The Baha'i Faith & Religious Freedom of Conscience

From: Matthew Cromer <>
Subject: Re: Where LIBERTY is LIMITED
Date: Thursday, June 11, 1998 8:21 PM
In article
<BE87A0AFA64C1267.6F4EF5227DE466FF.B8B456E26E1FAEB2@library-proxy.airne> Tapioca, writes:
>Howdy Matthew,
>I wrote,
>>>Every Baha'i has both rights AND responsibilities. One of those
>>>responsibilities is to be faithful to the Covenant. This includes not
>>>questioning or criticizing the decisions of the Universal House of
>>>Justice. The UHJ is a divinely appointed institution and is promised by
>>>Baha'u'llah to be guided by God and free from all error.
>You responded,
>>I'd like to see a reference for that.
>>As someone who is not a Baha'i any longer and is looking to judge
>>institutions by their fruits rather than by claims of infallibility, I
>>see some serious problems with the Baha'i leadership today.
>Here is the reference from the Will and Testament of `Abdul-Baha,
>The sacred and youthful branch, the guardian of the Cause of God as well as the Universal
>House of Justice, to be universally elected and established, are both under the care and
>protection of the Abha Beauty, under the shelter and unerring guidance of His Holiness,
>the Exalted One (may my life be offered up for them both). Whatsoever they decide is of
>God (page 11).
>...and now, concerning the House of Justice which God hath ordained as the source of all
>good and freed from all error, it must be elected by universal suffrage, that is, by the
You see your quote about the House of Justice comes from Abdul-Baha' and
not Baha'u'llah, although this is a quibble.
Frankly, I don't see Abdul-Baha' nor Baha'u'llah as infallible, and
therefore I believe the imposition of a theocracy as a mistake.  But that
is neither here nor there.
>>BTW, did you know that you are not supposed to say "UHJ", the censors
>>have decreed that saying "UHJ" is not properly respectful.  I'd suggest
>>you refrain from doing so any longer before someone in an official
>>capacity lets you know.
>There aren't any censors on alt.religion.bahai. Unlike SRB it is unmoderated and doesn't
>abide by a charter. But you're right, it is disrespectful. :)
However rest assured the Baha'i censors can and will see your posts here.
>I've snipped most of your text simply to shorten the reply. You've made some good points.
>In your original letter, I thought the comparisons you made were far too extreme, to say
>the least. I don't have any personal experience with most of these things. I've never had
>my opinion censored and I've never been the victim of any clandestine character
>assinations and I've never been wrongly accused of being a covenant breaker. Had I
>experienced these things, I would probably be able to at least empathize.
I never had these things happen to me, they did happen to other people I
know.  I had less terrible things happen to me--minor persecution by

>I'll briefly give my opinion on each of these issues. The censorship on SRB at >the present
>time appears excessive and seems to go beyond just sticking to the charter. I believe the
>complaints being voiced about the moderators are legitimate. I don't see this as an
>unsolvable problem, but the different parties involved need to talk to each other in a
>productive manner, not just trade barbs back and forth. No problem has ever >been solved in
>such a manner, and the status quo almost always prevails by default. In this case, that
>would be the SRB moderators.
I disagree with the entire principle of having soc.religion.bahai be
moderated for content.  I feel that it is a grave mistake to do so. 
However I cannot argue--the fundamentalist Baha'is own that newsgroup and
they have the right to censor it as they see fit.
On the unmoderated newsgroups the word gets out however, and that word is
not flattering to the censors.
I will probably start posting to the talk.religion.misc about the kinds
of censorship that Baha'is practice on soc.religion.bahai and in the
larger Baha'i orthodoxy.
 It would also be helpful if the moderators took the
>initiative to post an FAQ and a copy of the charter on a regular basis.
I don't have the time to deal with the content censors--I am not going to
reword my posts, send them in again, ask the censors what happens to my
posts that never get a response nor get approved, etc.  I have zero faith
in their good intentions to promote frank consultation on that group--I
have better things to do with my time than write articles that the
censors are going to throw into the trash heap.
>The second issue is far more serious and demands far more community-wide >attention than it
>is currently getting. We all know how the Writings portray back-biting and calumny.
>They're really, really bad. I think it's high time the administration got serious about
>doing something about this. No individual Baha'i has the right to defame another Baha'i.
>And accusing another Baha'i of covenant breaking is most serious. Administration should
>first warn and then impose sanctions against Baha'is guilty of such abhorrent behaviour.
Except that many of those engaging in this practice are members of the
administration, which is about what one would expect.  People who seek
out positions of power and authority over others, whether in religious or
political circles, are typically the worst of men in character, not the
>If members of administrative bodies are doing these things themselves, this is >information
>that needs to be disseminated and acted upon either by the Universal House of Justice or
>individual Baha'is at election time. Keeping in mind, of course, that accustion without
>proof is nothing more than gossip.
When high-ranking members of the Baha'i religious authority such as
councillors, National members, and the like start making accusations
about someone's firmness in the covenant, you can expect the rank and
file Baha'is to treat said member as if she was sprayed from head to toe
with skunk juice.
>Now back to censorship in the Faith as a whole. I don't think anybody sees >censorship as a
>virtue. I believe we should all be able to openly and fully discuss issues concerning the
>Faith. I believe this can be done without openly criticizing the people serving on
>National Spiritual Assemblies or the Universal House of Justice or those institutions
>themselves. There is a boundary there that we should all willingly respect.
Since Juan is no longer a Baha'i, he no longer feels the duty to claim
that a wolf in the Baha'i administration who fell upon him and his
friends with gaping jaws of enmity is anything but a savage predator, nor
does he feel inclined to pass over the sins of that man in dealing with

