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Same sex marriages – 1

On Catholic Answers Forum,
one of the participants said

In the Baha’i faith, there is a scriptural prohibition of pederasty that has been “authoritatively” re-interpreted to proscribe homosexuality.

My response (28 August, 2009):

I guess you are not aware that this is a very contested claim within the Bahai community. The scriptural prohibition on pederasty is not in doubt, but is there an authoritative interpretation that prescribes homosexuality? The supposed interpretation is in a letter written by one of the Guardian’s secretaries (as is the supposed prohibition on ‘saying grace’ – yet Abdu’l-Baha said grace, and Baha’u’llah’s Tablet of Medicine actually prescribes it, before and after a meal.)

So here’s some of the questions raised:

– is everything that Shoghi Effendi wrote an authoritative interpretation of Bahai scripture. (answer – probably not, he himself says that some things are just personal advice).

– can a letter written by a secretary share in the Guardian’s powers of authoritative interpretation? (answer – probably yes, since sometimes they simply quote what the Guardian has already given as an interpretion.)

– can a letter from the Guardian become Bahai law? (answer – definitely not, he says so himself.)

– if the Guardian did make an interpretation, saying that the pederasty referred to by Baha’u’llah in the Aqdas also covered homosexuality as practiced in the west in the 1950’s, was this an anological reasoning based on the fact that both pederasty and homosexuality involve sex outside of marriage, or because both pederasty and homosexuality involve same-sex sex? In short, had he been asked, “how does the pederasty verse apply to same-sex unions within the framework of a marriage recognised by state and society?” what would the answer have been?

All of these ‘answers’ on the sub-questions are contested. There are some Bahais who treat every word from the Guardian or his secretary as both Interpretation and Law – in defiance of the Guardian’s own wishes in this respect – and who are quite certain that it is the ‘same-sex’ part that’s objectionable, rather than just the ‘outside of marriage’ part.

On the first question, I have an essay called Some Interpretive Principles
that discusses how we can tell what things written by Shoghi Effendi himself are authoritative interpretations that become interwoven with the scripture they interpret, and which are instructions given by him as head of the Faith at the time. By the rules I deduce there, the letters about homosexuality would probably not be considered authoritative interpretation.

I think that there is sufficient doubt about the binding interpretive nature of the letter written by Shoghi Effendi’s secretary, and about its applicability to a same-sex marriage as distinct from homosexual activity outside of marriage, to make the question an open one. There is moreover a letter written by Abdu’l-Baha about the wisdom of referring the specification of Bahai laws to the House of Justice, in which he uses the example of the forbidden degrees of marriage: something not specified in Baha’u’llah’s text. In this letter, Abdu’l- Baha says that the House of Justice will decide about the forbidden degrees of marriage based on scientific evidence, social norms and scripture. That provides a scriptural basis for the House of Justice to decide whether a same-sex marriage represents a forbidden, or a permitted, degree of ‘sameness,’ and to change its decision in the light of scientific evidence and social norms. However I do not expect to actually do so, until same-sex marriage is legally and socially recognised in many countries.

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23 Responses to “Same sex marriages – 1”

  1. 1. Sen, you indicate that this is a “very contested claim” within the Baha’i community. I would add that whatever the views of individual Baha’is, the authoritative interpretations of Shoghi Effendi and the authoritative elucidations of the House of Justice are unequivocal and consistent.

    2. As to drawing conclusions from the letter on behalf of the Guardian stating that it is not a practice to say grace before meals: First, I think the issue has to do with the formal act of saying a prayer aloud at the beginning of a meal. The statement in the Lawh-i-Tibb might be a directive to the individual to bring God to mind at the beginning and end of meals. The only place I have found a reference to Abdu’l-Baha saying a grace at mealtime, is at Phoebe Hearst’s hacienda in California — indicated in Mahmoud’s Diary, and in Balyuzi’s “Abdu’l-Baha.” I think this is an example of Abdu’l-Baha observing a Western custom in another person’s home. I have never read that grace was said before meals in the Master’s own house. I have spoken with one person who was at meals taken with Shoghi Effendi, and grace was not said before or after the meals he took with the pilgrims. My point being twofold: First, I don’t think that the letter on behalf of the Guardian is evidence that the secretary was off on his or her own tangent regarding prayers at mealtime. More importantly, I feel that it is not evidence that letters written by the Guardian’s secretaries are suspect on weightier matters.

