Mavaddat Javid (mavaddat) wrote,
Mavaddat Javid

The Bahá'í Faith on Homosexuality

The Bahá'í Faith is a beautiful religion in many ways. For example, it advocates the harmony of humanity irrespective of race, gender, or country. It also teaches that religions should reconcile their differences and seek agreement.

In fact, there is much to praise about the Faith. It so engenders the beautiful and open-minded philosophy of the Enlightenment that I could easily go on at length about all its good aspects... But my point here is to raise Bahá'í's awareness of their laws, and create some accountability.

In one way that demands my attention, the Bahá'í Faith is... less beautiful. For me, the Bahá'í Faith's moral assesment of homosexuality is the main reason why I came to distrust the Faith as an infallible moral authority over my life. The reason why these teachings are so ugly is that they perpetuate the marginalization and misunderstanding of gay people within the Bahá'í community and in society at large. Besides the fact that Bahá'ís (in blocking same-sex marriage legislation) are a force preventing the full equality of all people, untold numbers of Bahá'ís must also ashamedly hide their sexual orientation from their community — the people they love most — because of these laws.

In fact, Bahá'ís are not just insulating the homophobia of other people from criticism... Bahá'ís are actually perpetrating this homophobia themselves. As the Guardian reported in a story published a few months ago, a group of Bahá'í leaders in Uganda actually supported the government ministers' demand to arrest lesbian and gay human rights activists. The story was also reported independently in the Washington Post, in the Voice of America, in the BBC and in No, this is not a merely theoretical debate: This is real life. And these teachings are having real effects on real people right now.

What's amazing, though, is that many people (Bahá'ís included) are not even aware of what the Bahá'í Faith says about homosexuality. It is for this reason that I thought it would be helpful to exhibit these writings all in one place and call your attention to them. I hope that sunlight truly is the best disinfectant, and that uncovering these ideas to public scrutiny will cause some people to reconsider them.

Before getting to the scripture, however, I'd like to make two points. The first is that none of these quotations are 'taken out of context' or twisted in any way. I have cited the references of all these quotations so that people can look them up for themselves to verify whether the context indeed adds anything. If anyone objects that I have taken any quotation out of context, I will gladly clarify any such quotation if only I am provided with the supposed context that is missing. My goal is not to misrepresent the Bahá'í Faith in any way, but simply to expose its teachings as they really are for everyone to see.

The second point is to notice that these are claims about objective moral truths by the Bahá'í Faith. In that sense then, they apply to everyone, not just Bahá'ís. This is confirmed by Bahá'u'lláh when he writes, for example:
Whenever My laws appear like the sun in the heaven of Mine utterance, they must be faithfully obeyed by all, though My decree be such as to cause the heaven of every religion to be cleft asunder. He doth what He pleaseth. He chooseth; and none may question His choice.
So let us bear this in mind when presented with contrary claims by the Universal House of Justice that try to justify the Bahá'í Faith's condemnation of homosexuality:
This law is no reason for Bahá'ís to consider homosexuals as outcasts. If they are not Bahá'ís there is also no reason to expect them to obey the Bahá'í law in this respect any more than we would expect a non-Bahá'í to abstain from drinking alcohol.

The Universal House of Justice, 16 March 1992

In light of the above quotation from Bahá'u'lláh (and many others like it), we can see that the Universal House of Justice has written nonsense. These are not subjective principles that only apply to Bahá'ís. They are supposed to be the very "ordinance of Him Who is the Desire of the world," and obedience to these laws is said by the Universal House of Justice to be "of vital importance if each human being, and mankind in general, is to develop properly and harmoniously." That is the very definition of an objective moral claim.

So with those two points made, let's see what the Bahá'í Faith actually says about homosexuality.
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.

Shoghi Effendi, 25 October 1949

No matter how devoted and fine the love may be between people of the same sex, to let it find expression in sexual acts is wrong. To say that it is ideal is no excuse. Immorality of every sort is really forbidden by Bahá’u’lláh, and homosexual relationships He looks upon as such, besides being against nature. To be afflicted this way is a great burden to a conscientious soul. But through the advice and help of doctors, through a strong and determined effort, and through prayer, a soul can overcome this handicap.

