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The Bahá'í Faith and homosexuality

Homosexuality in Baha'i sacred texts.
1973 statements by the House of Justice.

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Homosexuality in Baha'i sacred texts:

The prophet Baha'u'llah stated in 1875 (as translated by Kamran Hakim):

"Say, it is forbidden to you adultery, homosexual relationship, and treachery. Do not commit these, O assemblage of believers."

Another translation of the same passage reads, more directly:

"Ye are forbidden to commit adultery, sodomy and lechery."

The former translation might be interpreted to condemn even celibate gay and lesbian relationships. The latter translation uses the word "sodomy" which is ambiguous; it might be narrowly interpreted to condemn only anal intercourse, and thus only refer to some male gays. It might have a much wider meaning covering other non-coital sexual activities. It would then include sexual activity by the vast majority of gays and lesbians, and some bisexuals.

Elsewhere, in "Aqdas", Paragraph 107 states:

"It is forbidden you to wed your fathers' wives. We shrink, for very shame, from treating of the subject of boys. Fear ye the Merciful, O peoples of the world! Commit not that which is forbidden you in Our Holy Tablet, and be not of those who rove distractedly in the wilderness of their desires.

The Arabic word which has been translated here as "boys" appears to imply a reference to the sexual molestation of under-age boys by adult males. This may have been a reference to slave boys kept for sexual purposes.

"The Arabic term 'Ghelmaan' is the plural form of the term 'Ghulaam' which according to the Hans Wehr Dictionary of Modern Written Arabic is defined as: boy; youth, lad; slave; servant; waiter. 'Ghulaamiya' and 'Ghuluma': youth, youthfulness." 1

Baha'u'llah selected Abdu'l-Baha to interpret the Baha'i writings after his death. After the death of Abdu'l-Baha, the authority passed to Shoghi Effendi, who became the only authorized interpreter of the Baha'i Teachings until his death in 1957. His interpretations are believed to be based on his infallible understanding of the Texts. He has interpreted both references as prohibiting all same-sex activity, including that between consenting gays or lesbians in committed relationships.

A letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, the Guardian of the Baha'i Faith, (1950-MAR-26) states that a homosexual relationship is inherently sinful, that it is a handicap to overcome, and that persons with a homosexual orientation can change and become heterosexual. He wrote, in part:

"No matter how devoted and fine the love may be between people of the same sex, to let it find expression in sexual acts is wrong. To say that it is ideal is no excuse. Immorality of every sort is really forbidden by Baha'u'llah, and homosexual relationships he looks upon as such, besides being against nature...To be afflicted this way is a great burden to a conscientious soul. But through the advice and help doctors, through a strong and determined effort, and through prayer, a soul can overcome this handicap." 2

1973 Statements by the House of Justice:

They wrote (1973-FEB) that:

"151. A number of sexual problems, such as homosexuality and transsexuality can well have medical aspects, and in such cases recourse should certainly be had to the best medical assistance. But it is clear from the teaching of Baha'u'llah 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 and overcome. This may require a hard struggle, but so also can be the struggle of a heterosexual person to control his or her desires. The exercise of self-control in this, as in so very many other aspects of life, has a beneficial effect on the progress of the soul. It should, moreover, be borne in mind that although to be married is highly desirable, and Bahá'u'lláh has strongly recommended it, it is not the central purpose of life. 3

Implied in this statement are the beliefs that a person's sexual orientation can be changed through effort and treatment, and that homosexuality is an unnatural condition that a person is expected to fight and overcome. These beliefs are identical to those held by most evangelical Christians, but are directly opposite to a consensus reached by that vast majority of psychologists and psychiatrists who are neither evangelical Christians nor Baha'i's.

The House of Justice wrote on 1973-MAR-14 that:

"Baha'i teachings on sexual morality centre on [opposite-sex] marriage and the family as the bedrock of the whole structure of human society, and are designed to protect and strengthen that divine institution. Thus Baha'i Law restricts permissible sexual intercourse to that between a man and the woman to whom he is married." 4

Rulings of Universal House of Justice are considered infallible. It cannot change a law, it can only legislate in areas where no law has been previously established by the Faith's sacred writings.

These letters were written in the same year as the American Psychiatric Association removed homosexual orientation from its list of mental illnesses.

References used:

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

  1. A discussion conducted on the listserv Talisman One, available at: http://bahai-library.org/
  2. "The Baha'i World Faith: Its Stand on Same-Sex Love," GayToday.com, at: http://www.gaytoday.com/
  3. "Messages from the3 Universal House of Justice, 1963-1986," Section +235, at: http://bahai-library.com/
  4. "The Baha'i faith and homosexuality," at: http://bahai-library.org/

Copyright © 1996 to 2009 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2009-OCT-06
Author: B.A. Robinson

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