About … dissenrolment
As I noted on the ‘about’ page of this blog, in November 2005 I was removed from the membership rolls of the Bahai Community following a decision of the Universal House of Justice. The reasons for my dis-enrollment and the purpose served by dis-enrollment are not at all clear to me, so I am not in a position to say much about the rights and wrongs of it. However other people, who know as little about it as I do, have been quite ready to explain the UHJ’s reasons. I think it is extremely unlikely that the UHJ has ever given anyone any information on the question, since the Guardian wrote:
Regarding the very delicate and complex question of ascertaining the qualifications of a true believer, I cannot in this connection emphasize too strongly the supreme necessity for the exercise of the utmost discretion, caution and tact, whether it be in deciding for ourselves as to who may be regarded as a true believer or in disclosing to the outside world such considerations as may serve as a basis for such a decision.
(Bahai Administration, p. 90)
I don’t wish to judge the UHJ’s decision, or defend myself; I present a few documents here to allow people to judge whether the speculations about the reasons that others have proposed have any value.
The explanations proposed are generally of one of two types:
- either I was dis-enrolled for the opinions I hold (and the pundits vary as to whether the offending opinions are on the meaning of infallibility in Bahai theology, the role of the Mashriqu’l-Adhkar in the Bahai community, the Bahai teachings on the separation of church and state or something else), or
- I was dis-enrolled as a punishment (usually called a “sanction” in Bahai parlance), for some breach of Bahai law. Here various pundits have claimed I have advocated bigamy, done something unnamed in Tehran on a visit there a few years ago, breached the publication review process, claimed a position of authority in the community, challenged the Universal House of Justice, and so forth.
As for the first, Daniella Pinna wrote a long letter to the UHJ in 2006. Her letter supposes that my expulsion related to the research I reported on in my book Church and State. The Universal House of Justice in its reply says “Concerns with Mr. McGlinn’s actions have nothing to do with his treatment of topics such as church and state…” and “Every individual has the right to hold and express personal views” while also saying [in my paraphrase] that one who professes or propagates personal interpretations that violate Baha’u’llah’s criteria for understanding and practicing His Faith, removes himself from the Faith. That leaves open the possibility that I was dis-enrolled for some opinion that I have, or that the UHJ thinks I have, but not on “topics such as church and state.” [But In 2008 I got a copy of a UHJ letter to an individual about my disenrollment, dated 2006, which states that it was not because of my "personal understanding."] I have no further information than that.
As for the second, the variety of sins attributed to me should be a warning that those who pose as explainers of the UHJ’s decision do not have any facts. Rather, on the supposition that dis-enrollment is a sanction for wrong-doing, they have tried to imagine a suitably serious offense for me. But so far as I know, the Universal House of Justice has not used the word “sanction” with respect to dis-enrollment, in my case or any other, and has not applied the procedures which are involved before any sanction, such as the removal of voting rights, is applied in the Bahai community. Nor have they indicated any action that those dis-enrolled could take if they wish to be re-enrolled in the community.
If we disregard explanations which are merely imaginative, we are left with what the Universal House of Justice itself has said, in its letter of 14 November 2005. That indicates that the decision was based wholly or primarily on some words in the Foreword to Church and State, which the UHJ has construed as a claim to personal authority. Since the UHJ itself has widely distributed that letter, I suppose that they will not object if people read the letter, and the Foreword to Church and State, for themselves and form their own opinion about the reasons for dis-enrollment and what purposes it may serve in the Bahai community. [But note that a subsequent letter has indicated that my disenrollment was not because of "a single statement drawn out of context from the preface of his book" -- despite the apparent meaning of the November 2005 letter. ]
In 2008, there was a Q&A session on Bahai Rants, in which I responded to questions about Church and State. I’ve edited that up as one consecutive page here.
Short link: http://wp.me/PcgF5-11a