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                                  Reflections on the Bahai teachings

Same sex marriages – 4

25 December 2010, in response to the statement:

> In like manner, the Interpreter has stated what “the subject of boys” means.

Could you give your source for this? So far as I know, none of the statements from the Guardian or on his behalf mention these words, which on the face of it refer to pederasty. On the other hand, we have a text from Baha’u’llah which says:

Ye are forbidden to commit adultery, sodomy and lechery. …

and in the same compilation, in letters written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi:

…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.

That seems clear – it is not about the subject of boys in the Aqdas, but about “Ye are forbidden to commit adultery, sodomy and lechery. …” (or a similar phrase in another tablet from Baha’u’llah that speaks of adultery and immoral conduct).

and again on behalf of Shoghi Effendi:

Immorality of every sort is really forbidden by Baha’u’llah, and
homosexual relationships He looks upon as such, besides being
against nature.

again, this seems to be referring to “immorality of every sort” not the subject of boys.


All he can tell you is that it is forbidden by Baha’u’llah, and that
one so afflicted should struggle and struggle again to overcome it.

Here we have no point of reference, without knowing the question that was asked. It might have been about pederastic inclinations, or homosexual attraction, or a desire for anal sex.

and the last one:

Regarding the question you asked him about one of the believers who
seems to be flagrantly 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.

Here the subject is an individual case of flagrant homosexual behaviour that brings disgrace to the Faith. It might be talking about pederasty, or might not.

From the above, it would be reasonable to suppose that the Guardian never discussed “the subject of boys” in his letters to Western Bahais, which would not be surprising since the particular kind of pederastic patron-client relationship covered by “the subject of boys” is not as common in the West as it was in the Ottoman/Iranian world of Baha’u’llah’s day — but that when asked about homosexuality (implicitly, male homosexuality outside marriage), his answers appear to refer to “Ye are forbidden to commit adultery, sodomy and lechery…” or a similar text. But given that the answers do not reference a text, and are in the words of a secretary not those of Shoghi Effendi himself, we cannot be sure what the reference is. It is one thing to say that the letters written on Shoghi Effendi’s behalf may contain authoritative interpretations of the Writings (and I see no reason why not), it’s another to say “I know which text is being interpreted so there can be no more discussion about the meaning of that verse” – when no verse is cited!

It is necessary to distinguish clearly in each case, and each of our opinions, whether we are speaking of pederasty, homosexual relationship outside marriage, homosexual relationships inside marriage (or more precisely, about same-sex marriages), or “adultery, sodomy and lechery.”

Sodomy (aka anal sex, liwat) is not exclusive to homosexuals, not practiced by all homosexuals, is practiced by some heterosexual married couples, and is not likely to be practiced by lesbians, whether married or unmarried. So as somebody else has noted in this discussion, if there is a Bahai teaching against this practice, it should be stated quite separately to the question of Bahai teachings regarding same-sex marriages.

Same-sex marriages again need to be subdivided according to sexual involvement. For example, is a celibate same-sex marriage which is contracted for companionship and to give the partners the security of a legally recognised marriage (inheritance of social welfare and private pension rights, for example) to be regarded as “immorality”? If so, what exact component is it that the Bahai teachings say is immoral?

It’s because of the later consideration that I usually speak of the question of whether the Bahai communities can recognise same-sex marriages, rather than homo-sexual marriages. Homosexual marriages are a sub-set of same-sex marriages (the ones involving some sexual behaviour, which may or may not be liwat/sodomy). Given that the Bahai Assemblies do not pry into bedroom practices, it is same-sex marriages/civil unions which Assemblies have to deal with, and decide whether they can accept the couple or not, and whether a Bahai can officiate at the ceremony or not, be a witness or not, and so forth.


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