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Discussion > US National Spiritual Assembly re-circulates Jan. 3rd 2011 letter on homosexuality and human rights

In an interesting development National asks Americans Baha'is to study the January 3rd 2011 letter on homosexuality to better understand what manner is "appropriate" when engaging in discourse in public forums and social media dealing with this topic. I want to ask how "appropriate" it is for individuals lecturing the US Baha'i community at ABS conferences and local communities with a pro reparative therapy agenda with National's knowledge and support. I want to also ask if it "appropriate" for an official agency of the US NSA to belong to the controversial and damaging reparative therapy group called NARTH?
April 20, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSean
Hello, I'm a straight Baha'i and I'm on my LSA, I'm here because I was looking for a resource to deepen my own understanding on the subject of this letter. With out divulging too much information, I'd like to ask some advice on something. we have a seeker who identifies him self as a gay man, we're excited to welcome him into our community, and want to show him the love every one deserves. At some point though we are going to have to explain Baha'i law to him, we don't want to make him feel attacked by this, or let this be the cause of disunity. Have you had a positive experience in dealing with this subject with in the faith, or have an idea on how we could do this better.
June 13, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCarl
Dear Carl,

Thanks for seeking to broaden your understanding not only for yourself but for a new (and important) member of the Bahá'í community.
Firstly, I think it's important not to place too much emphasis on this subject. I say that because I feel the teachings and the principles in the Bahá'í Writings are broad, their application lifelong and their deepening ongoing. To focus on sexuality could be disunifying for him and for the community. Likewise, it seems likely that he would already be aware of the religious stance generally, or even particularly, on this subject. To flag it could make him feel threatened or unjustly place a burden upon him.
On the other hand, it is your duty to provide support and direction. It must be up to you to decide when that is best. You must act with wisdom and love, in solidarity (aware of your own faults) with compassion and I think without expectation. When I joined the Bahá'í community, no one commented that I was in a relationship. But on the other hand, had it been discussed, I would have appreciated guidance and the promise of prayer. I don't think it's fair to assume, if your seeker is single, that he is promiscuous. But he may wish to discuss his story, his truth and his hopes with a sympathetic ear. So I think continuing forward with unity and relationship building is the way forwards.

I think it's pertinent at some point, when the issue is raised, if it is raised by him, to point out that this subject is one that causes some division within the community (I'm sure you can continue your search and find better words in this vein.) Just so he knows the subject is not as black and white as it may be reputed, remind him that each and every one of us encounters struggles towards growth. It is easy to forget that we're human when we use labels as if we were things. I'm sure he is dear to you and this is not the case.

Lastly, deepen on your understanding of the word 'handicap.' Where do we find this word used, what are it's possible contexts? To give you a big hint, let me just say that I come from a sporting equestrian family, and the term was easily understood in our household.

I hope this has been something in the way of approaching starting a dialogue with you, and thank you again for visiting and taking the time for your seeker. May light upon light envelop and hold all of you at work or rest within your LSA and community too.

