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A list of slanders

The first item here is a compilation from an email posting and my response to it, summarising some slanders about me. Since I did not have a system for collecting these, until 2010 when I assembled some of them retrospectively, what follows is far from complete.


MM to TK, 9 March 2010:
“… if we ignore the authoritative interpretations which exclude women from the House of Justice what is to prevent us from ignoring the authoritative interpretations which insist on monogamy as well?
Sen, here would even like to see us do that!”

KK: LOL. Would he really? Or are you teasing Sonja.

My response to KK, 10 March 2010, on the TK list:

I do tease Sonja; she’s from a large family and has several unmarried sisters. If one Sonja is good, two Sonjas must be better, no? Besides, Sonjas come in such small sizes, it would be easy to find room for another 🙂

But seriously, the topos of “Sen McGlinn promotes bigamy” actually is circulated, see for example Susan Maneck to Bahai Studies, 2 January 2008; idem to CARM forum 26 March 2009.

There are a number of other stories like this that are circulated; that I challenged the House of Justice, I stole Bahai manuscripts, set “himself up as a person with authority” (Maneck to Bahai Studies 15 July 2007), “categorically excludes letters written on the Guardian’s behalf as valid sources” (MM to TK, 22 Oct 2007); promotes “the idea that there should be a clerical class within the Baha’i community” (Maneck to Bahai Studies Jan 2008); “claiming the authority as a specialist” “to promote positions in opposition to the Universal House of Justice” (Maneck to Bahai_Discuss, 5 Jan 2006, similar on 4 Jan 2006); advocating a “”new organ” of academics” to “be appointed and make its pronouncements independent of the House of Justice” (Poirier to Bahai-Discuss 19 Dec 2005); saying that the rulings of the UHJ should be “subject to challenge by a consensus of the ‘ulama who could issue an ‘official opinion’ as theologians” (Maneck, cited in the previous), wanting to put scholars “in a position where they could *challenge* the House of Justice by claiming that the House’s decision was contrary to the spirit of the Teachings” (Maneck to bahai-discuss 18 Dec 2005); advocating a “Mashriq would be dominated by some clerical class” (Maneck to bahai-discuss 16 Dec 2005); “attempt to the undermine the authority of the House” (Maneck to Bahai-discuss 1 Dec 2005).

I don’t respond to these claims unless there is an indication that someone else is taking them seriously, or what is said has the (usually unintended) implication that the UHJ has been less than honest about its reasons. Especially on a list such as [TK], I assume the members will be astute enough to realise what is going on


Later entries:

“deliberately defying the Universal House of Justice.”
Maneck to news/Bahai list, July 8, 2010 This is just mud-slinging, unless Ms. Maneck were to specify what instruction of the Universal House of Justice it was, that I defied.

‘maintaining “separation of “administration from doctrine”‘ (letter about me, December 2005) – This is not a slander, but it illustrates a problem: those who make it their business to monitor Bahai academics for orthodoxy can be surprisingly ignorant of the Bahai teachings. What they take to be an unorthodox position may simply be an aspect of the Bahai teaching that they have not encountered. The doctrine of the two separate spheres, of administration and doctrine, was explicated by Shoghi Effendi, in ‘The Dispensation of Baha’u’llah’ and the particular terminology I have used is taken from letters written by the Universal House of Justice itself:

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.
(The Universal House of Justice, March 9, 1965, re Appointment of a Guardian)

The Guardian and the Universal House of Justice have certain duties and functions in common; each also operates within a separate and distinct sphere. (The Universal House of Justice, Messages 1963 to 1986, p. 156)

… so the idea, propounded in that letter, that the Universal House of Justice expelled me for stubbornly continuing to spread this idea as a personal agenda, is ludicrous.

“Mr. McGlinn asserts that there is a wide range of issues which lie outside the scope of authoritative guidance. He then proposes that an “organ” of “learned” individuals should emerge, acting apart from the institutions of the Faith, which will serve, through the use of contemporary academic methodologies and scholarly debate, to clarify the meaning of the Text.”

