effectively does not distinguish between heterosexuality and homosexuality.

We are not our desires or our inclinations; we are more. Human sexuality is celebrated though not indulged:
Saleem Vaillancourt, Pages 1-2.

    “God hath prescribed matrimony unto you.” Baha’u’llah

There is nothing in Baha’u’llah’s writings to suggest that matrimony is not possible for same sex couples.

The author glides from everyone being expected to practise chastity before marriage, to his expecting gays and lesbians never to have the chance of a committed life partnership. These are not the ‘same realities’: the latter is discrimination and oppression.

Bahai Scripture stresses the importance of the spiritual as part of a holistic worldview which, of course, includes our ‘inclinations’ and ‘desires’: “with the clay of My command I made thee to appear, and have ordained for thy training every atom of existence and the essence of all created things.”

Bahá’u’lláh recommends marriage at a young age.
Page 2.
    Baha’u’llah did not recommend marriage at a young age. He changed an Islamic law where girls could be married off as children, to a law where for the male or female the minimum age for marriage was their 15th birthday. Another Bahai law is to follow the law of one’s country so if the minimum age for marriage is higher, this sets the limit.

But sex must be within marriage because it guarantees that intimate relationships are buttressed against the uncertainties of life, with each married couple and family a solid piece of a slowly unifying humanity.

Such is the core and utterly rational reason that the Bahá’í Faith cannot allow homosexuality within this balance of physical love, emotional health, social responsibility, and spiritual growth.

Our desires are innate but our inclinations are another matter.

And so very firmly, the Bahá’í Faith rejects the possibility that sexual relations between homosexuals are a natural or positive influence on either the individuals themselves or their wider society.
Saleem Vaillancourt, Page 2.

    There is nothing in Bahai Scripture stating that marriage is only for heterosexuals. When ‘Abdul-Baha wrote about the rules for marriage as an aspect of the social teachings of the Bahai Faith he refers to a man and woman but he doesn’t state that marriage can only be between a man and a woman. And Baha’u’llah wrote:“Whoso contenteth himself with a single partner from among the maidservants of God, both he and she shall live in tranquillity.”

And the introduction the Universal House of Justice explains:
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.

Note that the author has effectively said that married homosexuals could not have a positive influence on others, and on society. How then can he regard them as ‘kindred souls,’ if they are so innately flawed that they can contribute no good?

Bahá’í do not accept the materialist notion that nature is perfect, but rather, the nature of humans must be improved through spiritual education.
Page 2.
    “Man is the supreme Talisman” (Bahá’u’lláh); children are born with lots of potential and no bad bits, so it is not that human beings must be improved, but that through education and experience we can develop and “(t)he purpose of the one true God, exalted be His glory, hath been to bring forth the Mystic Gems out of the mine of man”. – Baha’u’llah (See my blog on human nature)

The propagation of the species is the obvious purpose of the sex impulse; a sexuality that obviates procreation defies the social role of sex.

The condition of homosexuality is regarded by Bahá’u’lláh as an ‘affliction’ and an ‘aberration’ which is ‘against nature’. The starkness of this language makes it transparently clear that not only is the condition wrong but same-sex relationships do not ring true. The language is also difficult to bear for non-Bahá’ís and some Bahá’ís alike; the proper consolation is that this condemnation comes from He whom Bahá’ís believe to be the Manifestation of God, and thus speaks with a voice unparalleled and inimitable. His starkness is not available for our own use. Bahá’ís of whichever sexual orientation are taught acceptance and love by their Faith and its teachings; spiritual condemnation cannot be translated into tangible or emotional condemnation. This very firm rejection is made with the utmost love for homosexuals. For proofs of this utmost love, again the fundamental principles provide guidance: people of all kinds deserve only praise and encouragement from other individuals within the Bahá’í community. (Only the institutions have the right to concern themselves with the private affairs of Bahá’ís, a right exercised only when that behaviour manifests itself in a way publicly damaging to the community.)

Saleem Vaillancourt, Pages 2-3.

    Marriage is praised by Baha’u’llah as opposed to a life as an ascetic. “Enter into wedlock, O people, that ye may bring forth one who will make mention of Me amid My servants. This is My bidding unto you; hold fast to it as an assistance to yourselves.”

There is nothing in the text to suggest that the purpose of marriage is procreate – only that it is a good thing, which is why elderly or infertile individuals are free to marry.

“When, therefore, the people of Baha undertake to marry, the union must be a true relationship, a spiritual coming together as well as a physical one, so that throughout every phase of life, and in all the worlds of God, their union will endure; for this real oneness is a gleaming out of the love of God.” – ‘Abdu’l-Baha

The words ‘afflication,’ ‘aberration’ and ‘against nature’ used by the author originate in four letters written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi. It’s an insult to attribute the same views to Baha’u’llah. These words are not Bahai Scripture.

