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Religious Tolerance logo


Teachings of the Baha'i faith on homosexuality

2010 to now: Recent
developments & current status.

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The nature of the Baha'i faith:

Religions are often classified using terms like fundamentalist, mainline, liberal, and progressive.

The main characteristic of a fundamentalist religion (or of a fundamentalist denomination within a given religion) is a belief that the founding writings are:

  • Inerrant: they are totally without error and

  • Infallible: they are reliable, totally trustworthy.

The Baha'i faith is clearly fundamentalist in nature. An anonymous author, writing under the pseudonym "wordsandtheword" said:

"It is fundamentalist, for it claims, quite explicitly,  that it’s founding prophet, Baha’u’llah, and his writings, are infallible and inerrant.  Likewise, it claims, quite explicitly,  that Baha’u’llah’s successor, his son Abdu’l Baha, and his son’s successor, Shoghi Effendi ... are likewise infallible, and that their official writings are, likewise, inerrant, which, predictably, also includes the idea that they are contradiction-free:

    'In attempting to understand the Writings ... one must first realize that there is and can be no real contradiction in them.'

And it claims, again, quite explicitly,  that the Universal House of Justice, the legislative body presently acting as head of the faith, is likewise infallible in its collective decisions.  As for the ordinary believers:

    'our part is to cling tenaciously to the revealed Word and to the institutions that He has created to preserve His Covenant'.

And, as Shoghi Effendi has written:

    'Either we should accept the Cause without qualification whatever, or cease calling ourselves Baha’is'." 1

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However, in practice, the Baha'i faith is in many ways quite liberal and progressive in nature. From its founding, they have promoted:

  • world peace,
  • the peaceful resolution of international conflicts,
  • respect and adoption of the findings of science,
  • harmony between science and religion,
  • cooperation among religions.
  • elimination of prejudice.
  • equality of men and women,
  • universal education,
  • respect for other world religions.
  • an emphasis on personal good works. 2

As a result, the Baha'i faith has characteristics both of an extreme conservative and extreme liberal religion. This appears to have produced internal conflicts. For example:

  • All women are excluded from serving in the Universal House of Justice solely irrespective of their qualifications, solely because of their gender. 1

  • "... certain Baha’i inheritance laws favor male children." 1

  • While many, perhaps most, members of the faith are tolerant and accepting of members of the LGBT community, Baha'i law:
    • Limits sexual expression to married couples.

    • Limits marriage to the union of one woman and one man.

    • Requires non-married members to remain totally celibate.

  • Shoghi Effendi wrote:

"... ...according to the Bahá'í Teachings no sexual act can be considered lawful unless performed between lawfully-married persons. Outside of marital life there can be no lawful or healthy use of the sex impulse." 3

At the time that he wrote this, the concept of same-sex marriage had not been widely discussed; all legal marriages worldwide were between one man and one or more women. If he were to write this passage again for today's audience, he undoubtedly would have excluded same-sex marriages.

He also wrote:

"Amongst the many other evils afflicting society in this spiritual low water mark in history is the question of immorality, and over-emphasis of sex. Homosexuality, according to the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, is spiritually condemned. This does not mean that people so afflicted must not be helped and advised and sympathized with." 4

  • The Baha'i Universal House of Justice has written:

"... ...it is clear from the teaching of Bahá’u’lláh that homosexuality is not a condition to which a person should be reconciled, but is a distortion of his or her nature which should be controlled or overcome. This may require a hard struggle, but so also can be the struggle of a heterosexual person to control his or her desires." 5

and:

"... Bahá'u'lláh has clearly forbidden the expression of sexual love between individuals of the same sex. However, the doors are open for all of humanity to enter the Cause of God, irrespective of their present circumstance; this invitation applies to homosexuals as well as to any others who are engaged in practices contrary to the Bahá'í teachings. Associated with this invitation is the expectation that all believers will make a sincere and persistent effort to eradicate those aspects of their conduct which are not in conformity with Divine Law." 6

and

"... we summarize below some of the fundamental points made in the attached extracts:

  • Homosexuality is strongly condemned by Bahá'u'lláh ...
  • The Bahá'í Writings do not point to the causes of homosexuality ...
  • They do state that Homosexuality is an 'aberration', and is 'against nature. ...'
  • Homosexuality can be overcome... and
  • The individual is expected to make an effort to overcome the affliction." 7
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Webmaster's opinion (bias alert):

Public support in the U.S. for same-sex/gay marriage now exceeds 60%. This is partly because an increasing percentage of the North American public is accepting the discoveries of scientific research into human sexuality. These include the findings that heterosexual and bisexual orientations are both normal; natural; discovered, not chosen; and fixed, not changeable. We expect these percentages will continue to rise in the future.

