The Baha'i Faith & Religious Freedom of Conscience

From: K. Paul Johnson <>
Subject: Re: Censorship at alt.religion.bahai
Date: Thursday, September 10, 1998 7:47 PM
Richard Schaut ( wrote:
: Clearly, you saw no other reasonable explanation.  At no point did you _ask_
: as to whether or not there might be other explanations.  You reached a
: conclusion, however tentative, in a matter about which you profess
: ignorance.
You are jumping to conclusions about my own thought processes
without asking the one who knows, which seems contrary to the
principles you are espousing here.  Actually  I did see
another reasonable explanation-- self-cancellation-- but thought
that conceivable on Mulligan's part but not Marangella's.  The
coincidence of the two was striking.  
: It's not your suspicion that amazes me.  What amazes me is the fact that
: people reach conclusions on matters about which they profess ignorance.
Not knowing how cancellations can be forged has little to do with
knowing that it's possible.  I don't know *how* precisely what
I'm typing gets to your screen, but I still conclude, on reliable
evidence, that it does.
: As for the "dark possibilities of Baha'i fundamentalism,"  even the
: existence of this alleged "Baha'i fundamentalism" is far more a matter of
: rhetoric than it is a matter of fact.
Not at all.  We can come up with objective definitions of
fundamentalism as a historical phenomenon in 20th century
Christianity, and then compare non-Christian movements to it to
see how they display the same characteristics.  Juan Cole has
posted eloquently on this score.
: Oh, because one might want to test a hypothesis before running with it to
: some public forum.
What would your cancelling your own posts have to do with
Marangella cancelling his?  Or Mulligan?  Isn't it obvious
especially in the former case that there is cause for suspicion?
: about such things before putting one's foot so squarely in one's mouth.
As you know, I now have written to both people and we will see
what Marangella has to say.
: Indeed, why in the world would you post such an inflamatory tentative
: conclusion without having first gathered sufficient information as to at
: least know what you're talking about?
You keep harping on the *technical* knowledge.  I do know, very
well, how Baha'is feel about Joel Marangella.  And how a fair
number have felt about Tim Mulligan.  And that forged
cancellations occur.
: No.  I _conclude_, based upon the extent to which I would expect these
: people to complain about it had someone else cancelled their messages, that
: they themselves cancelled their own messages.
That rests on the assumption that they knew of the cancellation.
: >: Thus, it takes a substantive leap to go from the appearance of a couple
: of
: >: cancelled messages to the conclusion of censorship.  One needs a bit more
: >: evidence of such, and that evidence is lacking here.
Eight so far, and from about the most controversial people
who have ever posted to arb.
: And, let's not forget that the word "censorship" implies an official
: sanction in some way. 
Certainly not in the sense I was using it.
 Even the existence of a few rogue cancellation
: messages demonstrates little with regard to "censorship" unless one can
: prove who sent those messages, and can prove that the person was acting
: under the knowledge and sanction of some official institution.  Absence any
: evidence of such sanction, all one has is evidence of a prank--a single
: individual acting inappropriately.
You are awfully disingenuous here.  Are you really pretending
that someone cancelling posts by Marangella (especially) would be
simply an individual pulling a prank?  That *official* and
*institutional* attitudes toward that gentleman would not have
any impact on the person who would pull such a "prank?"  I do not
suspect that any Baha'i institution knew of the forged
cancellations, if they occurred at all.  But censorship can be
official or unofficial.  If a person forged cancellation messages
based on his institutional loyalties, in order to prevent an
opposing view being heard, that's a self-appointed censor.
Which is all I ever suspected.
: So, Mr. Johnson, you have a _long_ way to go in order to justify even a
: tentative conclusion of "censorship".
By your definition, yes.  But what word would you use, if what I
suspected were true?  If an individual Baha'i, whose attitudes
toward Marangella were shaped by institutional policies, decided
to forge cancellations in order to prevent others from reading
his posts?  A prank, by my definition, is random and playful, not
ideologically directed and purposeful.
This is all rather beside the point until we hear from
Marangella.  But even if he denies cancelling his posts, you will
presumably insist that this proves nothing and that whoever did
cancel them was probably not ideologically motivated anyhow.
What it comes down to, of course, is that you are resolutely
fixed in your conviction that Baha'i institutions and their
supporters are entirely innocent of any charges made against
them.  This conviction has been apparent in years of your posts
that I have read.  Whereas I am equally fixed in my conviction
that these institutions and their supporters are in many cases
guilty as charged-- not necessarily every case.  That leaves 
me the flexibility to admit that perhaps this case is purely
coincidental and nothing underhanded was going on.  But I don't
see that you have any room at all to admit that a supporter of
the Baha'i administration might take it upon himself to cancel
posts by a "Covenant-breaker" in the belief, institutionally
shaped and nurtured, that such people are spiritually diseased
and their words should never be read by the faithful.
Can you admit that possibility?