The author – who has said that homosexuals are socially useless – apparently does not see this as a ‘tangible or emotional’ condemnation, and speaks of the praise and encouragement homosexuals will receive in the Bahai community. Providing they do not encounter our author, presumably.

Bahais may lose their voting rights for breaking Bahai laws, and some assemblies have interpreted getting married, to a partner of the same sex, as breaking Bahai law. They have wide discretion: ” … Every case is different, and there is more than one variable consideration to take into account, for example, the circumstances of the individual, the degree to which the good name of the Faith is involved, whether the offence is blatant and flagrant. Over and over again the beloved Guardian urged Assemblies to be extremely patient and forbearing in dealing with the friends. He pointed out on many occasions that removal of administrative rights is the heaviest sanction which Assemblies may impose at the present time. These considerations apply to the types of problems you mention in your letter. In all such cases it is for the Assembly to determine at what point the conduct is blatant and flagrant or is harmful to the name of the Faith. They must determine whether the believer has been given sufficient warning before the imposition of sanctions. …”
Universal House of Justice, 1977

Tolerance and plurality are the professed values of a liberal society, and because of the pacific nature of the Bahá’í Faith, often we are perceived to be liberal intellectuals who also believe in God. Not so. The Faith was not revealed so that it might conform to any contemporary thinking or mask itself behind common notions, it was revealed to rewrite human spirituality, morality and society, so we cannot obfuscate the teachings elemental to these goals.
Page 3.
    The author wrote “The Faith was not revealed so that it might conform to any contemporary thinking or mask itself behind common notions” while
‘Abdu’l-Baha praises “intellect and wisdom” as “two most luminous lights in either world”

I quote the context below.

“Praise and thanksgiving be unto Providence that out of all the realities in existence He has chosen the reality of man and has honored it with intellect and wisdom, the two most luminous lights in either world. Through the agency of this great endowment, He has in every epoch cast on the mirror of creation new and wonderful configurations.

If we look objectively upon the world of being, it will become apparent that from age to age, the temple of existence has continually been embellished with a fresh grace, and distinguished with an ever-varying splendor, deriving from wisdom and the power of thought.” ‘Abdu’l-Baha

Inside the Bahá’í Faith, the covenantal duty and expectation is obedience to the laws and the institutions. Bahá’ís are expected to strive for understanding of those laws beyond their grasp; a selective adherence to these laws is unacceptable because it undermines the unity of the entire community.

But these are standards for Bahá’ís only, and because the Faith finds itself in a context of many different beliefs, it holds that concord and plurality are more important than contention and division. These principles are reflected in the values of any progressive society.

And yet because this current liberal society has convinced itself of the rightness of Enlightenment thinking, which includes a permissive attitude to sex and allows for an individualistic definition of sexuality, dissension therefrom brings denouncement.

My confusion at being called a bigot stemmed from this double standard: that western society was liberal and open-minded, so long as certain issues were agreed upon beforehand.

There was a hypocritical element which Bahá’ís must reject when explaining their position on homosexuality: pluralism and the liberally spread charge of bigotry are incompatible.
Saleem Vaillancourt, Pages 3-4.

    “It should also be borne in mind that the machinery of the Cause has been so fashioned, that whatever is deemed necessary to incorporate into it in order to keep it in the forefront of all progressive movements, can, according to the provisions made by Bahá’u’lláh, be safely embodied therein. To this testify the words of Bahá’u’lláh, as recorded in the Eighth Leaf of the exalted Paradise:

“It is incumbent upon the Trustees of the House of Justice to take counsel together regarding those things which have not outwardly been revealed in the Book, and to enforce that which is agreeable to them. God will verily inspire them with whatsoever He willeth, and He, verily, is the Provider, the Omniscient.”

Not only has the House of Justice been invested by Bahá’u’lláh with the authority to legislate whatsoever has not been explicitly and outwardly recorded in His holy Writ, upon it has also been conferred by the Will and Testament of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá the right and power to abrogate, according to the changes and requirements of the time, whatever has been already enacted and enforced by a preceding House of Justice. In this connection, He revealed the following in His Will:

“And 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 that law formeth no part of the divine explicit text. The House of Justice is both the initiator and the abrogator of its own laws.”

