Sunday, February 5, 2012

A letter to a Great Group of Folks in the States:

Ouro Preto – MG - Brasil

Amigos –

How I wish I could be with you all, but alas…

First of all let me begin this rant, by saying how proud I am of all of you, and how much your friendship, mostly via the internet means to me. Laugh, cry, hug, and pray… light a fire this weekend!

In September of 1993, I met with a number of Gay and Lesbian Baha’is in Reno, Nevada. When it was over, we had drafted a letter to the National Spiritual Assembly, which they refused to answer. After that meeting I worked alongside other members of the Gay Baha’i Fellowship (GBF) in helping a number of GLBT Baha’is thru their crisis, and even went to so far as to work with Continental Counselor Stephen Birkland at a very powerful reconciliation weekend in Denver sponsored by the LSA of Denver.  It was soon after that when Counselor Birkland called me to warn me of a letter from the Universal House of Justice, demanding that we disband. I quickly contacted the rest of the authors and GBF members and we all decided to “abide by their wishes in instant and exact obedience”.  Soon after I resigned from the Faith, as it was obvious that my LSA was planning on something, and that my very presence, inactive as I was, was a cause for disunity. 

But I was missing something.

About that time, a pair of neo-Nazi brothers from far Northern California, murdered a gay couple in their ranch home and then drove to Sacramento and set fire to three synagogues. The next day thousands people met in tears with candles in front of the State Capitol Building. On the very spot that Abdul-Baha himself walked and prophesied, religious leaders spoke, without a peep from the Baha’is, if they were there at all. I was soon asked to be part of a unity committee set up by the Rabbi of one of the synagogues and the School District Superintendent of our son’s school district.  I accepted and was welcomed as an open gay Baha’i university professor. When we went through our workshop process, we found that we represented a diverse group of people from numerous religions, genders, races. Many of you know my story when the Rabbi called me one day to ask me about my thoughts about whether he should officiate at a wedding of two lesbians in his synagogue, I asked him, “Rabbi what is better a Jewish Lesbian or a non-Jewish lesbian?” (Rabbi Bloom went on to perform the wedding for the couple).

Along came 9/11 and I felt very, very alone, away from any spiritual community, so I asked to be reenrolled, a meeting was made with an assistant to the auxiliary board where questions were asked, I was assured that I was welcome, an anonymous person called me one day at work from the National Center and asked me if, and these were her exact words, “can you abide by the Baha’i laws?” I told her would to the “best of my abilities”.  She welcomed me back into the Faith. At no time was I asked about my relationship, my marriage, nor did I volunteer any information that I can truthfully say, Counselor Birkland was in full knowledge of and still is to my understanding. Incidentally, at the Denver meeting, Birkland had given my former partner and I a lovely picture of the Purest Branch that he signed with a very loving message to us as a gesture of love and tolerance… That photo graced my home altar for many years, even when we split up and went our separate ways; which I feel was partly, not entirely, due to the stress this religion caused our relationship.

When in 1998, when I was in Brasil as a Fulbright Scholar, I met my husband Milton, who was able to come to California to earn a masters and a doctorate, and where we eventually married.  During that time California passed first a domestic partnership law, and later a marriage law.  We were both “domesticated” then married, which because Brasil recognizes gay weddings outside of the country, allows for me to immigrate to Brasil.  In my enthusiasm over our wedding, I shared a video that my son (our best man) and his girlfriend produced of our wedding on the internet. Soon after, I received a letter from the NSA removing my rights, and accusing me of lying to them about my relationship in the most heinous and degrading of terms. Letters, videos all have been archived on my blog (see links below on revoked) for anyone to study, see, visit, comment and peruse, as I have absolutely nothing to hide or be ashamed of.

We are a respected couple, both informally in the community we live in and professionally, we have been together 15 years now, we are both professors at the Universidade Federal de Ouro Preto, and known for our research in ethnomathematics and mathematical modeling. Recently, we have been asked, as a pair, to present work at the British Museum, yet the Baha’i Faith finds us unclean, unworthy, and does not want us, or friends or family in its ranks!

I only share this, so that you can gain one more level of the darkness, hate, and absurdity that the homophobia this Faith allows and encourages. Currently, this religious community is so very sick, and it has effectively institutionalized its homophobia that continues to eat at it like a cancer.  Because of this accepted hate, is chasing progressives of capacity away from it in droves. For every person it removes, it also disenfranchises hundreds that it needs as well.

