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Title: Alienation: The Bahai faith and LGBT equality Credit: Craig Young Comment Friday 17th August 2007 - 10:40pm1187347200 Article: 4803 Rights
 
I'm reluctant to write this piece. Bahaism isn't an excessively antigay faith, but its unfortunate refusal to listen to evidence-based mainstream scientific analyses of human sexuality has led to estrangement between LGBTs and their community. Bahaism was founded in the nineteenth century. Its founder, Baha'ullah, was martyred in his native Persia for 'heretical' beliefs, primarily that he regarded himself as the latest in a line of ongoing prophets of the revealed word of god. This was an affront to Muslims, as they regard the Prophet Mohammed as the ultimate benchmark for divine commentary and human conduct, and has led to sporadic episodes of anti-Bahai persecution. Fortunately, Bahaism survived this, institutionalised its religious doctrines, and set up national Spiritual Assemblies that report to a Universal House of Justice. It is the Universal House of Justice that is regarded as the current authoritative source of interpretation of Bahai doctrine and practice. Bahaism has many admirable qualities, as with its commitment to gender equality and support for strong global humanitarian, medical and peacemaking organisations. Unfortunately, though, their religious teachings don't recognise the legitimacy of homosexuality. They rely on a tacit, unelaborated belief that "natural law" constitutes monogamous heterosexuals as superior to all lesbians and gay men, and it seems that their religious authorities are unwilling to deviate from their traditional teachings due to reliance on an obsolete medical belief that homosexuality is a 'psychopathology' and can be 'changed.' Unfortunately, the latter viewpoint led one UK Spiritual Assembly to make some regrettable comments that supported the discriminatory Clause 28 of the Local Government Act 1988, which denied local body social and educational services to lesbians and gay men until it was later repealed. This unfortunate assertion has never been repeated. Unlike the Christian Right, UK and Canadian Muslim Right, US and Israeli Orthodox Jewish Right and the Unification Church, Bahaism has refrained from otherwise translating its particular exclusionist stance into law. Because of this, there is a divergence of opinion within some sectors of the LGBT community towards humanitarian assistance for Iranian Bahais, who faced relentless persecution in the eighties after the Iranian Islamic Revolution (1979). Some argue that Clause 28 is now history, and we have historically been committed to broad-based human rights initiatives, so we should speak out against anti-Bahai religious persecution. Others argue that this should wait until internal Bahai reformist groups arise, questioning whether tradition is neccessarily wholly binding on their faith, and whether there are degrees of divine revelation. It has to be said that apart from Clause 28, Bahais have not traditionally been involved in antigay politics, and Iranian anti-Bahai persecution is a serious ongoing human rights crisis. The reader may want to decide for herself or himself. Recommended: http://www.religioustolerance.org/hom_bah.htm Homosexuality and Bahaism Recommended Reading on Traditional Bahai Perspectives (Bibliography from above webpage) "Messages from the Universal House of Justice 1968-1973", P. 110-11) (Volume 1, pages 57-58) Universal House of Justice, "The Baha'i Teachings on Homosexuality", Letter to the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of the United States, 1995-SEP-11. Reprinted in "The American Baha'i," Qawl 152, 1995-NOV-23, P. 11. Available at: http://bahai-library.org/uhj/homosexuality.uhj.html A "Draft FAQ: The Baha'i Faith and Homosexuality" prepared by Roger Reini on 1996-JAN-13 is available at: http://bahai-library.org/compilations/homosexuality.comp.html Another essay on homosexuality within the Baha'i Faith was posted to newsgroup "Soc.Religion.Bahai" by Mesbah Javid. See: http://www.bcca.org/srb/archive/951021-951231/0011.html Letter containing recommendations to the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of the United States from a gay-positive group is at: http://bahai-library.org/letters/gays.html The statement by the National Spiritual Assembly of the UK is available at: http://bahai-library.org/nsa/homosexuality.uk.html "A review of some Baha'i literature on homosexuality," at: http://bahai-library.org/unpubl.articles/homosexuality.html A discussion conducted on the listserv Talisman One, available at: http://bahai-library.org/essays/aqdas.107.html A memorandum sent to the Universal House of Justice on 1993-JUL-5 contains a selection of extracts from various Baha'i sources on homosexuality. See: http://bahai-library.org/uhj/homosexuality.discussion.html The Baha'i International Health Agency formally recognized and sponsored the establishment of the Institute on AIDS, Sexuality and Addictions, to explore Baha'i principles and concepts related to these three topics. Their web site is at: http://www.globweb.com/bnasaa/ Roger Reini, "Draft FAQ: The Bha'i Faith and homosexuality, A Compilation of Selections from the Baha'i Writings," 1996-JAN-13, at: http://bahai-library.org/ Qilma Ellis, "Eliminating prejudices," undated, at: http://www.bnasaa.org/ Craig Young - 17th August 2007    
 
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