Gay, Lesbian and Baha’i: The Situation

June 14, 2010

in God Made the Rainbow

A couple of months ago, I left a comment asking for an interview with someone about their experiences of being LGBT and Baha’i at the Gay and Lesbian Baha’i Story Project. The administrator wrote me the following message which she gave me permission to edit for God Made the Rainbow. I was going to edit it to make it a proper entry, but I think the message is worth just republishing in full.

“Thanks for your interest. The situation, briefly, with Baha’is regarding being gay and Baha’i, is that the official Baha’i stance is that treating gays with prejudice and disdain is prohibited (though in reality there is a lot of prejudicial behavior and thinking among Baha’is, which is not punished). Putting one’s sexuality into practice, however, is criminalized for gays – it is against Baha’i law. When Baha’is discuss homosexuality, they often lump it together with arson, theft, murder – all of which are also against Baha’i law and have heavy penalties, including “burning” (for arson). Because there is as yet (thank God) no Baha’i State, with the ability to carry out extreme punishments, the current punishment for homosexual behavior (which is left up to the Universal House of Justice, the highest Baha’i governing body, whose membership is limited to males) consists of potential loss of administrative rights, or perhaps expulsion from the Faith. So it’s a bit of a paradox.

It is understandable that because homosexual behavior is criminalized, naturally Baha’is tend to have prejudicial attitudes about it, despite being told by Baha’i authorities that they should not treat gays with prejudice or disdain. So it’s the old hate the sin, not the sinner theme. Baha’is in general, in my experience, avoid discussing this topic. There are many Baha’is like myself who see the criminalization of homosexuality as contrary to the findings of science, and a strange violation of the Baha’i principle that science and religion must agree, and if they do not, then the religious position is superstition. Gay Baha’is who have chosen to make a life commitment to a same-sex partner and have married in a state or country where it is legal, have at least lost their Baha’i administrative rights – they cannot vote in Baha’i elections, attend Baha’i Feasts (the equivalent of Christian church – a regular devotional service for Baha’is, but where Baha’i business is also conducted), contribute to the Baha’i Fund, hold any office in the Faith, etc. Apologetic Baha’is will say that that is not discriminatory, because any Baha’i, gay or not, who is married without having a Baha’i marriage is subject to loss of administrative rights. Of course gays don’t have the option of a Baha’i marriage (unless they marry a partner of the opposite sex)….and in my experience, straight Baha’is who marry without a Baha’i marriage are often not punished – they are just ignored.

Baha’i teaching considers homosexuality to be a distortion of human nature, and spiritually condemned. Some Baha’is are working to bring a more enlightened view regarding homosexuality to the Baha’i “powers-that-be.” I would not hold my breath waiting for change any time soon, however. Baha’i authorities are quite adamant that their view regarding homosexuality will not change, cannot change.

ADDENDUM: I forgot to mention that the official Baha’i position on homosexuality holds that with the help of a competent physician and prayer and effort, you can “pray the gay away.”

Your project sounds interesting – good luck with it!

Barb”

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Ashley September 9, 2010 at 6:05 pm

hey, nice blog…really like it and added to bookmarks. keep up with good work

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Blair Ordona December 24, 2010 at 9:49 am

Thanks for the suggestions and references information’s.

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sonja April 30, 2012 at 6:39 pm

Hi Sarah, Here’s a link to a blog which challenges the idea that being gay is an illness along with a Baha’i context. Till next time, and everyone is welcome to critique/comment.

Does it matter if Baha’is think reparative therapy works? Here is Spitzer’s retraction and why it matters.

http://justabahai.wordpress.com/2012/04/30/on-the-psychopathology-of-homosexuality/

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James Garman May 26, 2013 at 10:45 pm

In other words, and I say this as a non-Bahaii that attended a meeting this morning not sure what I was expecting to find, but during the service thinking “wow, how loving”…and then to immediately found out that they are just as prejudiced in thought, and even in deed, as any of the other relgiions that they present themselves as being an improvement over.

Unfortunately, I am left to assume them guilty of hypocricy if not worse, and the Bahaii has, in me, a ardent opponent rather than a friend. I say this very aware that Christianity, except in spots like the United Church of Christ, is no better. But at least there are those units that abstain from the rampant hatred.

Why is it that religions claiming to have “a more perfect truth” and to be further along in the “progressive revelation” than all others end up being just as hateful and hate filled as those prior? Sad but unfortunately in this case, as a body very true.

I realize there are those working for change, sad that they seem to have as hard an uphill climb as the rest of us raised in supposedly less “enlightened” faiths.

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sarah May 26, 2013 at 10:58 pm

I concur, but actually, I would say right now that the Baha’i faith is worse than many other religions on the issue of human sexuality, because most faiths don’t have contemporary religious authorities – the prophetic founders are dead and the remaining leaders are usually either guides or have power over one specific denomination. It is possibly to a gay Christian without a church and to believe that their faith and sexuality is compatible, and similar with a gay Muslim, a gay Hindu, and gay Sikh, a gay Jew, etc. It’s between you and God.

Being Baha’i, by definition, means accepting the Universal House of Justice as the authority to define the doctrine of the Baha’i faith, and they have said that you can’t be gay and Baha’i. So what can gay Baha’is do with that but tolerate being treated as a sinner or leaving? There’s no way round it. Although, by contrast, when the House gets its act together, it’ll be a lot easier to implement full equality.

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