 Don't get me
>wrong, I mean this boundary to apply strictly to matters concerning legislation >within the
>scope of the Faith itself and I think the administration's affairs should be carried out
>in full view with no secrecy. I don't think these people should be able to hide behind
>their positions if their personal behaviour isn't up to the standards we >expect. If people
>are being punished or hurt in some way for behaviour that falls within these boundaries,
>then I think we have a definite problem that needs to be addressed.
>Another thing that seems to me to be relevant is that the adminstrative bodies should be
>able to deal with Baha'is that are putting forth misinformation about the Faith. This
>seems to be an issue of putting the Faith's best interest above the individual Baha'is
>interest. Here, the line is not so clear. The case of Talisman comes to mind, as I have
>great difficulty determining if there are clear-cut examples of wrong-doing on >either side
>of this issue. There were people who obviously crossed the line by calling other Baha'is
>covenant breakers and on the other side people wantonly criticized the Universal House of
>Justice. IMO, that sort of behaviour is inexcusable.
The problem which I know you believe is not a problem, is that if a body
sets itself up as the voice of God, believes itself to be the voice of
God, infallible, and the like, and calls all criticism as unfaith and the
voice of wrong, that body can find itself wandering astray in the morass
of error and unable to see its way out because it refuses to listen to
those who can see the predicament.  The wholehearted adoption of
censorship as a strategy by the Baha'i Administration, enforced by
expulsion, is a spiritual dead-end IMHO and the Baha'i community is
feeling the effects of this spiritual decay, again IMO.
 I believe both sides were in the
>right to some extent and both were wrong to some extent. But, both sides also appeared to
>earnestly believe they were acting in the best interest of the Faith. I believe the
>biggest problem was that both sides displayed a great deal of ego and very little

Why should the representatives of absolute truth, freed from all error,
act humbly?  They literally have a spiritual license to refuse to listen,
and to demand obesience from all.  
I wish Baha'u'llah and Abdu'l Baha had realized the fatal flaws of
creating a theocratic succession after their deaths.  Yes it has avoided
schism but at what cost?
>As I said before, I have no personal experience with these things to draw upon. I try to
>empathize as best I can from what I read around the Internet, but it's difficult. The
>Baha'i Faith is my religion and my life, I can't imagine voluntarily withdrawing from it
>no matter how dire the circumstances.
I couldn't imagine it either, but I found that, in the final analysis,
the words "Baha'i Faith" were cheaper than my very real life and very
real soul and very real relationship with the absolute.
When truth demands I give up my most precious beliefs, I eventually gave
it up, kicking and screaming on the way.

 I try my best to understand your point of view, but
>I always naturally return to the opinion that the answer to our problems is each of us
>striving to live our lives as true Baha'is.
For me, the words and concepts of "Baha'i" or "non-Baha'i", "Believer"
and "infidel" are a veil between myself and the divine.
Matthew Cromer