Station of scholars and historians in the Baha'i faith (1999)

Many Baha'is from the global South have grown up in dictatorships or their parents did, and they think about the institutions of the faith as like the governmental dictatorship they experienced. Dictatorships typically severely restrict freedom of speech, jail academics, denounce them for undue "pride," practice censorship, and allow no public questioning of announced government policy. Many Baha'is think of the Universal House of Justice as such a dictatorial body, and believe that when they speak all must be silent.

I don't believe, however, that Baha'u'llah much cared for dictatorships, and he strove mightily to challenge the absolute monarchies of his own day, which he consigned to the dust heap of history with the advent of universal reason among the people.

{josquote}Last I checked, this system does not produce chaos, and everyone seems to know what the actual law is.{/josquote}

There is another model, which is that of the Supreme Court in democracies. The Supreme Court's decisions stand as the law of the land. But in democracies, professors in law schools can write journal articles in law reviews that examine the reasoning of the decisions, re-examine the law, and come to a different conclusion. As long as the Supreme Court does not find these arguments persuasive, they remain nothing more than obscure journal articles. The Supreme Court's decisions define the law. Sometime the court will take up a law review article and incorporate its reasoning into their new decision. But they don't have to. It is the decision of the Court. Nevertheless, they do not seek to prevent the law professors from writing their articles. Last I checked, this system does not produce chaos, and everyone seems to know what the actual law is.

I think this is a much better model than that of the supreme dictator (like the Shah or Khomeini) for the Baha'i community. So, my answer to your question is very simple. The Universal House of Justice has the authority to decide such issues as whether women are admitted to that body, and as long as they stick to their decision that is Baha'i law. But they do not have the authority to prevent the free and conscientious expression of other views, as long as these are advertised merely as personal and non-authoritative opinion. Thus, historians may examine the evolution of the gender issue in Baha'i institutions, and freely publish their results, but these results do not have to be adopted by the House of Justice.

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