Meanwhile, the Baha'i Faith's teachings will continue to teach mostly opposing beliefs for the foreseeable future. Unfortunately, its leaders cannot easily change their position, because they are unable to deviate from the teachings of their founder, Bahá'u'lláh, as interpreted by Shoghi Effendi. Both authorities are now deceased. It might take a revelation from God to change Baha'i teachings.

I see no possibility of the Baha'i faith resolving its conflict over its deviation from scientific findings any time soon. They are stuck with the belief that homosexuality is a form of deviance that an individual can change through effort and must not accept or act upon. I am guessing that the faith will, over time, gradually increasingly ignore the conflict and not discriminate against its LGBT members. Otherwise, their position will be increasingly looked upon as bigotry, and they will lose members.

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2015-MAR: A personal note Reddit:

A former Baha'i, TheBlackestForest, posted the following moving document:

"... maybe it's possible to be a solitary Baha'i and love Baha'u'llah on my own, but all I can think of is how such a perfect man described the perfect world to us. I've read the Writings, and sexual minorities aren't part of the Plan. We're not part of the perfect world the Baha'is want. They want a world where we don't exist. They want a world where we give the Faith our lives and our passions in service to God, but where we quietly sit in the back and are happy for our place and are aware of our sinful nature like a herd of obedient peasants. They want a world where sexual minorities meekly accept that loving someone of the same gender means they're of the same spiritual condition as a murderer, a wife-beater. They want a world were sexual minorities put their head down and give up hope of personal happiness so they'll be rewarded when they die. What a raw deal.

That was the final disappointment. Realizing that Baha'u'llah didn't want me, but wanted my labour was the final slap in the face. I've come to believe that if I should be able to participate freely in society, without being shamed for having a consensual, adult, monogamous, supportive relationship with an equal. I should be fairly compensated with respect for the labour I contribute. While these things won't necessarily happen as a non-Baha'i (because it's not like the larger society likes gays much better), these things DEFINITELY will not happen as a Baha'i.

So we come to why I'm not a Baha'i: I value myself. That's it. Nineteen years of trying to be somewhat I wasn't nearly destroyed me. Ten years of accepting myself has transformed me into a stable, healthy, happy member of society. I am a rational person. I look at results. Valuing my "illness" as a normal expression of human sexuality has benefited me and the people around me. My misery and repression served no one.

I'm so sorry to give up on the perfect world the Baha'is are striving for, because their vision is a lovely one and I wanted it to come true for the longest time... but it's a vision that excludes millions and millions of people. It's not universal. I can't place absolute faith in a man who denies my reality. God gave me a brain. I must use it." 8

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Webmaster's note:

The length of the above excerpt is limited by copyright laws. The full posting is well worth reading. 8

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2016-JAN-12: Discussion of homosexuality within the Baha'i faith's main web site:

The web site of the worldwide Bahá’í community which presents the faith to the general public is at: http://www.bahai.org. The web site's internal search facility was used to search for articles on the following topics: gay, lesbian, sexual orientation, gay marriage, same-sex marriage, homosexual, homosexuality, LGBT, GLBT, transgender, transgendered 7 and transsexual.

All of the searches returned zero results. These topics do not appear to be discussed on the main Baha'i web site.

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "The Baha'i Faith: A case study in fundamentalism," 2009-FEB-07, at: https://bahaifundamentalism.wordpress.com/
  2. "What is the Baha'i faith?," Got Questions, at: http://www.gotquestions.org/
  3. Helen Hornby, compiler, "Lights of Guidance: A Bahá'í Reference File," Page 364, Item 1220, at: http://bahai-library.com/
  4. Ibid, Page 365, Item 1221, at: http://bahai-library.com/
  5. Ibid, Page 366, Item 1222, at: http://bahai-library.com/
  6. "Homosexuality," compiled by Research Department of the Universal House of Justice, Page 11, 1993, at: http://bahai-library.com/
  7. "Transgendered" is now an obsolete term, having been replaced with "transgender."
  8. TheBlackForest, "Why I Am No Longer a Baha'i," Reddit, 2015-MAR-11, at: https://www.reddit.com/

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Copyright © 2016 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Original posting: 2016-JAN-13
Latest update : 2016-JAN-13
Author: B.A. Robinson

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