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The Bahá'í Faith and Homosexuality

The Bahá'í Faith and Homosexuality

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Published by: BVILLAR on Oct 14, 2009
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THE BAHA'I FAITHAND HOMOSEXUALITYOverview:The Baha'i Faith teaches beliefs about homosexuality that are quite similar tothose of many conservative religions. They teach that:The only acceptable form of sexual expression is between a one man and one womanafter marriage. Homosexual feelings and behavior are improper, and in oppositionto God's plan for humanity. Homosexuality as a disability for the individual toovercome. Through prayer, medical treatment, counseling, and much personal effort,they believe that a homosexual can become "straight."Unless gays or lesbians canconvert their sexual orientation to bisexuality or heterosexuality, and enter amarriage with a person of the opposite gender, they are expected to remaincelibate.The Baha'i faith has traditionally valued and accepted the findings ofscience. Their beliefs about to sexual orientation appear to be an exception tothis policy. The major medical and mental health professional associations haveissued statements declaring sexual orientation to be normal, natural, andunchangeable (or essentially so) in adults.Homosexuality in Baha'i sacred texts: References and interpretation:Prophet Baha'u'llah stated in 1875 (as translated by Kamran Hakim):"Say, it is forbidden to you adultery, homosexual relationship, and treachery. Donot commit these O assemblage of believers."Another translation of the same passage reads:"Ye are forbidden to commit adultery, sodomy and lechery."The former translation might be interpreted to condemn even celibate gay andlesbian relationships. The latter uses the word "sodomy" which is ambiguous; itmight be narrowly interpreted to condemn only anal intercourse, and thus onlyrefer to some male homosexuals. It might have a much wider meaning covering othernon-coital sexual activities, and thus include the vast majority of gays andlesbians.Elsewhere, in "Aqdas", Paragraph 107 states:"It is forbidden you to wed your fathers' wives. We shrink, for very shame, fromtreating 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 whorove distractedly in the wilderness of their desires.The Arabic word which has been translated here as "boys" appears to imply areference to the sexual molestation of under-age boys by adult males. This mayhave been a reference to slave boys kept for sexual purposes. "The Arabic term'Ghelmaan' is the plural form of the term 'Ghulaam' which according to the HansWehr Dictionary of Modern Written Arabic is defined as: boy; youth, lad; slave;servant; waiter. 'Ghulaamiya' and 'Ghuluma': youth, youthfulness."Baha'u'llah selected Abdu'l-Baha to interpret the Baha'i writings after his death.After the death of Abdu'l-Baha, the authority passed to Shoghi Effendi, who wasthe only authorized interpreter of the Baha'i Teachings until his death in 1957.His interpretations are believed to be based on his infallible understanding ofthe Texts. He has interpreted the second reference as prohibiting all same-sexactivity, including that between consenting gays or lesbians in committedrelationships.A letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, the Guardian of the Baha'i Faith,(1950-MAR-26) states that a homosexual relationship is inherently sinful, that itis a handicap to overcome, and that persons with a homosexual orientation canchange and become heterosexual. He wrote, in part:"No matter how devoted and fine the love may be between people of the same sex, tolet it find expression in sexual acts is wrong. To say that it is ideal is noexcuse. Immorality of every sort is really forbidden by Baha'u'llah, andhomosexual relationships he looks upon as such, besides being against nature...Tobe afflicted this way is a great burden to a conscientious soul. But through the
advice and help doctors, through a strong and determined effort, and throughprayer, a soul can overcome this handicap."1973 Statements by the House of Justice:They wrote (1973-FEB) that:"151. A number of sexual problems, such as homosexuality and transsexuality canwell have medical aspects, and in such cases recourse should certainly be had tothe best medical assistance. But it is clear from the teaching of Baha'u'llah thathomosexuality is not a condition to which a person should be reconciled, but is adistortion of his or her nature which should be controlled and overcome.Implied in this statement are the beliefs that a person's sexual orientation canbe changed through effort and treatment, and that homosexuality is an unnaturalcondition to be overcome. These beliefs are identical to those held by mostEvangelical Christians, but are directly opposite to a consensus reached by thatvast majority of psychologists and psychiatrists who are not EvangelicalChristians or Baha'i's.The House of Justice wrote on 1973-MAR-14 that:"Baha'i teachings on sexual morality centre on marriage and the family as thebedrock of the whole structure of human society, and are designed to protect andstrengthen that divine institution. Thus Baha'i Law restricts permissible sexualintercourse to that between a man and the woman to whom he is married."Rulings of Universal House of Justice are considered infallible. It cannot changea law, it can only legislate in areas where no law has been previously establishedby the Faith's sacred writings.1982 Letter on behalf of the Universal House of Justice:A letter from the Research Department to the Universal House of Justice dated1993-JUL-5 cited an earlier letter written on behalf of the Universal House ofJustice, dated 1982-AUG-23, which said that persons with homosexual