UK Bahá'í
June 14, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterYashi
Well, Carl, I said I wouldn't reply to your comment, feeling a bit burned out on this subject in regard to Baha'is. However, I suggest that you click on "Barb" above, and scroll down to "Baha'is Speak on Homosexuality" - this is so you will understand how very offensive the Baha'i position is on this issue. It seems to me that what you are asking is, how to present a very offensive notion to your seeker in a way that will not be offensive. Beats me - you can tiptoe around and be nice as you can be, and I'm sure you will, but you know what they say about the effectiveness of putting lipstick on a pig. or making a silk purse out of a pig's ear. Poor porkies - they get a bad rap, don't they? But there's Miss Piggy - we all love her! Well, I digress. Have I had a positive experience in dealing with this subject within the Faith? Nope, can't say I have. Do I have an idea on how you could soften the blow when presenting the current Baha'i position on this subject to your seeker? No - you need to be absolutely honest with your seeker. I suggest that you print out "Baha'is Speak on Homosexuality" and give it to him to read. It comes directly from the BNASAA website, and will give him a clear picture of the Baha'i approach to the subject of same-sex relationships. He may surprise you and still wish to be a Baha'i - stranger things have happened. Though you may be the most loving person, and I suspect you are, and desirous of being completely free from prejudice, you must resign yourself to having to represent a very prejudiced position regarding homosexuality, and just hope for the best. What the best is, for your seeker, or for your community, is not for me to say.
June 14, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBarb
Hello Carl. Thank you for this question. I think it is very important to explain to this seeker in a very straightforward manner what the Baha'i law is, and that he would not be allowed to have a partner and be a Baha'i in good standing. Gay people are often attracted to the faith because of its call for equality and oneness; they mistakenly assume they are included. Many of them have already been rejected by their own religions or churches and are seeking a place of acceptance. If they are not clearly told upfront that joining they Faith means they must either live celibate as a gay person or marry the opposite sex, they will surely discover this eventually. It could lead to years of misery and confusion. There is, of course, a chance a gay person would be willing to live celibate, or work to change their orientation, but not one gay person I have met who was otherwise attracted initially to the faith, wished to pursue becoming a Baha'i once they discovered they cannot have a relationship. When you explain the law to this person, they will likely be a bit shocked, because the faith appears so beautiful it is impossible for them to imagine it could have this law concerning them. However, they will not feel attacked if you simply explain the law. Gay people are quite used to most religions having a law similar to this one. They are used to rejection from churches, many business and work places, many countries, schools and entire segments of society. They will be disappointed, of course, but they will not feel attacked. I hope this is helpful.
June 14, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous
Carl. I'm five generations Bahai & just recently ( in my 40's) have come to the realuzation that the Bahai community does NOT want gay people- period! I wish I had that made clear to me earlier in life. Let your seeker know the truth, so he can be free.
June 14, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPey
You didn't continue this dialogue, so I don't know how things are turning out between you and the gay seeker, but I hope you will give some feedback about these responses. I hope you check out Baha'i Rants and BNASAA for other informative comments on this sensitive subject. I also hope you will reply with your discoveries after searching for answers to your dilemma. Direct your friend, the seeker, to check these websights out as well, if only to help him in his investigation of the truth.
There is a tone here which has an origin in openly negative Baha'i attitudes towards gay Baha'is, and seekers, that is important in understanding these replies. I am not on a computer often and in reading this find it interesting that you have a seeker who is gay identified and hasn't already checked out the writings, secretly, about homosexuality. I bet he has discreetly looked for the information if he had the books available to him; gay people have learned to be crafty in searching for their allies and discovering their bigoted opponemts, especially those using the guise of religion to support their bigotry.
I became a Baha'i as a teen, only beginning to suspect my being gay, and began deepening on the subject right away, secretly looking in every Baha'i book's index for references. I loved reading and picked up every Baha'i book I could get my hands on, went to every deepening I could, in my search to become my true self-a goal of every Baha'i.
I understood early in my Baha'i life that if homosexuality was such an important matter to God, He would have mentioned it through His Prophet, or at least the Prophet's son who was charged with showing us the perfect example of living. Waitng until the Guardian was asked to discuss it, and given the fact that the Guardian was not himself perfect, seemed to me at the time and still today a disastrous error in the making.
We are already discovering this error to be showing it's ugly head as the letter from the UHJ of a couple of years ago regarding treatment of gay people by Baha'is attests. Baha'is who misquote, or paraphrase, or attribute to the wrong Author the note by Shoghi Effendi about homosexuality in the Kitab-i-Aqdas. Baha'is who turn gay people away from seeking out the Faith, saying that they are not allowed, or wanted, in this religion, and should look elsewhere for God. Yes, I have witnessed these things being said, usually by Baha'i adminstrators. Having been told personally, by our local ABM for protection, during a discussion on the subject requested by the local administration, that since most of the world hated gay people, the Baha'i Faith would grow best in those communities with an atmosphere of hatred toward gays; and not grow so well in those places where gay people were afforded the luxury of being treated as equals, with oneness, without prejudice, and in utmost loving kindness; in other words where gay people were treated as Baha'is should treat others. Imagine my dismay in learning that the Faith of God would grow in any atmosphere of hatred, towards anyone, especially towards someone who he knew to be just like me.
After being a Baha'i for over 35 years and only recently, officially, withdrawing from the religion, which I now understand is a separate entity from the Faith, and understanding my sexual orientation as being homo for only about 30 years, always having accepted myself as a total, evolving human being only because of my having been a deepened Baha'i; I have been lead to the conclusion, by Baha'i administrators, that the only gay people who will be welcome to become Baha'is will be those who feel that there is something wrong with their orientation, that they are spritually deficient, somehow disabled in their humanity, in need of redirection, in need of a cure, unworthy of being treated with the same oneness and utmost loving kindness as any other human being on the planet, worthy only of pity and prayers by normal Baha'is. Any gay person who feels that God created them a human being worthy of discovering their gay heritage and history; there is a great gay history and heritage, that is a strongly spiritual part of many cultures, that is part of their humanity, will be unwelcome.