~ this is largely bunkum. For my ideas on methodology, see the various postings on theology on this blog. Much as I appreciate the contribution of “contemporary academic methodologies,” Bahai theology (i.e., Bahai scholarship relating to the Bahai teachings) is a faith-based activity that addresses the questions that follow from belief. Furthermore, there are limitations on the scope of authoritative guidance, specified in the Writings and in Shoghi Effendi’s correspondence, for example: “Administrative affairs should be referred to the House of Justice, but acts of worship must be observed according as they are revealed by God in His Book.” (8th Ishraq, Shoghi Effendi’s translation) and “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.” (Shoghi Effendi, Directives from the Guardian, p. 33). Once again, the critique seems to reflect the authors’ lack of familiarity with some aspects of the Bahai teachings.

Mr. McGlinn asserts that the interactions of such a body of academically trained individuals are necessary to “maintain the clarity and vigour of any and every conception against the cliché, fatuousness, simplification, and the erosion of time”
. I maintain no such thing. This is misdirection by selective quotation, taken from a letter I did write. However the phrase “a body of academically trained individuals” has simply been put into my mouth. What I actually wrote was just the opposite: “Just as there are standards appropriate to Baha’i scholarship, (in the sense of disciplined thinking within and for the community of belief), there are standards appropriate to the academic study of religion, and one cannot take the standards of one context and impose them on another.” The full text of the letter is on this blog. I do not know how extracts from a letter (not e-mail) that I wrote to a Counsellor in 1990 came to be distributed electronically, in 2005, but those communicating with Counsellors might take this example as a caution.

He disobeyed the House many years ago and tried to manipulate the Baha’is around the world with his book. (KG; January, 2014)
This is a fairly typical example of gossip, perhaps intended to be private, but the recipient tweeted it. It asserts I disobeyed the UHJ, without saying what the UHJ asked me to do or to stop doing, so it is irrefutable. Like most of the putative explanations, it begs one question: I was disenrolled, it was not hundreds or dozens of people who were disenrolled. So what is so exceptional about me that leads to my disenrollment? Are my ideas, or behaviour, or character really so different to yours, dear gossiper, that I deserved disenrollment and you did not? If writing a book (in a limited edition, as a university dissertation) is a form of manipulation, why was I disenrolled when other authors whose books are more widely distributed have not been? It is the vanity of authors that they hope their books may make a difference to their readers. Is this wrong?

… he did try to do an end run around Baha’i institutions to get his book published. … There are a few other problems with his views of the Baha’i Faith, problems that led to his being expelled. … He knows what he needs to do to recover his good standing. So far he hasn’t done it, (JM, January 31, 2014)

Church and State was exempted from review by my NSA. I questioned that decision, pointing out that I was intending to print 400 copies, and suggesting the names of Bahais outside the Netherlands who would be able to do the review. The NSA did not reply, so I went ahead in line with the last decision they had communicated to me. The House of Justice knows this, and has stated that issues of review were not the basis for my removal from the Bahai rolls.

As for “problems” with my views, what are the views imputed to me, are they actually my views, what is the problem with them? As for “He knows what he needs to do to recover his good standing.” I do not. The UHJ has not given me a contact person to talk to, or any indication that there is any route to re-enrollment. I have applied to be re-enrolled several times, and have asked whether there is anything I can do to speed the process. The responses have been in the negative, and have given no further information. On the last occasion (2010) I received no reply. I think those silences can only be understood as a statement that I never will be re-enrolled.

Short link:

8 Responses to “A list of slanders”

  1. Hasan said

    For me, if a Baha’i wants to obtain religious knowledge, he/she should not ignore the Covenant, and it is a huge mistake to ignore an institution that “deliberates upon all problems which have caused difference, questions that are obscure and matters that are not expressly recorded in the Book”. So, you should have been more incisive, should have not ignore the 1995 letter, and should have not stop asking them for there are contradictions.

    Notwithstanding, I appreciate your academic efforts and translations which help me to understand better the Baha’i teachings.