    3. The letter written on the Guardian’s behalf to the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the United States and Canada which states that homosexual acts are condemned by Baha’u’llah is followed by a lengthy postscript written by Shoghi Effendi himself. One can hardly assert that a letter concluded with Shoghi Effendi’s handwritten signature did not convey his own intentions. The content of this letter is consistent with the contents of the other letters written on the Guardian’s behalf, in which I cannot yet confirm if they contain the Guardian’s signature. Even those letters written by the Guardian’s secretaries generally were the product of a written instruction from the Guardian. Often the Guardian made written notes on incoming letters, and these formed the basis of the letter prepared and signed by the Guardian’s secretary. The existence of these notes in the Guardian’s own hand is not known, outside of the Holy Land — the House has matched up the incoming letters with the outgoing letters, but this is not in published form.

    4. The Master’s reference to the forbidden degrees of marriage is related to Questions and Answers #50 where Baha’u’llah states that the propriety of marrying one’s relatives will be determined by the House of Justice. It is not as broad as you indicate, giving an entirely free hand to the House — the basic posture is already set forth by the Manifestation when He prohibits same-sex sexual acts, and the House has to act within the bounds of the Teachings.

    5. The question you pose in part 2 or 3 of this series of postings is an interesting one — that the House has not, to your knowledge, (or mine) made a direct ruling on what must happen, in a jurisdiction where same-sex marriages are lawful, when a party to such a marriage wishes to become a Baha’i. On the one hand, a comparison that suggests itself is, what is the ruling for a person from a society where polygamy is permitted, who wishes to become a Baha’i. My understanding is that in that situation the existing marriages may stand, but no further marriages are to be contracted. I also, obviously, do not know whether the House would require that the marriage first be terminated; or whether the existence of children who are under state law the lawful children of one or both parties to the same-sex marriage would be a factor. It’s a complex situation, but as Abdu’l-Baha wrote in His Will, “by this body all the difficult problems are to be resolved.” My *guess* is that there would not be a ruling that would result in practicing homosexuals being exempted from the proscription against sexual relations by contracting same-sex marriages before becoming Baha’is.

    As to the question whether existing marriages would need to be terminated before the person would be allowed to enter the Baha’i community — again, absent a ruling by the House, who can say? I wonder if this would be analogous to a prominent political figure who wanted to become a Baha’i. Would a United States senator be required to resign from office or retire, before being permitted to enroll in the Baha’i community, due to the prohibition on political activity and involvement in matters of state? I don’t know if the issue has arisen, but it might be analogous.


  2. Anon said

    There seems to be an endless debate about the legitimacy of homosexuality but countless time we have been warned by all the Central Figures of the Faith not to compromise with the decadent trends of this Godless age. Homosexuality is not of God, it is not permitted, it is unnatural, to entertain exceptions and mitigating circumstances seems to be missing the point. Why not do the same for stealing, or lechery, or greed? We are told not to steal even if we are staving, not to be tempted by even the fairest of maidens, not to affected even though we walk through a valley of gold. Why isn’t the message getting through to those who constantly debate the homosexual issue in the Baha’i Faith. It simply is not acceptable just as theft, lechery, and greed are not acceptable.

  3. Sen said

    Who are you to decide that your prejudices represent God’s will? Did Baha’u’llah say that homosexuality is like stealing? Did Moses or Muhammad or Christ say that? Ah no, ANON said that! You stand in the shoes of the Prophet. I think you will find they are too big for you.

  4. I find it offensive that people continue to compare homosexuality to “murder”, “backbiting”, “stealing”, as if there is any equivilancy whatsoever. Having a sip of alcohol when it is not religiously permitted is not the same thing as killing an innocent being, so why do too many Baha’is think it is fair to compare homosexuality to any heinous deed they can think of? This prejudice needs to be uprooted, because the world is progressing, and if the world gets to the point that it is more progressive than the Baha’i Faith, then what point is there in being a Baha’i?

  5. Roland said

    These Bible passages seem quite clear to me:
    Lev. 18:22, “You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination.”1
    Lev. 20:13, “If there is a man who lies with a male as those who lie with a woman, both of them have committed a detestable act; they shall surely be put to death. Their bloodguiltness is upon them”
    1 Cor. 6:9-10, “Or do you not know that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, 10nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, shall inherit the kingdom of God.”
    Rom. 1:26-28, “For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, 27and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error. 28And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper.”
    Homsoexual behaviour and, ipso facto, same sex marriages simply are not acceptable and you can’t get around it. If you check Wikipedia you can also find verses from the Koran and Hadiths which prohibit homosexual acts.