orientationare expected to live a celibate life. The letter stated, in part:"...the Faith does not recognize homosexuality as a 'natural' or permanentphenomenon. Rather, it sees this as an aberration subject to treatment, howeverintractable exclusive homosexuality may now seem to be. To the question ofalteration of homosexual bents, much study must be given, and doubtless in thefuture clear principles of prevention and treatment will emerge. As for those nowafflicted, a homosexual does not decide to be a problem human, but he does, as yourightly state, have decision in choosing his way of life, i.e. abstaining fromhomosexual acts.1993 gay-positive meeting:On 1993-SEP-3 to 5, at the request of the National Spiritual Assembly of theBaha'is of the United States, a group of gays, lesbians and supporters gathered inReno, NV to discuss the beliefs and practices of the Baha'i Faith with regard tohomosexuality. The meeting was organized by the Local Spiritual Assembly of Renoand members of the Gay Baha'i Fellowship. On a letter to the Assembly dated 1993-SEP-20, they raised a number of points:In an apparent reference to the high suicide rate among gays and lesbians, theysaid "Many of us have been in hiding from our Baha'i communities, we have all beenmade to feel unwelcome in our own religion. For a few of us, it seems thatalienation, confusion, and despair has been too heavy a burden to bear." "Many ofus believe that this issue revolves around the Baha'i principle of thereconciliation of science and religion." "None of us has found in all our effortsany evidence whatsoever that a homosexual can be changed into a heterosexual bymedicine or psychological treatments. Our personal experience supports theaccepted view of science." "...recent data strongly suggests that sexualorientation is not only non-pathogenic, but prenatal, in fact in part geneticallydetermined." They cite a conflict between: "On the one side, a person'sunchangeable sexual and emotional needs, supported wholeheartedly by medicine and
psychology and further strengthened by a global movement in Gay and Lesbianrights. On the other side, the morality and censure of their chosen Faith. This isno small dilemma." 6The group produced a series of recommendations to theAssembly:1. "...greater compassion and forbearance in regarding homosexual Baha'is." Theysuggested that administrative action be taken against gay or lesbian Baha'is onlyin cases of "genuine public scandal."2. An end to "backbiting, intolerance, and unkindness" directed at gays' andlesbians' private behavior. They called for an end to a double standard; they feltthat homosexuals and heterosexuals were treated differently for the samebehaviors. The asked for a review of all cases where rights were removed from gaysor lesbians.3. Creation of a learned committee "to develop a plan to enlighten and educate theAmerican Baha'i community concerning homosexuality..."4. Creation of a group: Baha'i Parents and Friends of Gays and Lesbians (BPFLAG),modeled after the existing, secular PFLAG.5. The Gay Baha'i Fellowship provide a speakers bureau as a resource to the Baha'icommunity.6. The Assembly should make a "clear statement about whether gays and lesbians arewelcome in the Baha'i Faith." They expressed concern about the negative effectthat lack of acceptance of homosexuality by the Baha'i Faith is having uponindividuals in the scientific, civil rights, and progressive religiouscommunities.7. That Auxiliary Board Members and their assistants be provided "with up to datematerials, resources, and background on this subject." They expressed concern that"the focus to date has been one of "changing' sexual orientation which is not areachable goal, in light of current scientific findings."8. The Assembly should instruct Local Spiritual Assemblies to stop encouragingmarriage as a cure for homosexuality in view of the disastrous consequences thathave resulted. They recommended that lists of AIDS resources and supportorganizations be made available all Baha'i institutions and individuals,9. The group offered to consult with the National Spiritual Assembly about theserecommendations.They received no response from the Assembly at the time. However, the latter havesince gone on record as welcoming gays and lesbians as members, as long as theymake a "sincere and persistent effort to eradicate those aspects of theirconduct." Presumably this means that they try to change their sexual orientationand/or remain celibate. More details below.1995 statement by the House of Justice:They wrote a lengthy letter on 1995-SEP-11 to the National Spiritual Assembly ofthe Baha'is of the United States.". 2 It stated (in part) that:"It is important to understand that there is a difference between the Baha'iattitude toward, on the one hand, the condition of homosexuality and those who areaffected by it and, on the other, the practice of homosexual relations by membersof the Baha'i community...""The view that homosexuality is a condition that is not amenable to change is tobe questioned by Baha'is...The statistics which indicate that homosexuality isincurable are undoubtedly distorted by the fact that many of those who overcomethe problem never speak about it in public, and others solve their problemswithout even consulting professional counselors...""...the kind of sexuality purposed by God is the love between a man and awoman...""If, therefore, a homosexual cannot overcome his or her condition to the extent ofbeing able to have as [sic] heterosexual marriage, he or she must remain single,and abstain from sexual relations...""The condition of being sexually attracted to some object other than a maturemember of the opposite sex, a condition of which homosexuality is but one

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