    Let me quote the UHJ 1995 letter: “… At the same time, anyone who does choose to be a Bahá’í accepts the Covenant of Bahá’u’lláh and, while free expression of opinion within the Bahá’í community is encouraged, this cannot ever be permitted to degenerate to the level of undermining the Covenant for this would vitiate the very purpose of the Revelation itself”.

  2. Sen said

    You have only to look around this blog to see my use of research and argument to defend the Covenant from misrepresentation and mistaken accusations Hasan. For example:

    I did not “ignore” the 1995 letter, I respected the wish of the House of Justice that “although this letter is not a confidential document, we do not wish you to distribute it widely or to give it publicity.” Some other Bahais were so fixated on attacking me that they were willing to ignore the wish of the House of Justice. They spread the letter over the internet and claimed all sorts of things about my motivations – as if they had a window to my soul – and about my supposed disagreements with the House of Justice. I did not feel required to respond to this unseemly behaviour and I still think that was the right decision. My analysis is that what was happening was the introduction of the American “culture wars” into Bahai discourse, with me being targeted as a perceived “liberal.” Any response from me would be buying in to that polarized understanding of the nature of the Bahai community. As I see it, my calling is to use my talents and training to serve the community through translation and research. I have no battles to win, no enemies to defeat. Those who have made it their crusade to spread stories about me are their own enemies.

    What I can do is keep my arm
    from doing others any harm.
    I cannot give the enviers ease,
    they are themselves their own disease.
    (Sa’di, Gulestan 1:5)

  3. Hasan said

    Why don’t you write a Church and State book volume 2? This book could be your opportunity to harmonize your ideas with the House’s 1995 letter, if you can.

  4. Sen said

    There’s not much point in that Hasan, as the current members of the UHJ will surely have their own ideas. Bahais are not expected to match their ideas about the Bahai teachings to those of the House of Justice, as the House of Justice itself states:

    “The elucidations of the Universal House of Justice stem from its legislative function, and as such differ from interpretation. The divinely inspired legislation of the House of Justice does not attempt to say what the revealed Word means — it states what must be done in cases where the revealed Text or its authoritative interpretation is not explicit.”
    (The Universal House of Justice, 1994 Dec 15, Elucidations of the House of Justice)

    The understanding of the House of Justice changes, the Bahai teachings remain a constant, for the Bahai teachings are what Baha’u’llah, Abdu’l-Baha and Shoghi Effendi say they are.

    My own understanding has also evolved, particularly in discovering Shoghi Effendi’s translation of the 8th Ishraqat and 13th Bisharat,

    and more recently an essay on church and state written by Shoghi Effendi as a youth. I imagine the members of the House of Justice have come across the same new evidence, and some will have changed their understandings accordingly.

    However the assumption behind your question is that there was a conflict between my ideas and the UHJ’s 1995 letter, in 1995. I don’t think that was the case. That letter seemed to me to be directed rather at the writings of Denis MacEoin – I had not published anything at that point, so the House could hardly have been responding to me, except for my question about sources, which was directed to the Research Department, and arose from something MacEoin had (wrongly) attributed to Shoghi Effendi.

  5. hasanelias said

    Sen, I would really like to read Shoghi Effendi’s essay. Could you please send it to me? My email is Thanks in advance.

