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The Bahá'í Faith and homosexuality

2002 letter from a physician;
Current status of
Bahá'í LGBTs.

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2002: A reflective letter from a doctor:

Sam G. McClellan, M.D., in consultation with the Institute on AIDS, Sexuality and Addictions, wrote an essay "Some reflections on the Bahá’í  Teachings as they relate to homosexuality." 1 It was revised in 2002-JAN. In it, he clearly differentiates between three meanings of the term "homosexuality:"

bulletA sexual orientation, defined by being is sexually attracted to members of the same gender. It is one of three orientations, including heterosexuality and bisexuality. His essay appears to be in error at this point, because a person can be "physically and emotionally attracted to other adults biologically of the same gender" and have a bisexual orientation, not a homosexual orientation.
bulletA behavior, defined by being sexually active with persons of the same sex.
bulletAn identity, which he defines as "a process of adopting, through self-labeling, an identification with a community that shares the same preference or behavior, such as the gay or lesbian community."

Citing a letter written by an unidentified person on behalf of the Universal House of Justice, he states:

"There is nothing in the Bahá’í teachings to justify prejudice against any person because he or she happens to be dealing with issues of homosexuality – either in terms of orientation, behavior or identity."

McClellan writes:

bullet"Bahá’u’lláh forbids homosexual acts as He, indeed, forbids all sexual intercourse outside of lawful marriage between a man and a woman. A homosexual union, no matter how faithful and enduring, does not qualify as marriage in Bahá’í law."
bullet"To change one’s self-definition requires much effort, support and encouragement, and it will, most likely, be a complex and lengthy process marked by small, cumulative successes and a great deal of struggle."

He recommends reparative therapy as promoted by the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH). The best estimate that we have been able to derive is that reparative therapy has a success rate below 0.5%

Current status of homosexuality in the Baha'i Faith:

Persons with homosexual, bisexual or transsexual orientation are all welcomed as members of the Baha'i Faith. As stated by a draft FAQ approved for distribution by the US National Spiritual Assembly:

"To regard homosexuals with prejudice and disdain would be entirely against the spirit of Baha'i Teachings. The doors are open for all of humanity to enter the Cause of God, irrespective of their present circumstances; this invitation applies to homosexuals as well as to any others who are engaged in practices contrary to the Baha'i 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." 2

Any Baha'i member in good standing can be elected to any office within the Faith, regardless of their sexual orientation. However, gays and lesbians might be declared to be not in good standing if they flagrantly display their homosexuality. They are expected to make "sincere and persistent effort" to remain celibate. 

A fundamental belief of the Baha'i Faith is that true science and religion cannot be in conflict. Sexual orientation continues to be studied by human sexuality researchers. In the West, a social and scientific consensus is being developed that

bullethomosexuality is a natural, normal, unchosen, and acceptable variation of human sexuality for a minority of adults, and
bulletan adult's sexual orientation is unchangeable or can only rarely be changed.

We expect that the Baha'i Faith will experience increasing conflicts over homosexuality and bisexuality in the West. Some will be escalating internal dissension, driven by Baha'i gays, lesbians, and bisexuals. They generally believe that their sexual orientation is natural and God-given; they want their religious group to recognize this.

There will also be external pressure from those in North America who accept recent scientific findings. Potential converts will be less likely to join a religion that treats minority sexual orientations as disorders. On the other hand, discrimination against gays, lesbians and bisexuals may well increase the growth of the Faith elsewhere in the world in those countries that oppress homosexuals and bisexuals.

References used:

  1. Wilma Ellis, "Bahá’ís and homophobia," 2004-MAR-15, at: http://www.studiedocumenten.googlepages.com/ This is a PDF file. 
  2. A "Draft FAQ: The Baha'i Faith and Homosexuality" prepared by Roger Reini on 1996-JAN-13 is available at: http://bahai-library.org/compilations/homosexuality.comp.html

Copyright © 1996 to 2009 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2009-OCT-05
Author: B.A. Robinson

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