Sen's daily

October 12, 2016

Interfaith group asks US government to reject report of U.S. Commission on Civil Rights

Editorial, October 12, 2016.

Kit Bigelow, who was Director of external affairs for the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahais of the U.S. until her retirement in June 2010, has appeared as co-signer of a controversial letter from an ad-hoc group of religious leaders. Kit Bigelow is not a leader of the Bahai community. The letter was sent to President Barack Obama, Orrin Hatch as Senate leader (pro-tem) and House Speaker Paul Ryan. The letter states:

We wish to express our deep concern that the Commission has issued a report, Peaceful Coexistence: Reconciling Non-Discrimination Principles with Civil Liberties, that stigmatizes tens of millions of religious Americans, their communities, and their faith-based institutions, and threatens the religious freedom of all our citizens.

The Commission asserts in its Findings that religious organizations “use the pretext of religious doctrines to discriminate.”

What we find even more disturbing is that, in a statement included in the report, Commission Chairman Martin Castro writes:

“The phrases ‘religious liberty’ and ‘religious freedom’ will stand for nothing except hypocrisy so long as they remain code words for discrimination, intolerance, racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, Christian supremacy or any form of intolerance.”

Kit Bigelow’s name appears as a signatory in her individual capacity as “Religious Freedom Advocate.” The term has been tainted in the USA in the last two election seasons because of its use as a cover for religiously-motivated discrimination, but Kit Bigelow’s activism for real religious liberties goes back much further, and not primarily in relation to the USA.

Current policies in the Bahai community do not allow for the recognition of the legally performed civil unions or marriages of same-sex couples. The policy of the Universal House of Justice is that individuals who are in same-sex marriages should not be allowed to enrol in the Bahai community. This means that they cannot vote, or be elected, for the Spiritual Assemblies that govern the affairs of local Bahai communities, and cannot participate in the open consultations on community affairs by enrolled members which are part of the ‘Feasts’ held in each local community 19 times every year. Those who are excluded from enrollment are not shunned and are not barred from other occasions of worship. The Bahai community today does not campaign against the legal recognition of same-sex marriages.

While the exclusion of individuals in same-sex marriages from membership of the Bahai community is discriminatory, this has not been justified by Bahais under the highly politicized banner of preserving religious freedom. There is nothing in the Bahai teachings that would justify Bahais in discriminating against homosexuals in their business activities, or in any role they might have as public officials. It would be unfortunate if the description of Kit Bigelow as “Religious Freedom Advocate” gave the impression that she, or the Bahai community, were aligned with the political movement that has claimed a religious liberties justification for discrimation in public life.

A PDF of the controversial letter is available here.

The report it criticizes is available as a PDF here.

An example of the dialogues within the Bahai community on this question can be found here.

Short link: http://wp.me/pNMoJ-2Jx

Older items can be found in the archive, here. Even older news is here.

2 Comments »

  1. Kate Bigelow’s brave stance as a Religious Freedom Advocate, a term as pilloried nowadays as martyr and sacrifice, is gonna be deliberately misinterpreted by certain atheists, communists, racists and nationalists and then by others conflated as Baha’i support for certain political parties – no matter what one says or does. That’s their right as it is Kate’s to speak out as an individual believer without purporting to represent the Baha’i community per se. Actually, it’s no wonder that so many religionists of rightly recognized influence are united in their call on the government of the USA to respect the teachings of the Founders of their world Faiths in relation to matters of personal morality, honor etc. While not questioning Haifa’s wisdom or its right as to timeliness vis-a-vis speaking out in a more public way or in a well-organized campaign the wonder to my mind is that a retired representative of the Baha’i religion, albeit of the highest personal integrity, is designated incognito as the Baha’i voice in this important instance.

    For Baha’is this debate over the public good in the public square need not be complex at all provided that one centers on the consistent position of the Baha’i Faith as penned by Baha’u’llah, Abdu’l-Baha, Shoghi Effendi and his numerous secretaries, the Universal House of Justice and provided too of course that one is ever sensitive and polite in explaining that majorities and elites do not determine what is right and what is wrong. Right is right though all save God condemn it and wrong is wrong though all approve it but He.

    That the right of homosexuals to marry is upheld today by the majority of young and middle aged people in western countries and by the Supreme Court of the USA is at odds with the teachings of Bahá’u’lláh. For an authoritative and up to date understanding of the Bahá’í position on the evolving Civil law situation (in jurisdictions all over the world) regarding controversial moral questions such as gay marriage, cloning, medical marijuana and so on please consider the globality of Bahá’í ethics and contact in the first instance believers in your vicinity that full consultation may ensue. In particular, when liaising with gay men, lesbians and polygamists already in a legal marriage informed office bearers in Bahá’í institutions convey the wisdom and compassion expressed in letters of Shoghi Effendi and of the Universal House of Justice, respectively 20th Aug 1955 and 5th March 1999 at this web site:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homosexuality_and_the_Bah%C3%A1'%C3%AD_Faith

    Baha’i love

    Paul

    Comment by Paul Desailly — October 16, 2016 @ 00:05 | Reply

  2. The John Stossel Libertarian Primary Presidential Forum, which was divided into two parts when it aired, debated the religious freedom/liberty versus non-discrimination issue. Gary Johnson, who eventually won the nomination, stood on the side of non-discrimination heavily saying that religious freedom (in this context) represented a black hole.

    The issue stems from the fundamentalist midset. They don’t really care for freedom of conscience, religion, and thought in general, but only call for them when they’re on the losing side of culture war issues. The point of the law is that everyone is supposed to follow the same laws, not exempting some sects as above the law.

    America was founded by Deists as a nation with separation of church and state. America wasn’t founded as a Christian nation or a religious nation. What is Deism? It has the following tenets: A transcendent God, as a First Cause, created the universe but then left it to run on its own. God is thus not immanent, not triune, not fully personal, not sovereign over human affairs, not providential. The cosmos God created is determined, because it is created as a uniformity of cause and effect in a closed system; no miracle is possible. Human beings, though personal, are part of the clockwork of the universe. Human beings may or may not have a life beyond their physical existence. Through our innate autonomous human reason and the methods of science, we can not only know the universe but we can infer at least something of what God is like. The cosmos, this world, is understood to be in its normal state; it is not fallen or abnormal. Ethics is intutive or limited to general revelation; because the universe is normal, it reveals what is right. History is linear, for the course of the cosmos was determined at creation. Still the meaning of events of history remains to be understood by the application of human reason to the data unearthed and made available to historians. Cold Deists use their own autonomous reason to determine their goal in life; Warm Deists may relfect on their commitment to a somewhat personal God and determine their goal in accordance with what they believe their God would be pleased with.

    Simpler, Popular (rather than Sophiticated Philospohical/Scientific) Deism says: A God exists who created and orders the world and watches over human life on earth. God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most religions. The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself. God does not need to be particularly involved in one’s life except when God is needed to resolve a problem. Good people go to heaven when they die.

    The controversial letter was backed not by all religions, but by particular sects with specific political agendas. Orthodox Jews (not all Jews), Evangelicals/Catholics/Mormons (not all Christians), Hare Krishnas (not all Hindus), etc supported the controversial letter. This shows the issues has a sectarian rather than religious backing. Also, no Buddhists, Unitarians Universalists, Eckists, Raëlians, Ethical Culturalists, Humanists, Pagans, Afro-Diaspora Religionists, Spiritists/Spiritualists, Japanese New Religionists, as well as denominations of Jews/Christians/Hindus were any part of the letter. [edited for spelling and punctuation ~sen]

    Comment by Stephen Kent Gray — November 15, 2016 @ 19:58 | Reply


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