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The Bahá'í Faith

Introduction to Lesbian, gay
and bisexual (LGB) issues

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Baha'i beliefs about same-sex attraction:

The Baha'i Faith teaches beliefs about homosexuality that are quite similar to those of Evangelical Christians and the conservative wings of other religions.

They currently teach that:

bulletThe only acceptable form of sexual expression is between a one man and one woman, and then only after they have been married.
 
bulletBoth same-sex feelings of attraction and behavior are improper, and are in opposition to God's plan for humanity.
 
bulletSame-sex attraction is seen as a disability for the individual to overcome. Through prayer, medical treatment, counseling, and much personal effort, they believe that a gays and lesbians can become "straight."
 
bulletUnless gays or lesbians can convert their sexual orientation to bisexuality or heterosexuality, and enter a marriage with a person of the opposite gender, they are expected to remain totally celibate.

Baha'i's Catch-22 situation involving the conflict of science & religion:

The Baha'i faith appears to be trapped between two of its foundational principles:

bulletIn contrast with many other faiths, they have traditionally valued and readily accepted the findings of science. The vast majority of human sexual researchers and the major medical and mental health professional associations have reached a consensus that a homosexual orientation is normal and natural for a minority of adults, and is essentially unchangeable in adulthood.
 
bulletBaha'is believe in the inerrancy of the writings of their Prophet Baha'u'llah, as interpreted by a succession of church leaders. The last of these, Shoghi Effendi, interpreted the prophet's writings as condemning homosexual behavior. He died in 1957 without selecting a successor. Thus, Baha'u'llah's writings can never be re-interpreted in the future.

The trend in North America is towards an increasing public acceptance of the near consensus of human sexuality researchers. The incompatibility between the Baha'i policies towards science and towards homosexuality may prove to be a major problem to the faith. If current trends continue, oppression of gays, lesbians and bisexuals will become as unacceptable within the culture as sexism, racism, xenophobia and religious intolerance are today. This conflict may -- over time -- seriously inhibit conversions to the faith.

If Shoghi Effendi had selected a successor, then she or he might have reinterpreted the two writings of Baha'u'llah as:

bulletProhibiting persons with a heterosexual orientation from engaging in same-sex behavior, while allowing persons with a homosexual orientation to be sexually active with members of the same sex, and
 
bulletProhibiting adults sexually abusing children of the same sex.

That would leave the way free for their religion to accept the validity of loving, committed same-sex marriages, civil unions, and domestic partnerships.

But since no successor was selected, the conflict may be unsolvable.

Keeping Baha'i statements on LGB matters in perspective:

Religious organizations -- particularly those those whose beliefs are based on a holy text like the Torah, Holy Bible, or Qur'an -- have often found it difficult to change their beliefs and teachings on moral and ethical topics.

To their credit, the Baha'i faith has been an exception. They promoted democracy, equality for women, civil rights, and other causes from the time of their faith's inception in the 19th century. This was far in advance of many other faith groups. Their current opposition to LGB issues is an anomaly. On this one topic, they have lagged behind secular trends, rather than leading them.

This section discusses statements by Baha'i individuals and groups over the interval 1973 to the present time. It is important to realize that a major evolution in understanding of sexual orientation has occurred over this time interval. This has been reflected in the laws of some states and countries.

Recall that it was only:

bulletIn the 1950s that Evelyn Hooker conducted the first meaningful studies that showed that gay males were not mentally ill;
 
bulletIn 1969 when a police-induced riot at Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village, NYC triggered the gay liberation movement;
 
bulletIn 1973 that the American Psychiatric Association dropped homosexuality from its list of mental illnesses.
 
bulletIn 2003 that same-sex behavior was decriminalized in the U.S.
 
bulletIn 2004 when loving, committed same-sex couples in Massachusetts were allowed to marry.

This is an enormous change over the last six decades. However, on LGB topics, the Baha'i faith's teachings have remained static. Future developments should be interesting to watch.

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

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