Shoghi Effendi, 26 March 1950

There is a wide range of sexual abnormalities. Some people nowadays maintain that homosexuality is not an abnormality and that homosexuals should be encouraged to establish sexual relations with one or more partners of the same sex [sic]. The Faith, on the contrary, makes it abundantly clear that homosexuality is an abnormality, is a great problem for the individual so afflicted, and that he or she should strive to overcome it. The social implications of such an attitude are very important. The primary purpose of sexual relations is, clearly, to perpetuate the species...

The Universal House of Justice, 16 March 1992

Compare the above statement, in which the Universal House of Justice says that homosexual relations are immoral because they violate the purpose of sex, with the following, in which they condone sex between heterosexual couples who cannot have children:
A couple who are physically incapable of having children may, of course, marry, since the procreation of children is not the only purpose of marriage. However, it would be contrary to the spirit of the Teachings for a couple to decide voluntarily never to have any children.

Universal House of Justice, 3 November 1982

So the issue is clearly one of unfair bias against homosexual relationships, since heterosexual sex that has no chance of reproducing life is not condemned by the Bahá'í writings.

Let's continue...
Homosexuality, according to the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, is spiritually condemned. This does not mean that people so afflicted must not be helped and advised and sympathized with. It does mean that we do not believe that it is a permissible way of life; which, also, is all too often the accepted attitude nowadays.

Shoghi Effendi, 21 May 1954

Homosexuality is highly condemned and often a great trial and cause of suffering to a person, as a Bahá’í. Any individual so afflicted must, through prayer, and any other means, seek to overcome this handicap.

Shoghi Effendi, 6 October 1956

...the Faith does not recognize homosexuality as a “natural” or permanent phenomenon. Rather, it sees this as an aberration subject to treatment, however intractable exclusive homosexuality may now seem to be. To the question of alteration of homosexual bents, much study must be given, and doubtless in the future clear principles of prevention and treatment will emerge. As for those now afflicted, a homosexual does not decide to be a problem human, but he does, as you rightly state, have decision in choosing his way of life, i.e. abstaining from homosexual acts.

The Universal House of Justice, 22 March 1987

The condition of being sexually attracted to some object other than a mature member of the opposite sex, a condition of which homosexuality is but one manifestation, is regarded by the Faith as a distortion of true human nature, as a problem to be overcome, no matter what specific physical or psychological condition may be the immediate cause. Any Bahá’í who suffers from such a disability [as homosexuality] should be treated with understanding, and should be helped to control and overcome it. (Emphasis mine.)

The Universal House of Justice, 11 Sept 1995

Regarding the question ...about one of the believers who seems to be flagrantly homosexual — although to an extent we must be forbearing ...of people’s moral conduct ...this does not mean that we can put up indefinitely with conduct which is disgracing the Cause. ...such acts are condemned by Bahá’u’lláh, ...he must mend his ways... If after a period of probation you do not see an improvement, he should have his voting rights taken away.

Shoghi Effendi, 20 June 1953

A brief interjection here. In the Bahá'í Faith, to have one's "voting rights" taken away is a humiliating and shameful punishment that alienates the one so-prosecuted from the rest of the Bahá'í community. It is, in a word, the Bahá'í equivalent of excommunication. The Universal House of Justice has even equated it with being expelled from the community:
A Bahá’í who has lost his administrative rights is administratively expelled from the community and therefore is not subject to the jurisdiction of the Spiritual Assembly...

The Universal House of Justice, 6 April 1982

This is merely an aside for those who don't understand what the removal of voting rights entails within the Bahá'í community.

And lastly, for those Bahá'ís who think that the best approach is simply to hold one's tongue and pray for change, the Universal House of Justice writes:
Regarding the question of whether or not same-sex marriages would ever be permitted by the Universal House of Justice, the enclosed extracts indicate clearly that it would not. In addition, it is interesting to note that 'Abdu'l-Bahá says in a Tablet:
Know thou that the command of marriage is eternal. It will never be changed nor altered. This is divine creation and there is not the slightest possibility that change or alteration affect this divine creation (marriage).

The Universal House of Justice, 05 Jun 1993

So the question becomes, if you don't like these teachings, what are you going to do about it? Are you going to be silent and hope that no one takes them seriously? Are you going to try to reinterpret them to fit your own moral perspective? Or are you going to take a firm stance against the unfair discrimination of people based on their sexual orientation? You are foremost accountable to your own conscience...
Tags: baha'i, baha'u'llah, gay, homosexuality

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