  6. Sen said

    It is published in Riaz Khadem’s book “Prelude to the Guardianship,” published by George Ronald. The relevant piece is pp 237-8. I think it’s OK for me to type over this short extract:
    “Another express provision in the teachings of the Movement is the institution of the House of Justice called the ‘Baytu’l-Adl’. Although the details touching its structure and operation have not yet been fully laid down yet the broad principles guiding its future activities has [sic] been established. Its duties are religious, educational, economic and political. Its different spheres of activity will be departmental, national and international. It is broadly speaking the nucleus of the Bahai State. Church and State thus far from being divorced from one another are harmonized, their interests are reconciled, are brought to co-operate for the same end, yet for each is reserved its special and definite sphere of activity. Indeed if one glances at the outstanding precepts of the Movement comprehensive and practical as they are, as the suppression of all dogmas, superstitions, religious organisations, rituals and verbal traditions, the abolition of priesthood, the discouragement of celibacy, the emphasis laid on deeds rather than words, the conception of labour as an act of worship, the belief that the criterion of every true living religion must be its conformity with reason and science and its aiming at the betterment of mankind, the body of its social and economic teachings which while denouncing force and violence and retaining the institution of private property seeks on one hand to infuse by its spirit a sense of justice and goodwill in both employer and workman alike and on the other provides the means whereby the status of the wage-earning class will be raised, — the details governing the institution of the Mashriqu’l-Adhkar — all these teachings go to show that religion far from being excluded from man’s social life should on the contrary quite stablize and protect it. The belief in the existence and the immortality of the soul; of its future reward and punishment; the condemnation of the life of the hermit and of all forms of austerities; the confession of sin to none but God; the repudiation of mendacity and idleness; the prohibition of all intoxicants; the necessity of cleanliness and the stress laid on piety, love, justice, service, pardon, steadfastness, co-operation, humility, these are among the features of its basic principles.”
    (Paper delivered in February 1921 to the Asiatic Society at Oxford).

  7. hasanelias said

    Sen, thanks for sharing. What exactly has changed in your Church and State view? The relevant quote is this: “…‘Baytu’l-Adl’. Although the details touching its structure and operation have not yet been fully laid down yet the broad principles guiding its future activities has [sic] been established. Its duties are religious, educational, economic and political. Its different spheres of activity will be departmental, national and international. It is broadly speaking the nucleus of the Bahai State. Church and State thus far from being divorced from one another are harmonized, their interests are reconciled, are brought to co-operate for the same end, yet for each is reserved its special and definite sphere of activity.”

  8. Sen said

    It’s not that my views have changed, it’s rather that finding this essay and Shoghi Effendi’s translations of the 8th Ishraqat and 13th Bisharat have confirmed the readings of Bahai teachings I explained in my Church and State book. The metaphor I used was an organic unity, in the sense that Church and State are conceived as two distinct organs within the body of society, each needing the other to be itself and do its work for the body. Like heart and liver: one pumps and the other purifies, and neither can exist without the other.

    When Shoghi Effendi writes “for each [Church and State] is reserved its special and definite sphere of activity,” it reminds me very much of his commentary on the roles of the Guardianship and the House of Justice:

    “…From these statements [in Abdu’l-Baha’s Will and Testament] it is made indubitably clear and evident  that the Guardian of the Faith has been made the Interpreter of the Word and that the Universal House of Justice has been invested with the function of legislating on matters not expressly revealed in the teachings. The interpretation of the Guardian, functioning within his own sphere, is as authoritative and binding as the enactments of the International House of Justice, whose exclusive right and prerogative is to pronounce upon and deliver the final judgment on such laws and ordinances as Bahá’u’lláh has not expressly revealed. Neither can, nor will ever, infringe upon the sacred and prescribed domain of the other. Neither will seek to curtail the specific and undoubted authority with which both have been divinely invested.

    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. … (“The Dispensation of Baha’u’llah”, published in The World Order of Baha’u’llah 149-50)

    When Shoghi Effendi wrote his 1921 essay, he had no inkling of the Will and Testament and the Guardianship, but his way of thinking, which revolves around pairs of things in relationships with one another, can already be seen in his treatment of Church and State. This appealed to me because I came at things from the other direction: the summerschool committee asked me to do a presentation on “The Dispensation of Baha’u’llah” and I was profoundly impressed by the constitutional thinking of his exposition of the paired relationship between the Guardianship and the House of Justice. When one of the Persian Bahais in our community raised the idea that the local assemblies would be governments in the future, I felt this was incompatible with the way Shoghi Effendi thought, and I applied the organic pairing I had found in “The Dispensation of Baha’u’llah” to the church-state issue. At that time I had no inkling of Abdu’l-Baha’s “Art of Governance / Resaleh-ye Siyasiyyeh” and I had not understood that the second part of the Iqan is all about Church and State, so I tried to solve the apparently contradictory passages in Shoghi Effendi’s writings and the letters written on his behalf simply at the Guardianship level. By 1995 I was getting to a coherent reading and gave a paper on the topic, and the following year I started Persian and read those two works in the original and so came up with the “organic unity” metaphor and saw how this could be expanded outward to a vision of the whole of society in terms of activity spheres, ” for each is reserved its special and definite sphere of activity.”