  6. Sen said

    Those are from Jewish and Christian scriptures. Bahais are a separate religion, with their own laws. Our belief is that the laws of previous religions are only carried forward if they have been confirmed in the new revelation. Abdu’l-Baha said: ”
    …could the Law of the Old Testament be enforced at this epoch and time? No, in the name of God! it would be impossible and impracticable; therefore, most certainly God abrogated the laws of the Old Testament at the time of Christ.”
    (Abdu’l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, p. 94)

    Actually, that’s Christian belief too – that’s why Christians don’t follow all the commandments of Leviticus and other laws. For example, the Old Testament allows divorce, the New Testament says it is (generally) invalid and whoever marries a divorced women commits adultery. According to Deuteronomy, money earned from dogs is unclean, just as the profits from usury and prostitution are (Deut 23:18): it’s an abomination to bring it to the temple. Do any churches refuse to accept donations from dog-breeders and bankers? So Christian practice implies the same principle that is made explicit in the Bahai teachings: laws not confirmed by Christ are generally considered silently abolished. Some make exceptions for Old Testament laws that confirm current prejudices: they are hung onto as the essence of Christian morality!

  7. Roland said

    You make some valid points about Christians and the Old Testament. The same could be said of many Jews trying to adjust to a modern world who no longrr observe outdated laws. However, the theological debate among Christians and Jews about homosexuality is much more complex than either the Biblical quotations or both our comments have indicated. This is why Episcopalian and Anglicans are fracturing along so called conservative and liberal lines and fast growing denominations like Pentecostal and Evangelical take a more conservative stance towards homosexual acts and marriage.

    While it is true that some laws are no longer applicable, a critical issue being debated regarding homosexual acts and the staus of homosexuals is what constitutes laws and what constitutes fundamental ethical Biblical teachings which are eternal and unchanging? For example, are the Ten Commandments fundamental ethics or law or both? The fact that laws in Leviticus, as you rightly point out, are no longer followed does not, ipso facto, invalidate 1 Cor. 6:9-10 and Rom. 1:26-28. As I noted, the same is true of the Koran and Islam where there is a much larger majority conservative anti-gay rights stance than exists in Christianity.

    I also note re your comment on whether a previous law has been confirmed in a subsequent religion that Mr.Poirier has pointed out (#3 above) the fact that a letter confirming that “homosexual acts are condemned by Baha’u’llah is followed by a lengthy postscript written by Shoghi Effendi himself. One can hardly assert that a letter concluded with Shoghi Effendi’s handwritten signature did not convey his own intentions. The content of this letter is consistent with the contents of the other letters written on the Guardian’s behalf.” So since the Bahaís Faith is the religion which has come after Islam it therefore seems to me incontrovertible that Baha’i teachings confirm the previous prohibitions on homosexual acts in Christianity and Islam.

  8. Roland said

    I had intended to add to my comment about Baha’i teachings, as the new religon for this age, confirming the truth of the Judaic, Christian and Islamic prohibition of homosexual acts, that your reply actually supports this view rather than undermining it. You stated that “our belief is that the laws of previous religions are only carried forward if they have been confirmed in the new revelation.” Therefore, according to your own logic, the fact that 1 Cor. 6:9-10 and Rom. 1:26-28 carry forward and confirm the condemnation of homosexual behaviour in Leviticus definitely suggests that according to your own beliefs the prohibition is one of those laws that is eternal and unchanging and has not been abrogated. This is not a simple matter of “current prejudice” anymore than the prohibition against adultery or stealing although I am not equating these laws by mentioning them.

  9. Sen said

    I am aware of the preponderance of conservative anti-gay rights stance in Islam. The conservative anti-Bahai rights stance also prevails, and one of the rights denied to Bahais is the right to have their marriages recognised. Equal rights for all may be a minority stance, but it’s not one I am going to abandon.