But in a weird way I am equally grateful to the Baha’is, as all of this set me on a new spiritual quest, it has caused me to question the very veracity of the Faith itself, and left me feeling that Baha’u’llah was a very great man, but to wonder about his claims, as the religion of His followers is constructing is apparently built on sand. This inability to deal effectively, lovingly, and honestly with gay & lesbian issues in a modern, loving and informed manner was the last straw… it was to me, and I can say to many others I know, the canary in the mineshaft.

For my own sanity and spiritual health, I moved on. There is no refuge for me, or any gay man in the Baha’i Faith.

I became a Buddhist, finding needed love and refuge in a sangha in Sacramento before leaving for Brasil. The Sacramento Buddhist Mediation Group (SBMG) incidentally meets in the very synagogue of the Rabbi I worked with years earlier! When I moved to South America a year ago, I mailed my entire Baha’i library to the LSA of Carmichael, my beloved greatest name woven by a group of non-Baha’i women in Guatemala that I assisted was sent to a Baha’i man that I brought into the Faith when I lived in Guatemala. The photo of the Purest Branch was returned to Counselor Birkland in Haifa, now a Universal House of Justice member. It is noteworthy that only Tim, the colleague I sent my Greatest Name acknowledged the gifts and that only in passing, as if none of them could deal honestly with what they are doing to GLBT people.

Many of you have family members who are Baha’i.  I was the only member in my extended family, I was alone, and I had no Baha’i support, ever. I taught the Faith, pioneered to Guatemala; home front pioneered, I did it all… alone, even my ex-wife refused to examine the Faith, and my straight son has rejected it outright for its homophobia.  All the time withstood the prejudice from my family, and gladly did this for something I had thought was right, was good.

But the Baha’is have shown my colleagues, friends, my husband and son, that I was the fool, that by their actions, there is nothing here, no hope, no refuge… that it may indeed be a cult as my parents still think, and that it was all perhaps at best, a very nice utopian dream.

So it is I humbly offer you a few questions for your consultation:

1.    When so many of our friends, colleagues, family who are members in other religions, with equal if not similar teachings on homosexuality are brave and stand up, and demand inclusion, why are GLBT Baha’is so afraid, so dysfunctional, and so incapable of being out and proud in this religion? What is it about the Baha’i Faith that so effectively terrorizes its GLBT members so? That either drives them underground or away?

2.    Why is it that this religion cannot find a decent way in which to love and embrace their GLBT brethren, as so many other religious communities have done? Why is it that GLBT people are allowed to be discriminated against? Why is it that homophobes are not sanctioned?

3.    How is it that after so many years, the questions asked of the NSA by the GBF are left largely unanswered?

4.    Why is it that the leadership of the Faith cannot see the damage they created to the image of the Faith in the eyes of the progressive community around them?

5.    Why are progressive people of capacity – straight and gay – being chased out of this Faith?  Could it be that this religion that once held so much promise for many of us that now seems by this very homophobia is bankrupt, and false? Again, it breaks my heart to even contemplate this.

So I ask again, “Rabbi, what is better…?”

All my respect, admiration, support, light and energy from Brasil! 

You all are so very deeply loved!

Daniel Clark Orey, Ph.D.



  1. Thank you Daniel for your open letter. My heart is with you and Milton. I pray for us all.

  2. Thank you for writing this. In sharing your pain and disillusionment, you offer a gift to everyone who reads it.

    I don't know if it matters, but I can answer all five of your questions. The answer to each of them is the same: infallibility. All the problems you identify spring from a single poisoned root, the teaching that the central authority of the Baha'i Faith is free from the normal errors of human judgment. Once you accept that an imperfect animal, alone or collectively, is always right, something like this becomes inevitable. It's ironic, but the nine men who lead the Baha'i Faith make most of their mistakes precisely because they don't think anything they do is ever a mistake.

    But I'm sure you find it hard to appreciate this kind of irony after all those years of lonely struggle. I'm sure this will always be disappointing. Thanks again for writing this.

  3. Perhaps Daniel, You may consider that the BF has been hijacked in the recent past and is being used for other purposes than stated. So at the end of the day it may be in this agenda's best interest to align with countries and religions that are taking a homophobic stand. Of course all this will fall apart when it becomes clear that the myth of just two sexes is no longer valid due to the variation among humanity that is presenting, even today (close to 50%. 'Acceptance' is the name of what is needed today.

    *You did know the BF would not accept gay marriage, and I am happy for you that you have moved away from these toxic limitations.