|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wilmette Bahá'í Organization Threatens Minority Bahá'ís Through Court
The National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of the United States
(NSA), located in Wilmette, Illinois, has called upon the United States
District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division
to hold in contempt members of minority Bahá'í organizations (the
Orthodox Bahá'í Faith and the Bahá'ís Under the Provisions of the
Covenant--two separate and distinct entities) who, the NSA claims, are
in violation of an injunction its predecessor obtained some 40 years
ago against a rival Bahá'í body.
In legal documents provided to the court on December 6, 2006, the NSA
claimed that members of the current minority Bahá'í groups are bound
by the 1966 Judgment. While not providing any specifics with regard to
how the minority bodies have harmed the majority body, the NSA contends
that the websites of the smaller organizations are doing irreparable
damage to the NSA.
The basic contention of the NSA is that the members of the minority
groups are violating the NSA's alleged trademarks on the name
"Bahá'í" and the religious symbol of the "Greatest Name", and it
seeks from the court a ruling which would prohibit the minority members
from using the alleged trademarks to the detriment of the NSA.
The NSA seeks to restrain both those individuals who at one time were
even remotely associated with the enjoined rival Bahá'í body and any
'nonparty' members who have since developed different Bahá'í
Those members of the minority group who call themselves Orthodox
Bahá'ís, to distinguish themselves from the members of the majority
organization, state that the trademark by the Wilmette NSA on the
"Greatest Name" is the equivalent of a Christian denomination
trademarking the Cross and then saying that no other Christian
congregation can use that symbol in their activities or in their
contacts with others.
Additionally, Orthodox Bahá'ís maintain that the name "Bahá'í" is
in the public domain and cannot be the exclusive property of one
organization. They say that like the name "Christian" and "Muhammadan",
which refer to followers of Christ and Muhammad respectively, the name
"Bahá'í" refers to a follower of Bahá'u'lláh, who all Bahá'ís
acknowledge as the latest Prophet from God.
For some 35 years the Orthodox Bahá'ís have been employing the name
"Bahá'í" in their newspaper and magazine publicity and in the
telephone Yellow Pages, and during that time the NSA has made no move
to implement the provisions of the injunction that the majority
organization is now using to seek contempt citations against members of
the minority groups. Should the NSA be successful in its efforts to
curtail their activities, Orthodox Bahá'ís contend that, for them,
the First Amendment of the Constitution is no longer valid.
To see the court papers:
Jeffrey Goldberg's poignant story. I hope others
will take the time to read and reflect on it.
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