Such is the immutability of His revealed Word. Such is the elasticity which characterizes the functions of His appointed ministers. The first preserves the identity of His Faith, and guards the integrity of His law. The second enables it, even as a living organism, to expand and adapt itself to the needs and requirements of an ever-changing society.” – Shoghi Effendi

The first emanation from God is the bounty of the Kingdom, which emanates and is reflected in the reality of the creatures, like the light which emanates from the sun and is resplendent in creatures; and this bounty, which is the light, is reflected in infinite forms in the reality of all things, and specifies and individualizes itself according to the capacity, the worthiness and the intrinsic value of things.”‘Abdu’l-Baha

Clearly from the quotations above, the author’s ideas (that being liberal or open minded are bad things) run counter to the Bahai Teachings. ‘Abdul-Baha’s two quotations above show that Bahai Scripture does not share the anti-intellectual views of the author. In fact all the above quotations illustrate that the Bahai Teachings value independent thought and insight as well as logic, and celebrate diversity.

I will not even try and guess what the author means by ‘an individualistic definition of sexuality’ but would suggest the Bahai principle of religion being in harmony with science as a useful guide. Any definition of sexuality needs to be scientifically sound. I am not sure that a religious definition of sexuality is even useful. After all we don’t have a religious definition for digestion. Sexual orientation is not an ethical issue.

There is a curious paradox here which hinges on the identity aspect of this discussion. If liberal society accepted so sincerely the homosexuality of homosexuals, why then have many homosexuals felt the need to persist in their segregated and specialised gay identity long after their supposed entry into the mainstream? I postulate two answers. Firstly, their sexuality has been dramatically overemphasised in the creation of their self-image, self-worth and social identity – just as is the case with many heterosexuals who see sex as soul. The Bahá’í teachings, meanwhile, state that ‘in the estimation of God there is no distinction of sex.’
Saleem Vaillancourt, Page 4.
    This tactic avoids engaging the critique by projecting onto the opponent. No Bahai is expected to sacrifice aspects of their identity; in fact Shoghi Effendi argues for positive discrimination because diversity is so important.

“To discriminate against any race, on the ground of its being socially backward, politically immature, and numerically in a minority, is a flagrant violation of the spirit that animates the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh.

If any discrimination is at all to be tolerated, it should be a discrimination not against, but rather in favor of the minority, be it racial or otherwise.” – Shoghi Effendi

“The sixth principle or teaching of Bahá’u’lláh concerns the equality of man and woman. He has declared that in the estimation of God there is no distinction of sex.” -‘Abdu’l-Baha

The author doesn’t realise that “no distinction of sex” means that men and women are equal; it is not saying that it is irrelevant to your identity whether you are a man, a woman, a homosexual, a heterosexual, or (more simply) your own unique self.

The introduction of the Bahá’í understanding of homosexuality – that the condition is aberrant and the act wrong, but censure of homosexuals even worse – resolves this dichotomous identity problem because it drains the bile from public discussion and sentiment about homosexuality. A homosexual person secure in his or her acceptance by society would not feel the need to adopt a segregated identity. This would succeed is more than the avoidance of false dichotomies, it would foster genuine unity, the very purpose of the Bahá’í Faith.
Saleem Vaillancourt, Page 4.
    “Consider the flowers of a garden: though differing in kind, colour, form and shape, yet, inasmuch as they are refreshed by the waters of one spring, revived by the breath of one wind, invigorated by the rays of one sun, this diversity increaseth their charm, and addeth unto their beauty. Thus when that unifying force, the penetrating influence of the Word of God, taketh effect, the difference of customs, manners, habits, ideas, opinions and dispositions embellisheth the world of humanity. This diversity, this difference is like the naturally created dissimilarity and variety of the limbs and organs of the human body, for each one contributeth to the beauty, efficiency and perfection of the whole. When these different limbs and organs come under the influence of man’s sovereign soul, and the soul’s power pervadeth the limbs and members, veins and arteries of the body, then difference reinforceth harmony, diversity strengtheneth love, and multiplicity is the greatest factor for co-ordination.
How unpleasing to the eye if all the flowers and plants, the leaves and blossoms, the fruits, the branches and the trees of that garden were all of the same shape and colour! Diversity of hues, form and shape, enricheth and adorneth the garden, and heighteneth the effect thereof.” -‘Abdu’l-Baha

The author has claimed that both social unity, and the unity of the Bahai community, are threatened by a morality, or a “selective adherence to [Bahai] laws,” which would accept homosexual relationships and homosexual people on an equal footing. Is it any wonder then, if he also encounters homosexuals who “feel the need to adopt a segregated identity.” He and others like him generate this response through their prejudice, and their vision of a future “genuine unity” that requires the extinction of what they consider immorality. This is not the kind of unity that Baha’u’llah envisioned:
“The religion of God is for love and unity; make it not the cause of enmity or dissension.”Baha’u’llah

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.