    It could be that Shoghi Effendi traveled the other way, from reading the “Art of Governance” and the Iqan and the tablets of Baha’u’llah he later selected for Gleanings (see below) to a relational model of Church and State (and Science and Religion, etc.) in society, to explaining the Guardianship and the House of Justice as two spheres of activity in a constitutional relationship with limits on each.

    LIV. By the righteousness of God, my Well-Beloved! I have never aspired after worldly leadership. My sole purpose hath been to hand down unto men that which I was bidden to deliver by God,

    LVI …Ere long will the state of affairs within thee be changed, and the reins of power fall into the hands of the people.

    CII. Give a hearing ear, O people, to that which I, in truth, say unto you. The one true God, exalted be His glory, hath ever regarded, and will continue to regard, the hearts of men as His own, His exclusive possession. All else, whether pertaining to land or sea, whether riches or glory, He hath bequeathed unto the Kings and rulers of the earth.

    CV: By the righteousness of God! It is not Our wish to lay hands on your kingdoms. Our mission is to seize and possess the hearts of men.

    CX: Our hope is that **the world’s religious leaders and the rulers thereof** will unitedly arise for the reformation of this age and the rehabilitation of its fortunes.

    CXII: If the rulers and kings of the earth, the symbols of the power of God, exalted be His glory, arise and resolve to dedicate themselves to whatever will promote the highest interests of the whole of humanity, the reign of justice will assuredly be established

    CXIV: Take heed that thou resign not the reins of the affairs of thy state into the hands of others, and repose not thy confidence in ministers unworthy of thy trust,…Seize thou, and hold firmly within the grasp of thy might, the reins of the affairs of thy people, and examine in person whatever pertaineth unto them….Thou art God’s shadow on earth. Strive, therefore, to act in such a manner as befitteth so eminent, so august a station.

    CXV: Forbear ye from concerning yourselves with the affairs of this world and all that pertaineth unto it, or from meddling with the activities of those who are its outward leaders.
    The one true God, exalted be His glory, hath bestowed the government of the earth upon the kings. To none is given the right to act in any manner that would run counter to the considered views of them who are in authority. That which He hath reserved for Himself are the cities of men’s hearts;

    CXVI: 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 down-trodden, and punish the wrong-doers.

    CXVII: The time must come when the imperative necessity for the holding of a vast, an all-embracing assemblage of men will be universally realized. The rulers and kings of the earth must needs attend it, and, participating in its deliberations, must consider such ways and means as will lay the foundations of the world’s Great Peace amongst men. … We fain would hope that the kings and rulers of the earth, the mirrors of the gracious and almighty name of God, may attain unto this station, and shield mankind from the onslaught of tyranny.

    CXVIII. Lay not aside the fear of God, O kings of the earth, …

    CXXVIII: Dispute not with any one concerning the things of this world and its affairs, for God hath abandoned them to such as have set their affection upon them. Out of the whole world He hath chosen for Himself the hearts of me
    (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 279)

    CXLI: your Lord hath committed the world and the cities thereof to the care of the kings of the earth, and made them the emblems of His own power, by virtue of the sovereignty He hath chosen to bestow upon them. He hath refused to reserve for Himself any share whatever of this world’s dominion. To this He Who is Himself the Eternal Truth will testify. The things He hath reserved for Himself are the cities of men’s hearts,

    CXIX O kings of the earth! We see you increasing every year your expenditures,

    CXXVIII Dispute not with any one concerning the things of this world and its affairs, for God hath abandoned them to such as have set their affection upon them. Out of the whole world He hath chosen for Himself the hearts of men

    CXXXIX ..for your Lord hath committed the world and the cities thereof to the care of the kings of the earth, and made them the emblems of His own power, by virtue of the sovereignty He hath chosen to bestow upon them. He hath refused to reserve for Himself any share whatever of this world’s dominion.

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