The Bahá'í Faith
Controversial matters: Freedom
of expression; Internal divisions
Freedom of expression within the Bahá'í Faith:
Although Bahá'ís have been very active in the promotion of freedom of expression
around the world, there are significant restrictions on freedoms of individual Baha'i
members. 1,2 These are enforced through shunning or expelling non-conforming adherents. Some examples
||Gay males and lesbians in monogamous, committed relationships who have held union
services to recognize their partnerships have had their religious rights removed. Similarly, heterosexual Baha'i
couples who were married in a non-Baha'i ceremony have had their
||The Bahá'í authorities have imposed pre-publication censorship on all material written by
members about the Faith. Until recently, all such material has to be first scanned by a review committee of
the Bahá'í National Spiritual Assembly of the country in which the text is to be
published. This was a temporary policy introduced many decades ago. It was
slightly modified in 2001-JAN for U.S. materials. Censorship
responsibility has been transferred to local authorities. No changes have been
made elsewhere in the world.
||The "Talisman" mailing list was closed down in
1996-MAY, after several of its prominent academic posters were
investigated at the orders of the Baha'i World Center in Haifa,
Israel. Several individuals, including the list owner, were allegedly
threatened with being shunned ("coming into conflict with the
Covenant") if they did not fall silent. 3 Baha'i
authorities have denied that they caused the list to close. Juan Cole
was one of those allegedly threatened. He resigned from the faith in
1996-MAY, but declared his private belief in Baha'u'llah in 1999-FEB.
He maintains a new Talisman list. 4
||The Bahá'í electoral process in the United States does not permit public nominations or discussion of the
candidates. This may be the reason why there has been no change in the nine person US National Spiritual
Assembly since 1961, except for those caused by deaths, retirements, or a member
leaving the country. Other National Spiritual Assemblies around the word do not
exhibit this lack of turnover.
||Michael McKenny, a Canadian fantasy writer was expelled from the Baha'i
faith because of views expressed in
Divisions within the Bahá'í Faith
All religions evolve. It is quite normal for followers of established religions break away and form new sects.
Many schisms are triggered by the death of the founder of the religion, or a
successor. Typically, the leaders of the splinter group follow most of the beliefs and
practices of their religion of origin. They generally regard their own faith group as
being the true representative of the religion. In this way, most observers
believe that the Bahá'í Faith arose from Islam, Christianity arose from Judaism, and the Mormons split away from
Protestant Christianity. Sometimes, the breakaway sect becomes the dominant group. The Bahá'í
Faith itself has experienced a number of schisms.
The founder of the Bahá'í Faith, Baha'u'llah, selected Abdu'l-Baha to interpret
the Baha'i writings after his death. Some members refused to accept the authority of the
new leader. After the death of Abdu'l-Baha, the authority passed to Shoghi Effendi, "the
infallible Center of the Baha'i faith," the "Center of
the Cause," and the generally accepted sole interpreter of the Baha'i
teachings. Again, some members refused to accept his authority. After his unexpected
death in 1957, controversy developed over his successor. One webmaster states
that there are now 7 faith groups in the world who each claim to be the "true" Bahá'í Faith. Of the six new groups,
five were created shortly after the death of Shoghi
Effendi, The sixth broke off later. All of the new groups have extremely small
numbers of members compared to Bahá'í Faith. All have been
declared covenant breakers by the Universal House of Justice:
The Bahá'í Faith is followed by the vast majority of believers.
In the United States, it is headed by the National Spiritual
Assembly of the Baha'is of the United States. Authority
once exercised by Shoghi Effendi is now transferred to the Universal House of Justice
in Haifa, Israel. Schismatic groups include:
||Bahá'ís Under the Provisions of the Covenant recognized Mason Remey as
the guardian to succeed Shoghi Effendi. They have organized a series of
Baha'i Councils (IBC). They claim a membership approaching 144,000.
Their Baha'i Center is located in Missoula, MT. This group has
apparently splintered into five groups, following a series of
excommunications and shunnings. 5,6,7
||Faith of God, (a.k.a. the House of Mankind and the
Universal Palace of Order), followed Jamshid Ma'ani. They "are no
longer active (listed as 'defunct' in Gordon Melton's Encyclopedia of Religions)."
||The Orthodox Bahá'í Faith," (a.k.a. Mother Bahá'í Council),
follow Joel Marangella.
||The Orthodox Baha'i Faith Under the Regency, follow Rex King.
||The Charles Mason Remey Society, follow Donald Harvey and Francis Spataro.
||Another dissident group organized around The Friends Newsletter.
Another group teaches that a Third Manifestation is coming in the
immediate future -- not delayed
for nine centuries or so, as current mainline Bahá'í teaches. See:
The main Baha'i body in the U.S., whose legal name is "The National
Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of the United States of America" (NSA),
launched a lawsuit in 2006-NOV against Franklin Schlatter, Joel Marangella, The
Provisional National Baha'i Council, the Second International Baha'i Council,
and Baha'i Publishers under the Provisions of the Covenant. The NSA claims that
these individuals and groups are using Baha'i trademarks and other indicica
without permission. The case was decided in favor of the Orthodox Bahá'ís. The
National Siritual Assembly has appealed the case. Hearings are scheduled for
2009-FEB-20 before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in Chicago.
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
Fredrick Glaysher "The Bahai Faith and religious freedom of
Material on freedom of expression within the Bahá'í Faith is available at: http://bahai-library.org/ and http://bahai-library.org/
An official response from the US National Spiritual Assembly to the latter item is
available at: http://bahai-library.org/
"Letter of Counselor Stephen Birkland to a Baha'i Academic:
Imposing Fundamentalism as the Official Ideology of the Baha'i Faith"
http://www-personal.umich.edu/ (Apparently offline)
The new Talisman list is: [email protected]
"Northern Lights Baha'i," at:
"Baha'i Faith web site presented by the second International Baha'i
Council," at: http://www.montana.com/
The official web site of The Baha'is Under the Provisions of the Covenant
is at: http://www.bupc.org
"The Baha'i Faith explanation of the 7 Churches addressed in the Book of
Revelation," at: http://members.aol.com/
"NSA Appeal," True Bahá'í, at:
http://www.truebahai.com/ This is a temporary listing.
Copyright © 1996 to 2009 by Ontario Consultants on
Latest update and review: 2009-FEB-13
Author: B.A. Robinson