The future Baha'i community will include every human being except lgbt people. The Baha'is of the future will find they can easily recreate the religion's laws to excude them, having had a foundation that is doing just that in the Baha'i community of today. The oneness of mankind-except gay people, the elimination of all prejudice-except for gay people, the harmony of science and religion except where it finds gay people to be normal human beings living lives that God created them to live, and the treatment of every human being with utmost loving kindness-except for gay people.
How can any intelligent person expect anyone to believe that in the future gay people could be included in any of these laws when they are seen as spiritually defective and disabled, worthy only of pity and prayers for their healing from this affliction? I don't think it possible. With this understanding I felt no longer able to be part of a community that is so busy practicing being religious, that they have aleady, in this early part of Baha'i history, forgotten the point was to be spiritual, and that it is God's job to judge and His follower's job to love one another and create a world at peace with all of it's members. Most fof God's ollowers have decided that God isn't doing His job well enough, so have abandoned thier own responsibilities and are helping God with HIs.
I don't believe that Shoghi Effendi intended for Baha'is to reinterpret basic Baha'i laws by his one sentence in the Aqdas. He begins the sentence with the matter how fine the love between two people of the same sex...which has always suggested to me that he understood that two people of the same sex could have a love that was of such fineness they might wish to consummate it by making love in the ways that were taught to them as children by the culture of their origin. I know that when I am with the man I love, I want to hold his hand just like my parents always did when our family was out walking in public together. It is the most natural way for me to be when I am with him. The feeling of making love with him is just as natural to me, and to lgbt people involved in healthy relationships, as it is to anyone else in a loving relationship.
As a physically disabled person from birth, I understand comptely that Inobody can treat me as equal and at the same time pity me as a human being needing prayers for recovery from my joint disease.
I am not now, or ever have been, a lesser huiman being because of my disability. I learned that lesson when I was a kid. I am not a lesser human being as a gay person either, a lesson I easily carried over from my childhood lesson. I understood that God didn't make junk long before I read it on a poster that I hung in my classroom when I was a teacher.
At this point, Carl, I believe every lgbt person should withdraw from this religion, continue to teach the writings of the Faith-which I believe to be absolutely the true writings from God. If someone wants to become a Baha'i, direct them to a Baha'i who can teach them how to become a Baha'i. I would not be able, nor do I have any further desire, to help anyone join this religion, however, and certainly would not advise any healthy guy person to join.
I'm sorry, but, I am not sure you will find any positive responses from gay Baha'is who are not in the closet or ashamed of their humanity.
July 20, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDan J. Hughett
Great reply, Dan Hughett. If "Carl" is the person I think he is, we likely won't be hearing from him again, and his "seeker" is not the least bit fooled by Baha'is. But, I could be wrong about this, and would love to hear that "Carl" is evolving in his views of gays, and loving his seeker for who he is, not for who Carl thinks he should be.
July 21, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBarb
Hello, I'm sorry I haven't replied, life's been busy, and I didn't want to reply with out reading in full all of the posts that have been directed to me. Since that is what I'm doing now, I hope you understand I might have missed what you said. as I skimmed I decided to share part of my own story. I had a boy friend once, during a time when I had drifted away from the faith, thinking that perhaps the reason I felt so "different" from other people was because I was gay. I had affectionate feelings for other men, but in this relationship I found that there was nothing sexual about my feelings. I'm not saying I understand what it is to be gay, or that I'm superior, or lesser than anyone. Just that I'm not anti-gay, it wasn't ever really talked about when I was a kid, I had thought Baha'is where open minded people who would embrace gays and straight alike, until just recently, pretty much just prior to posting here. I'm going to go back to reading for a while,
July 23, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCarl
I will just say this to Carl - if you are gay, or lesbian, and happen to be in a "relationship" with another person of the same sex, but feel only friendship, nothing sexual, this does not mean that you are not gay or lesbian. Gay men and/or lesbians are of course not sexually attracted to everyone who happens to be the same sex, any more than heterosexual men and/or women are sexually attracted to everyone who happens to be of the opposite sex. Sexual attraction is much more complicated than that. Most of us have "affectionate feelings" for some other people, totally apart from our sexuality. Some of us even have "affectionate feelings" for many other people, once we really get to know them - it has nothing to do with sexuality. Figuring out one's sexuality is very easy for some people, and perhaps more difficult for others, particularly if they have been raised in an atmosphere of approval for only one kind of sexuality. And bisexuality is a fact of life for some folks.
July 24, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBarb
I am a 67 year old transgender grandma who has been a Baha'i since 1967. The problem is, as I see it that no one can tell anyone it's ok to break the Laws of Baha'u'llah. Each of us has to come to terms personally, with how we live our lives and deal with this. However, nowhere do the Baha'i Writings give anyone, including ourselves, the right to condemn, damn, and degrade ourselves, just because we have problems living according to Baha'i Laws. We are to deal lovingly with others and also with ourselves. We are not to backbite about others, nor are we to broadcast our own failings. We are not to confess our sins to others. We are not to judge others. We are to pray and meditate and live a spiritual life as best we can. Members of the GLBTQ community who become Baha'is or us older Baha'is who over the course of their lives discover that they are members of the GLBTQ community just have to live our lives through the dilemmas that this dichotomy poses and just keep on truckin on our journey toward God.

No one has the right or the power to give us the right to break the social and spiritual laws of the Baha'i Faith, yet we are to deal with ourselves and others in a kind, generous, loving, and unjudgmental manner, leaving it to the institutions of the Baha'i Faith to guide the Baha'i community and help each of us on our spiritual journey in this physical plane.

We just live the best we can, and live with the consequences, realizing that each one of us is responsible for our own journey toward God.
March 16, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMichelle