The Baha'i Faith & Religious Freedom of Conscience


From: <>
Subject: Re: bickering intellectuals or why can't the UHJ read texts?
Date: Sunday, January 31, 1999 2:23 PM

It their reply to Susan the universal house of justice quoted `Abdul-Baha as

     "In the religion of God, there is freedom of thought because God, alone,
     controls the human conscience, but this freedom should not go beyond

In other words, `Abdul-Baha thought Baha'is should be able to express their
conscientiously held views politely as much as they liked.  Which is all the
Walbridges, McKenny, Scholl, myself and their other victims did.

The rest of the letter Susan quoted goes on to abrogate that right on all
sorts of vague and arbitrary grounds, contradicting the clear text of the
Master.  As someone who reads texts for a living, I continue to be astonished
that these people think they can get away with playing such a hypocritical
shell game.

They say:

>"conscience is never to be coerced, whether by other individuals or

These are the people who sent their man to my own home to interrogate me and
then had me (a well known professor of Middle East Studies at a major
university!) threatened with being shunned unless I fell silent!  If that
isnt' the coercion of conscience then I don't know what is!

Then they say:

>As to the thoughts of the
> Baha'is themselves -- that is those who have chosen to follow the religion
> of Baha'u'llah -- the institutions do not busy themselves with what
> individual believers think unless those thoughts become expressed in
> actions which are inimical to the basic principles and vital interests of
> the Faith.

In other words, whenever these people in Haifa don't like something that is
being said by an enrolled Baha'i, they can arbitrarily charge her with the
expression of heretical thoughts inimical (in their view) to the basic
principles of the Baha'i faith.  I.e. they are claiming the right of
authoritative Interpretation of the Baha'i scriptures and the right to impose
their interpretation on Baha'i individuals, in direct contradiction of the
Guardian's explicit text.  And then they say that they don't coerce

It is also worrisome that they had to look in the dictionary to find the
meaning of conscience, and that they don't seem too comfortable with the
results of their foray into the lexicons.

Well, as Machiavelli said, it takes luck or skill to get into power in a
theocracy, but once you're ensconced there you don't need either luck or skill
to remain in power.

cheers    Juan

Juan Cole
History, U of Michigan