The Baha'i Faith & Religious Freedom of Conscience

From: <>
Subject: Re: What is a Cult?
Date: Friday, January 29, 1999 5:23 PM
In article <78ss7d$>,
  "Rick Schaut" <RSSchaut@email.msn.NOSPAMcom> wrote:
> wrote in message <78qtni$6s6$>...
> >> I have yet to hear any Assistant or ABM suggest I or anyone else be silent
> >>about any issue.
> >You no doubt are not aware that it is fairly common for auxiliary board
> >members and counselors to take Baha'is aside and warn them to be silent on
> >certain issues.
> So common, indeed, that people who've been members of the Baha'i Faith for
> over a quarter century have never heard of nor experienced it.
I had never heard of it very much myself for 23 years.	This lack of hearing
of it does not prove it does not happen.  The Baha'i faith as an organization
is set up so as to prevent the free communication of such information.	No
report of a Baha'i being drawn aside and silenced by an ABM or Counselor
would be allowed to be published in the old days of print culture, when
everything Baha'is said had to be vetted before being published.  And only
things that were published could become widely known.  Baha'is still in the
community who had been frightened into silence wouldn't want to bring it up
in conversation, since after all their reputation would be sullied merely by
having it known that they had been warned.  And those persons who left the
faith after being bullied simply melted away into the general population and
one wouldn't encounter them or hear their story.  In the print age
information was expensive, and non-Baha'i publishers generally would not
publish things like accounts by ex-Bahais of being bullied.  The Baha'i
community in the West is such a small affair, moreover, that most who leave
are happy enough to leave the tiny number of Baha'is (neck and neck with the
Taoists in the US) to their cavilling.
After the Information Revolution, when bytes are cheap and easy to share,
these stories began to come out.
> >Of course, you don't hear about these events, because most
> >Baha'is who are browbeaten in this way do fall silent, or else withdraw from
> >the faith.
> Allow me to offer another explanation for what's going on.  A person who is
> unaware of some of the authoritative interpretations of Baha'u'llah's
> Writings might well make a statement that demonstrates this lack of
> understanding and knowledge.  An Auxiliary Board member or Continental
> Counselor, members of the institution of the learned whose duty is to raise
> people's awareness of of these interpretations yet who have no authority over
> people's decisions or conscience, attempt to point out how someon'e
> statements might be in conflict with some of these authoritative
> interpretations.  Their purpose is nothing more than to educate and advize.
Well, except that these individuals have frowns on their faces and make snide
comments to you and warn you that if you don't fall silent you will be
declared a covenant breaker.  Moreover, these individuals are usually pretty
ignorant of the Baha'i faith and are very seldom in a position to know more
about it than the people they are accosting.  What is really going on here is
a power grab and an unwarranted imposition of theological authority by
someone who has no theological authority.
> Dr. Cole says this as if Covenantal issues are limited to succession of
> authority.  However, someone attempting to set themselves up as some sort of
> Baha'i "expert" whose interpretations should be given some authoritative
> weight, even in a defacto sense, is as much a Covenantal issue as someone
> claiming to be Guardian.  Both are attempts to usurp an authority one does
> not rightly posess.
Anyone who puts forth an opinion that Mr. Schaut does not like can be accused
of a) contravening the covenant by disputing the divine understanding of the
scriptures put forward by an Assistant to the Auxiliary Board for Protection
and b) claiming authority insofar as the person is speaking his or her own
mind and not kneeling in awe before the mighty Assistant.
While such charges and innuendoes can of course be manufactured, the fact is
that what is really going on is that Mr. Schaut and his friends want to set
things up so that they can only hear the sound of their own voices.  Anyone
who disagrees with their line is 'contravening the covenant' or 'claiming
authority'.  But of course this only masks the bare and obvious fact that the
only one around here trying to tell people what they can and cannot say is
Mr. Schaut and his like-minded friends.  I'm here sharing my views and my
studies. Someone doesn't like them, they don't have to accept them.  Glad to
debate them if they like.  If they don't, that's fine, too.  But they are
welcome to express their conscience and declare their views.
But Mr. Schaut and his colleagues don't feel this way.	They feel some views
should not be expressed.  Some opinions should not be heard.  If they can,
they prevent such speech by bullying the speaker.  If the bullying doesn't
work, then they vilify the speaker, backbite the speaker, or trump up charges
against the speaker.  'He is claiming authority.  His words contravene the
covenant.'  If they can't silence the voice, they try to put cotton in the
ears of anyone who might hear it by making it taboo.  Baha'is are not
supposed to backbite, attack or vilify others.	But it is all right, you see,
if the Assistant doesn't agree with someone.  Then all the apparatus of
character assassination may be freely employed.
How absurd all this is, anyway, is easy to demonstrate.  If I were a
Methodist and a Professor of Bible Studies, do you think the Methodist
Bishops would have come after me for posting email messages to a university
listserv on Methodist theology?  Of course not!  I became a Baha'i because
the Baha'i faith was supposed to be *better* than the Old World Order groups
like the Methodists. Obviously, it isn't better, and certainly not for a
thinking person.
> >The salaries of the five NSA
> >members who are paid for their services are also not released, nor the value
> >of the perquisites they receive.
> The total amount of general administrative expenses is less than 15% of the
> National Spiritual Assembly's total expenditures.  Compare this with, say,
> the United Way or other charitable organizations, and it becomes quite clear
> that there is nothing ontoward about the US National Spiritual Assembly's
> financial dealings.
> Regards,
> Rick Schaut
15% of $25 million is $3.75 million.  It is legitimate for Baha'is to know
how exactly how this relatively large sum of money is being spent.  Do the
secretary's salary and perquisites come to $150,000 per year, as I have been
told by someone who worked at the National Center?  Is that the right salary
for that job?  How much do the other NSA members get?  Who sets these
salaries? What are they given out for?	Why do some get them but others do
not? Why is this information not made public?  It is a non-profit
incorporated body.  By law Baha'is have a right to know.
Juan Cole
History, U of Michigan
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