A heterosexual lifestyle

A FaceBook friend of mine, Daniel Orey, got married a few years ago. He ran into some problems because a state-sanctioned, committed, same-sex marriage is not an acceptable lifestyle for Baha’is, according to his NSA:

“Your same sex marriage in 2008 and statements that you have made on the Internet in support of homosexuality as an acceptable lifestyle for Baha’is shows that your position has changed. Such flagrant actions in violation of Baha’i law leave the National Spiritual Assembly with no choice but to remove your administrative rights.”
Let’s start with consulting about a letter

"I think I might be straight" pamphletWhich leaves me wondering how Daniel’s marriage differs from mine, if at all. I got married to Alison in 1991. She had a child, Zohar, from a previous relationship. Alison and I don’t have any children from our marriage. We live together, share most things, don’t have a lot of secrets, argue and make up, help each other out, put up with each other’s foibles and miss each other like crazy when we’re apart for extended periods.  I guess we’re just your typical flagrantly heterosexual couple.

From the outside, that sounds no different to Daniel and Milton’s relationship. I can’t be sure — maybe they have friends over for an orgy every Wednesday night. However,  I’m sure the NSA would have mentioned that in its letter to Daniel if it was better informed than me.

I see this as a human rights issue — the right to marry the person that you love and to whom you have made a commitment.

If a heterosexual lifestyle was banned by my religion, including the option of entering into a loving, committed, state-sanctioned marriage, then I wouldn’t have anywhere to turn, except to stay single. That seems unfair.

I’ve hung out with gay guys a lot, mainly through work, and I know for sure that I’m not attracted to guys. Maybe I didn’t meet the right one; maybe I just needed to be cured of my heterosexual bias through some medical intervention; or maybe I just needed to fake it until I could make it. But I’m pretty sure that conforming to a homosexual lifestyle when I’m actually straight would eventually have led to disaster. So “fitting in” wouldn’t really be an option for me.

No one expects the inquisitorial system

“The administrative bodies of the Bahá’í Faith at all levels use a distinctive method of non-adversarial decision-making, known as consultation.”

Apparently, the phrase more commonly used by the rest of the world for non-adversarial judicial decision-making  is “inquisitorial system”:

“Inquisitorial System
This article is about the inquisitorial system for organizing court proceedings. This is not to be confused with the system of religious courts established by the Roman Catholic Church for the prosecution of heresy. For this see: Inquisition.”
Wiki: Inquisitorial System

The Wiki article goes on to say:

“An inquisitorial system is a legal system where the court or a part of the court is actively involved in determining the facts of the case, as opposed to an adversarial system where the role of the court is solely that of an impartial referee between parties.”

It’s possible there is no valid comparison to be made between Baha’i judicial decision-making and civil judicial decision-making, and this has been argued in various places. For example, the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of New Zealand wrote:

In terms of decision-making required when Baha’i membership is at issue or when infringements of Baha’i law are of concern to the institutions, decisions are made based on Baha’i principles. The Baha’i administration is non-adversarial in nature and works in subtle ways. There can be no comparison with the terminology used in legal proceedings in the community at large. For example, Baha’i institutions do not lay any ‘charge’ against an individual believer, and there is no necessity for giving ‘direct notice’ to the individual. Similarly, the concept of a ‘case to be heard’ is foreign to the Baha’i administration. It is at the discretion of the Baha’i administrative body to act as it sees fit in full accordance with the Baha’i principles. … 9.4 Attempts by a National Spiritual Assembly to correct misunderstandings about the Faith by individual believers can be achieved in a variety of ways. The NSA does not employ the practice of formally approaching an individual before making a decision in every instance. There are many occasions when the deficiencies in understanding of individuals are addressed in a general, all-embracing way with the whole community (for instance, the presentation of community classes dealing with particular issues) rather than singling out individuals for specific attention.

Now, I would have thought that Baha’i principles did indeed require that Alison be consulted prior to having her membership removed, but apparently the National Spiritual Assembly believed otherwise. Or it simply did as it was told, then rationalised its behaviour afterwards.

The moral of the story: “When using the inquisitorial system, try to avoid acting like the Spanish Inquisition.”


Send in the clones

Here’s something from happier times, a decade ago:

Date: Fri, 12 Apr 1996
To: National Spiritual Assembly
From: Steve Marshall
Subject: Review of living works of art

Dear friends,

I’ve just read the item in New Zealand Baha’i News—”All Baha’i art works need approval from the national body”. I’ve been an artist and a Baha’i for many years but have only just realised that my art work needs to be reviewed.

I am living work of art, engaged in a continuous performance with an ever-changing audience. I do, at times, mention and depict the Baha’i Faith as an integral part of my creative output, and this is why I can now see that I do need to seek a letter of approval from you. The main difficulty I have is that my artistry is not adequately represented by a cassette recording, a photocopy or a manuscript. My artistic efforts are largely situational, and are very reliant on spontaneous interaction with people who can be drawn into being co-creators of artistic experiences.

I’m sure a solution can be negotiated and that it can be done in quite a creative way. I look forward to interacting with you over this conundrum.

ka kite ano,

There was a creative solution to the problem—the National Spiritual Assembly amended its ruling, and only mass-produced works of art had to be reviewed.

Black and white

Baquia has a stunning and brilliant new blog entry, called Short Term Memory, on the hypocrisy of the Baha’is, who are currently calling on people to join the struggle against “apartheid” in Iran, and are glossing over the fact that Baha’is in the 70s and 80s were censored and sanctioned for political involvement when they joined the struggle against apartheid in South Africa.