Sen McGlinn's blog

                                  Reflections on the Bahai teachings

Church and State – 2

One of the friends asked whether:

> if the House were
> handed a … proposed basic constitution of a
> Baha’i-majority state, … it would consider it within its purview
> to state its views on whether that document did or did not violate
> any Baha’i laws.

My response, October 18 2009

One verse that immediately comes to mind is in Abdu’l-Baha’s Resaleh-
ye Siyasiyyeh
:

These souls are the fountainhead of the promulgation of God́’s commandments, not of implementation. (iin nafuus masdar-e tashrii`-ye ahkaam-e ‘ilahii hastand, ne tanfidh) That is, when the government enquires as to the requirements of the Law of God and the realities of the divine ordinances, in principle or in a specific case, they must explain what they have deduced from the commands of God and what is in accordance with the law of God. Apart from this, what awareness do they have of questions of leadership and social development, the administration and control of weighty matters, worldly well-being and happiness, the improvement of procedures and codes of temporal law, or foreign affairs and domestic policy?

and the similar terminology in the Will and Testament:

This House of Justice enacteth the laws [masdar-e tashrii` ast] and the government enforceth them. [qoveh-ye tanfiidh ast] The legislative body [tashrii`] must reinforce the executive [tanfiidh], the executive must aid and assist the legislative body so that through the close union and harmony of these two forces [doo qoveh], the foundation of fairness and justice may become firm and strong, that all the regions of the world may become even as Paradise itself.

(for the Persian text see page 16 about line 7 of the pdf available
from http://reference.bahai.org/fa/t/ab/ )

Doo qoveh, two forces, is the “signature tune” of the Resaleh ye
siyasiyyeh
: these two forces of government and religion are the
channels through which God governs and guides (siyasiyyeh) humanity.
Since the Will and Testament says that the House of Justice is the
tashrii`, and should work in harmony with the government, and since
the Resaleh-ye Siyasiyyeh says that the tashrii` can give advice to
the government when asked, explaining “what they have deduced from
the commands of God and what is in accordance with the law of God” I
see no barriers in principle.

The question that arises for me, in the situation you outline, is whether advising on a national constitution would be in the purview of the National House of Justice, or the Universal one? I imagine, in order to establish or strengthen the relationship between the two forces at the national level, and in view of the variability of national conditions, that it would fall to the National House of Justice to give its opinion to the government or constitutional assembly. This does not require a majority or even a large number of Bahais in the country, and I believe that it has already occurred in the case of the constitution of Swaziland. The NSA of South Africa has produced a document called suggestions for a new constitution, and the BIC once produced ‘proposals for charter revision’ for the United Nations.

Having said all that, what the House of Justice actually does is
always situational. There could be circumstances in which the UHJ
might say that this is not appropriate, for example if it would cause
difficulties for the Bahais in another country, or if the very act of
giving advice on amendments might imply acceptance of the underlying
system of a regime that is incompatible with Bahai principles.

Sen

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