    “Homosexual acts are condemned by Baha’u’llah” in itself does not tell us that the Bahai teachings confirm the Islamic teachings. First, we go to what Baha’u’llah said, to see what homosexual acts are condemned, and we see that it is pederasty. Then we ask ourselves: is pederasty condemned because it is homosexual, or because it is sex in a situation of unequal power, thus verging on rape, or because it takes place outside of marriage and sex in the Bahai teachings is only accepted within the framework of a marriage? Those are not exclusive reasons, you could choose 1 AND 3, or other combinations. That kind of reasoning, where you take a law or teaching and try to reason from your understanding of it to the implications for another situation, not explicitly referred to, is something we do all the time in individual ethics. However only the House of Justice is empowered to do it authoritatively for the Bahai community.

    Another example is abortion: an affected individual has to understand the teachings and the particular situation, and by reasoning (in the broadest sense), deduce what the right thing to do is. But the House of Justice can do this authoritatively for the community, must be obeyed when it does so, and can change its ruling as social conditions and scientific understanding change. Ditto, you may say that as an individual Bahai you chose not to have a same-sex marriage because you think ““homosexual acts are condemned by Baha’u’llah” implies a condemnation of homosexual acts within a same-sex marriage, and that’s fine, that’s your ethics. But if you say, this is the Bahai teachings and it can never be changed, you are standing above the House of Justice and putting limits on it. And if you also say, society should not grant equal rights to gays because my interpretation of my religion say so, that’s a failure of love or, in plain terms, bigotry.

  10. Sen said

    Actually my logic wouldn’t lead me there, because a law has to be confirmed in Bahai revelation to become Bahai law. That’s why we don’t have stoning any more: its Old Testament and Quranic, but not Bahai.

  11. Mark Townsend said

    Even if all the rest of the world (which is unlikely since it is illegal in certain countries) affirms same sex marriage, we will not recognize the legitimacy of it.
    But a deep love for all souls, no matter what they are involved in was advocated by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá.

  12. Sen said

    I recognise your position may be unchangeable, but I am not without hope: year by year there are less of the people you include in your “we,” and more people willing to stand up for equal rights for all. I’m particularly encouraged by the greater openness of the younger generation. As a peace-minded Irish politician rather cynically put it, “where there’s death there’s hope.”

  13. Roland said

    Sen, your position is interesting to me because it seems to reject moral teachings in favor of a form of secular liberal advocacy in the context of postmodernism. You reasoning leads you to a focus on outdated laws so, ipso facto, if the law is invalid the ethical condemnation of homosexuality is invalid. But this position is untenable and obfuscates the moral condemnation of homosexuality.

    Stoning for adultery was also condemned by Jesus in John 8. Jesus said to those who would stone the adulteress that they who were without sin should cast the first stone. But he did not condone adultery. He told the adulteress to “Go and sin no more.” He could (hypothetically speaking) have said the same thing to those intending to stone a homosexual; but is there reason to suppose he would have said to the homosexual continue to behave as you were doing before rather than “go and sin no more”?

    The change in a law for punishment of a form of behavior does not change the fact that the behavior is wrong. We no longer have stoning for adultery, stealing, etc but that has not made these behaviors correct anymore than homosexual acts are correct. Your position does not invalidate Rom. 1:26-28 and 1 Cor. 6:9-10 anymore than it invalidates New Testament or other teachings against homosexuality, adultery and other prohibited actions. Your focus on stoning and outdated laws misses the point in my view. The laws may have changed but the ethical teachings underlying the reasons why those behaviors merited punishment have not changed.

  14. Roland said

    In order to make my point more clear I would like to focus exclusively on modern law and punishment by using an example. Few Western countries have retained capital punishment as a form of punishment for murder. Life imprisonment has become the norm and in many countries this seldom means lifelong incarceration. Murderers are often released after a decade or more of being incarcerated for their crime.

    But these modern changes in punishment for acts of murder make it no less morally wrong. Your attempt to equate changes in former punishments such as stoning with some form of deficiency in the moral condemnation of the behavior meriting that punishment is therefore logically and ethically deficient in my opinion. It seems to me to be logically and ethically deficient to assert that a change to a punishment of life imprisonment instead of capital punishment makes murder any less reprehensible. Changes in outdated laws regarding homosexuality are also not a sufficient basis for your argument that such acts are therefore not morally wrong and can be condoned.

    Of course, I am not by any means implying by my example that murder and homosexuality are in any way equivalent just as my points could not be taken to imply that stealing or adultery are equivalent to murder.

