Sunday, August 21, 2011

More sad homophobia from the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of the United States

August 19, 2011

(((  name address removed  )))

Dear Bahá'í Friend,

Please accept our apology for the delay in following up with you regarding your email of January 10, in which you asked about possible ways that the Bahá'í community might be more supportive of the gay community. Regrettably, the press of work at the National Center has prevented us from responding sooner. After giving your questions careful consideration, the National Spiritual Assembly wishes to convey to you the following.

Your first question was when would homophobia be officially addressed within the Bahá'í community as something to be eliminated, comparable to prejudices based on gender and race. Actually, the letter you cited (written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice, dated October 27, 2010 and quoted in our January 3, 2011 letter to the American Bahá'í community) includes a clear statement on this topic: "Bahá'ís are enjoined to eliminate from their lives all forms of prejudice and to manifest respect towards all. Therefore, to regard those with a homosexual orientation with prejudice or disdain would be against the spirit of the Faith." The House of Justice also writes that "it is important to understand that the Bahá'í community does not to seek to impose its values on others, nor does it pass judgment on others on the basis of its own moral standards." In addition, the Faith teaches that all people, whether Bahá'ís or not, should be treated
 with compassion.

Some aspects of the issue of homosexuality as publicly debated, however, differ from other forms of prejudice, in that they would fall into the second category described below (which is excerpted from the same House of Justice letter noted above):

In working for social justice, Bahá'ís must inevitably distinguish between those dimensions of public issues that are in keeping with the Bahá'í Teachings, which they can actively support, and those that are not, which they would neither promote nor necessarily oppose.

This is because, as you know, the Writings state that the practice of homosexuality is not permitted, that marriage is a union between a man and a woman, and that sexual relations are restricted to a couple who are married to each other. Thus, while it would be inaccurate to characterize the Bahá'í community as homophobic, characterizing it as fully supportive of the homosexual lifestyle would be inaccurate as well.

You also ask, in light of the tragically high incidence of suicide among gay teens, whether the Faith could play a larger role in addressing prejudice against gays and lesbians. While the National Assembly does not currently have plans to contribute to the national dialogue on such issues, it is permissible for knowledgeable believers to do so as individuals.

Similarly, although the National Assembly also does not have plans to appoint a task force to help address the needs of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) Bahá'ís and educate the community concerning related issues, a few individuals already have developed programs which are being presented in local communities and in various other settings. The National Assembly is learning from their experiences and will see how these efforts develop over time.

Concerning Bahá'í GLBT Gatherings, which would be similar to the Black Men's Gatherings, the National Assembly believes that the Bahá'í Network on AIDS, Sexuality, Addictions and Abuse (BNASAA) serves the purposes you desire, and feels that there is no need to create a new association devoted specifically to homosexuality. BNASAA does cover a broad spectrum of interests, as you have noted, but many of its resources and activities, such as workshops at its conferences, are more narrowly focused. We also wish to clarify that the purpose of the Black Men's Gatherings is not to address racial prejudice, but to promote service on the part of a specific racial group to the Cause of God.

Your thoughtful questions, and your earnest striving to help others and to apply the principles of the Faith in your life, are deeply appreciated. Be assured of the National Spiritual Assembly's prayers on your behalf, that the Blessed Beauty may guide your steps and surround you with His love and confirmations.

With warm Bahá'í regards,
Kenneth E. Bowers

National Spiritual Assembly of the
Bahá'ís of the United States

Via the CoffeeParty:

He that would make his own liberty secure, must guard even his enemy from oppression; for if he violates this duty, he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself. 
~ Thomas Paine