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.

May 18, 2016

Obama appoints transgender woman, Sikh and Bahai to faith advisory council


Christian Today, May 17, 2016.

A transgender woman will join representatives from the Sikh and Baha’i communities as new advisers to President Obama on faith-based issues.

The White House announced the additions to the President’s third and final advisory council on faith-based and neighbourhood partnerships last week.
Barbara Satin is the assistant faith work director for the National LGBTQ Task Force and a member of the United Church of Christ (UCC). She was the first openly transgender member of the UCC’s executive council and has served on the board of a number of other LGBT community groups.

Of her appointment, Satin said: “Given the current political climate, I believe it’s important that a voice of faith representing the transgender and gender non-conforming community — as well as a person of my years, nearly 82 — be present and heard in these vital conversations.”

The other appointments included Naseem Kourosh, human rights officer at the US Baha’i office of public affairs and Manjit Singh, co-founder and chairman of the Sikh American Legal Defence and Education Fund.

Along with a number of other appointments, Obama said Satin, Kourosh and Singh were “fine public servants” and would bring “depth of experience and tremendous dedication” to their roles.

“I look forward to working with them,” he said.

The President’s advisory council is charged with making policy recommendations to the administration as well as suggesting improvements and best practices for services that relate to faith-based groups. The council currently has fifteen members, most of whom are Christian.

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

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

December 11, 2015

Ministry of Intelligence in Kermanshah seeks to isolate Bahais

MAF News, December 10, 2015.

In the past week, at least 15 Muslims in Kermanshah have been summoned to the Ministry of Intelligence and questioned and threatened because they have associated with Bahai families in the province. They were told they should not have any links to any Bahais. In the city of Sanandaj, capital of the neighbouring province of Kurdistan, officials refused to register the marriage of a Bahai woman with a non-Bahai man.

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

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

January 5, 2011

New guidance re. same-sex marriage

The National Spiritual Assembly (governing council) of the Bahais in the United States has released a letter which quotes from new guidance from the Universal House of Justice, dated October 27, 2010. This indicates that Baha’is should eschew all forms of prejudice defend those whose fundamental rights are being denied, but should in their own lives apply the teachings of Baha’u’llah on personal morality (teachings which they do not seek to impose on others). In working for social justice, Baha’is can actively support freedom from discrimination, while neither promoting nor opposing opportunities for civil marriage. The full text (more…)

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