The Baha'i Faith & Religious Freedom of Conscience

From: <>
Subject: Re: sanctions for email
Date: Tuesday, February 23, 1999 1:16 AM

Dear Kathy:
Within the Baha'i administration there are "Auxiliary Board Members" or
"Counselors", who are appointed by the elective institutions to impose
orthodoxy and encourage proselytization.  Although they are said to 'have no
power', in fact they wield the most powerful tool of all.  They are
influential in advising the elective bodies that a Baha'i should be
disfellowshipped, ostracized, expelled or shunned.  All Baha'is know that
being investigated by an ABM or a Counselor could be the prelude to losing a
lifetime of friends and family, and are usually quite frightened at the
Since the rise of email, there have been a number of instances in which
individual Baha'is have been summoned to meetings with these officials and
accused of heretical views expressed in their email postings, with demands
that they recant these views and henceforth fall silent.  Frequently a sheaf
of archived email messages to which exception has been taken is sent along to
the poster.  I was myself investigated for my email postings and threatened
with being sanctioned over them, but I am only one of dozens.  Typically,
those threatened want to hush it up, and aside from emailing me (I have a
vast archive of such incidents) they simply fall silent.  You will no doubt
yourself see that some of the more liberal voices on this forum gradually
disappear ast they are identified and threatened.  Or most likely you won't
notice that a regular has mysteriously disappeared.
Such a meeting was held on Monday in a Midwestern state with an old friend of
mine who is accused of holding the wrong theology about Baha'u'llah among
other things.  (He is not an academic, by the way).  This is an everyday
occurrence in the Baha'i faith, at least in North America.  I have come to
think about the Baha'is as an odd sort of Mennonite or 7th Day Adventist. 
They are skittish about certain kinds of technology, especially printing and
the Internet, just as the Mennonites saw the telephone as a menace. 
Rightwing Baha'is are sort of like a peace church, which seeks to control
conflict by the threat or reality of shunning, and which demands lack of
"ego" from the individual Baha'i.
Thinking of them like this, despite the admitted 'stretch' involved, helps me
to put into perspective the very *controlling* aspect of the community as
well as its admirable devotion to peace and world-mindedness.  (It is no fun
to be a nonconformist among the Amish, either; you end up being shunned;
ditto with Watchtower).  One difference is that the Baha'is on the whole have
managed to have the controlling aspect of their community not foregrounded in
the consciousness of mainstream U.S. society, and it can even remain hidden
from a lot of ordinary Baha'is.  After all, if you've never been personally
threatened; and if those in your community who have been threatened are
concerned enough about their reputations to keep it to themselves; then you
would never know it had gone on, would you?
cheers   Juan
In article <7as8vu$>,
  Kathy Pascoe <> wrote:
> In article <7antko$v8e$>, says...
> >
> >There have been people who pleaded with me to confide in them, saying
> >they were 'objective' or were 'friends' and then immediately forwarded
> >my messages to officials.
> Except in limited cases [1], the use of someone's email or newsgroup
> postings against him or her in Real Life is repulsive to me.
Juan Cole
History, U of Michigan
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