  15. Sen said

    Have I understood you correctly: your position is that on moral questions, one can deduce Bahai teachings from the Old Testament and New Testament, but on punishments, one cannot? If that’s what you are saying, where is the source in the Bahai writings (or the Bible or Quran) on which you base this distinction? I suggest to you that you argue for this because, when arguing about homosexuality, you feel you need to use the Bible, rather than because you actually support this as a principle about Bahai moral teachings and Biblical sources.

    How about thinking back one step further: if your approach to the issue cannot be argued without reference to a biblical text, perhaps it’s not a Bahai belief at all? Perhaps your own recourse to the Bible as a foundation should be telling you, that you’ve found nothing specific in Bahai scriptures on the topic — one way or the other. In that case, we turn to the basis of unity for the Bahais: things not explicit in the text are referred to the House of Justice.

    There’s a tablet of Abdu’l-Baha about the wisdom of referring social issues such as the marriage law to the House of Justice, and he gives the example of the forbidden degrees of marriage, which are another “moral” issue on which the Bahai teachings are almost silent (but we do not turn to the Bible or the Quran to find out what the Bahai teachings are !). He says the House of Justice (I think he is talking about the national spiritual assembly) will decide such matters based on social mores and scientific evidence. In my translation (still being refined) he says:

    As for the matter of marriage, this fall entirely within the social laws… union of relatives, … is not explicitly treated, and is referred to the House of Justice, which will give a ruling in accordance with social customs and medical requirements, wisdom, and suitability for human nature. According to social and medical principles, and nature, there is no doubt that, in marriage, ‘distance is nearer than nearness.’ In this light, consider the Christian religious law. Although marriage to relatives is in reality permitted, since there is no explicit impediment in the Text, the early Christian councils entirely forbade marriages between relatives, to the seventh degree, and today this is enforced in all the Christian churches, since this is purely a social question.

    In short, whatever ruling the House of Justice makes on this question, that is in truth the decisive decree, it is God’s sharp sword. No one may deviate from it. If you consider, it will be apparent how much this rule (that is, referring social laws to the House of Justice) is consistent with wisdom. For whenever a difficulty may arise and a local [1] decision is required, at that point, since the House of Justice delivered the previous ruling, the secondary House of Justice, can issue a new national [2] ruling on a national case and topic, in the light of local imperatives. To entirely avoid any risks, the rulings that the House of Justice has made, it can also abrogate.

    Note: I’ve used variant texts in Amr wa Khalq vol 4 p 298, Rahiq-e Makhtum p 222 and a manuscript in the INBA collection. The several differences in these two paragraphs do not affect the sense

    1. Uncertain reading

    2: ‘Specific’, but the ‘specific’ House of Justice is translated by Shoghi Effendi as the secondary House of Justice, which functions at the national level.

    In the same way, there is no explicit impediment in the text to same-sex marriages, therefore it is referred to the House of Justice: it is purely a social question (no Bahai doctrine hangs on it). The House of Justice might decide that what the Aqdas says about pederasty is an impediment, but I rather doubt it — it would be an enormous stretch of the text. They might also decide that the dowry law is an impediment to a same sex marriage, which would be rather more to the point: what would the law be if there were two brides, and one from the city and one from the countryside, to boot? But they might also say, the House of Justice is designed precisely to solve such legal problems by making a binding ruling. Which brings me back to my point: it’s up to the House of Justice, and it’s not up to us to say what a future House of Justice may or may not do.

    I also recognise that Bahais can and do say, “I will never accept X (in my lifetime),” which is not the same as saying “the House of Justice may never do X.” Sometimes they say the second, but really mean the first. Individuals have limits on how much change they can accept. I think both the believers and the Houses of Justice have to put unity first, which means, accepting that the change on hot-button issues will come with the rhythm of a changing of generations. A change of attitudes in a religious community cannot be rushed through from the top in the way one would implement a programme to change company culture in a business.

  16. Roland said

    You have understood me incorrectly and your suggestion/conclusion as to the underlying basis of my argument is therefore erroneous. There is absolutely nothing wrong with using the Biblical texts to point out deficiencies in your moral and logical reasoning (e.g. your references to the outdated law of stoning) by referring to those same Biblical texts and modern legal practice as a response to where your reasoning leads you.

    My comments have referred to the Bible and Koran from the very beginning merely to illustrate moral principles in these religions regarding homosexual acts which are definitely consistent with the Baha’i Faith. I have referred to these other texts because I have observed a definite reluctance on your part to accept the position of the Guardian and House of Justice regarding homosexuality. The teachings of the Faith on this matter are very clear to me and I have no problem whatsoever, contrary to your suggestion, in accepting them unequivocally. I know you are familiar with all of the relevant passages yet you insist on ignoring the interpretations of the Guardian and elucidations of the House regarding Baha’u’llah’s reference to pederasty. You forgot to mention Baha’u’llah’s reference to sodomy: “Ye are forbidden to commit adultery, sodomy and lechery. Avoid them, O concourse of the faithful. By the righteousness of God!”

    The following is one of many comments by the House of Hutice: “The Universal House of Justice is authorized to change or repeal its own legislation as conditions change…but it cannot abrogate or change any of the laws which are explicitly laid down in the sacred Texts. It follows, then, that the House of Justice has no authority to change this clear teaching on homosexual practice. (From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States, Sept. 11, 1995; published in “The American Baha’i”, Qawl 152 BE/Nov. 23, 1995, p 11.

    I know you do not accept this or the other statements by the House of Justice making it very clear that homosexual acts are not acceptable. The problem is that you try to elucidate based on your own ideas rather than accept the clear guidance of the House of Justice and the Guardian. As Brent Poirier has already noted above: “the letter written on the Guardian’s behalf to the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the United States and Canada which states that homosexual acts are condemned by Baha’u’llah is followed by a lengthy postscript written by Shoghi Effendi himself. One can hardly assert that a letter concluded with Shoghi Effendi’s handwritten signature did not convey his own intentions.” Your refusal to accept this is your prerogative but the House of Justice’s guidance on this matter is very clear to me.

  17. Sen said

    Ah! No, you have misunderstood me. I don’t have any difficulty in accepting the UHJ’s authority, or that of Shoghi Effendi, so referring to the Bible did not strengthen your argument in my eyes, it weakened it. It was not the UHJ or the Guardian’s authority I was questioning, but rather your ideas. Not that they are definitely inconsistent with the Bahai teachings, but rather that they are not the only possible reading. To reiterate: there could be at least 2 reasons why homosexual acts were considered to be condemned by Baha’u’llah: because they are homosexual or because they are outside of a marriage. The reasoning that deduces the principle underlying a prohibition or command and applies it to a new situation is something we all do, and you are as entitled to your opinion as I am to mine, but only the House of Justice does it authoritatively for the community, and it may change its rulings. Including a ruling that it has no authority on the matter, both because the House of Justice’s understanding of the Writings may change, and because “the matter” may be redefined by changes in the world, to the extent that its previous rulings and the Bahai Writings no longer cover the question.

    You might have noticed that I am focussing on same-sex marriages rather than homosexual marriages: the distinction I have in mind is that if two men, or two women, are married in the eyes of the state, we cannot safely assume that they are having sex. Nor I think is it any of our business. So again, the statement that homosexual acts are condemned does not in itself tell us what the Bahai response should be to a marriage between people of the same sex. I think that not only the marriage laws but also the teachings about justice and equality have to be considered in how we personally look at such as couple, and that the decision with regard to religious law lies with the House of Justice.

  18. Peyam said

    This is something I posted on the Gay/Lesbian Bahai Story Project (

    It would really be nice to know what eventually happened to those gay Bahais in the 1950’s who were under the influence of Shoghi Effendi’s secretaries:

    “What happened to that believer?”
    Sunday, August 22, 2010 at 08:09AM
    The current Universal House of Justice and many Bahais use the quotes from secretaries of Shoghi Effendi to justify opposition to same sex relationships as the Bahai way. But I’ve always been curious about one such letter written in the 1950’s. It’s as follows:

    “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 of society in general, this does not mean that we can put up indefinitely with conduct that 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.” Letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, letter dated 6/20/53 to NSA of Canada.

    I have to wonder, what happened to this flagrantly gay Bahai in Canada back in 1953. Did he just leave the Faith? Did he have his voting rights removed? Did he pretend that he was now straight so he could remain in the community? Or worse, did he actually LISTEN to this advice? THAT is what scares me. It is so immoral and irresponsible for a the head of a world religion that claims to be the voice of God on earth today, to offer such a quote as an eternal truth- as God’s word. Did the UHJ or any Bahai for that matter stop and think- what happened to this guy? Let’s assume he actually went to a “competent doctor” in his day to overcome his homosexuality. Would you all like to know what some of the prescriptions were in those days in the West to help gays get over their sickness of being gay? Here are just some I’d like to share:

    -Electric shock therapy (one of the most common treatments)
    -Oestrogen treatment to reduce libido; and other methods such as chemical castration
    -Injections of apomorphine which could have serious side effects
    -And worse case scenario, if the individual was desperate, a lobotomy

    So these were just some of the options that poor soul had to choose from when the secretary of Shoghi Effendi speaking on his behalf told this NSA that the flagrant fag should go get a doctor to overcome his affliction. But what really worries me is that many, many people who tried to get cured- did not. The shame, self-loathing that they felt after failing pushed them to suicide. Did this flagrant gay Bahai end up killing himself? No one knows. The UHJ, if they know, for sure will not tell us. Maybe there was another letter from the NSA to inform that secretary that his/her advice on behalf of Shoghi Effendi led this person to put a bullet through his head. Who knows? I’m sure those letters that don’t paint a nice picture are locked up somewhere in Haifa, or maybe they were just burned. All we need to know is that these letters are the word of God and that’s that. Don’t ask questions!

  19. Crazyhorse said

    Sen-What do you think of “Bacca Bazzi”,

  20. Sen said

    Bacha Bazi is part of what Baha’u’llah referred to in the Aqdas as “the subject of boys.” It is the sexual abuse of children, sexual slavery, the corruption of youth and the abuse of power by wealthy older men. I note that while the term is Persian (or Dari, the Afghan variant), the practice seems to be shown in ancient Greek art and literature, under a veil. It is in any case not an Islamic vice, but a vice of certain cultures, in various parts of the world. Baha’u’llah writes:

    We shrink, for very shame, from treating of the subject of boys. Fear ye the Merciful, O peoples of the world! Commit not that which is forbidden you in Our Holy Tablet, and be not of those who rove distractedly in the wilderness of their desires.
    (The Kitab-i-Aqdas, paragraph 107)

  21. Zach said

    This entire discussion seems to have the attitude of homosexual men as an uninvolved ‘other’. This is all being discussed about them. Whether a person supports ‘gay rights’ or not, there remains the reality that perhaps one in twenty adult men have a sexual identity that is primarily and inflexibly homosexual. Even assuming the immorality this sexual preference, that does not change the – current – inefficacy of the available therapies. It is fine and well to simply suggest to a person that he or she remain celibate, and I doubt that would be ever consistently enacted in any considerable number of people’s lives. Of course, advocates of moral traditionalism or orthodoxy would make reference to a minority of homosexual men who do not accept their sexual preference as normal or healthy, and that still begs the question that to base advice to a fairly sizeable group of people to never have sexual interrouse at all seems a little ludicrous. My understanding is that the Kitab-i-Aqdas is to serve as the charter of a *future* world civilization. Therefore, to make rigid pronouncements upon such a document for current circumstances does not seem completely reality-oriented. And no one can make sound generalizations about a future society, and how the full spectrum of society will work itself out. Any argumentation either in favor of or against the dignity of homosexual men and women seems limited when, in part, based on a legal code primarily intended for a future world order, and, then, begs the question about the status and social expectations of a current – and frequently misunderstood and at times just plain hated – sexual minority.

  22. Zach said

    There might have actually been some hidden wisdom in the NSA communcation. In part, it suggested seeking the counsel of a ‘competent doctor.’ The book The Homosexual in America: A Subjective Approach came out in 1951. It is an absolutely fascinating read, advocating for much greater clarity and openness as far as the gay community was concerned, and also including extensive documentation of federal government policy for the exclusion of homosexuals from the military and civil services. It is well within the realm of possibility that such a medical practitioner would have advised the multi-faceted application of self-discipline: primarily to completely curtail any such ‘flagrant’ behavior given that the person was involved with the voluntary spiritual fellowship of the Baha’i Faith, the adoption of a time-consuming hobby like art or something like that, and then the occasional, disciplined, and sublimely discreet indulgence of the homosexual impulse.

  23. Sen said

    It is one thing to recommend for other individuals, or decide for oneself, to remain celibate in a situation in which no healthy expression of the sexual impulse in the context of the sustained companionship of a marriage is possible. It is quite another to tell all those with homosexual orientations to remain celibate and not take advantage of the possibility of same-sex marriage, where this exists. That is, celibacy may generally be preferable to “the occasional, disciplined, and sublimely discreet indulgence” of the sexual impulse, but marriage, where the possibility exists, is surely preferable to either.

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