A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Administrative Rights

Application of Bahá’í law by an Assembly will, at times, include the necessity for imposition of sanctions on those who violate its provisions. Bahá’u’lláh has written that: “In formulating the principles and laws a part hath been devoted to penalties which form an effective instrument for the security and protection of
men …” There is no justification for the suspension of a believer’s administrative rights pending investigation and review of the facts of the matter in which he is involved. As we have repeatedly stated, the application of sanctions is a very serious action and should be imposed only in extreme cases. Furthermore, any decision involving a believer’s administrative rights is to be made by action of the Assembly itself. While the Assembly should always be concerned about matters which might affect the good name of the Faith, it should be remembered that a believer involved in such matters is entitled to the understanding of the Assembly and may need its guidance and assistance both before and after any decision regarding sanctions is made.
(Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 57)


At the present time, when Bahá’í laws are being progressively applied throughout the world, and when many Bahá’í communities include a large proportion of newly declared believers, National Spiritual Assemblies are authorized to accept ignorance of the Bahá’í law as a valid excuse for failure to adhere to its provisions when an Assembly is convinced that such ignorance existed. However, care should be taken to avoid the unwarranted exoneration of behavior contrary to the teachings, in applying Bahá’í law.
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice, 11 Sept, 1991)


In caring for its community, a Spiritual Assembly should act as a loving father rather than as a stern judge in such matters. Nevertheless, if a believer’s behaviour is blatantly and flagrantly immoral and, therefore, is harmful to the good name of the Faith, the Assembly must counsel him (or her), urge him to reform his conduct, warn him of the consequences if he does not mend his ways and, ultimately, if the believer persists in misbehaviour, the Assembly must deprive him of his administrative rights. This deprivation remains in force until such time as the believer repents of his actions and is able to satisfy the Spiritual Assembly that he has rectified his behaviour.
(Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 363)


It is not the business either of the believers or of the Spiritual Assemblies, to pry into the lives of individual friends to ascertain the degree to which they are living up to the standards of the Cause. Only if misbehaviour becomes blatant and flagrant does it become a matter for action, and then it is a matter for action by the Assembly and not by individuals. Even then the Assembly must be loving and patient, and exhort the believer to follow the Path of the Cause, but, if he persists in openly and flagrantly flouting Bahá’í law the Assembly has no alternative to ultimately depriving him of his voting rights. Applying these principles requires mature understanding and judgement and great love for one’s fellow men. It is a weighty responsibility which rests upon the shoulders of the members of Spiritual Assemblies. Undoubtedly errors are made and will continue to be made, but the more the friends are united and wholeheartedly support their Assemblies, the sooner will these mature in their decisions and actions, outgrow their mistakes, and become strong magnets for the Faith.
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice, 22 July, 1981)


It is unrealistic to withhold the application of sanctions on the grounds that a believer does not have a true grasp or understanding of the law; a Bahá’í who has such a comprehension would find abhorrent the prospect of violating the law, while the very act of failing to adhere to the provisions of the law would disclose a lack of true understanding and would thus render the believer exempt from administrative sanctions.
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice, 11 Sept, 1991)


Regarding the matter of believers who have been deprived of their voting rights; just as no one should ever be deprived of his voting right lightly, it should, likewise, be realized that to be deprived of it is a grave matter, and involving heavy penalties spiritually. People who have been so deprived should not be permitted to attend any meetings involving the administration of the Cause, such as an election or a Nineteen Day Feast. They can attend the Nine Holy Days; however, they should not be married by Bahá’í Law, no money should be accepted from them, they should not be given credentials (which imply a member of the community in good standing), nor should they be used officially as teachers or speakers.
(Shoghi Effendi, in Principles of Bahá’í Administration, p. 88)


The general basis for the deprivation of voting rights is of course gross immorality and open opposition to the administrative functions of the Faith, and disregard for the laws of personal status; and even then it is the duty of the National Assembly, before exercising this sanction, to confer with the individuals involved in a loving manner to help them overcome the problem; second, to warn them that they must desist; third, to issue further warnings if the original warnings are not followed; and finally, if there seems no other way to handle the matter, then a person may be deprived of voting rights. The Guardian however, wishes the National Assemblies to be very cautious in using this sanction, because it might be abused, and then lose its efficacy. It should be used only when there seems no other way to solve the problem. Answering specifically the questions you raise, if a person is deprived of his voting rights, he may not contribute to the Local or National Funds; he may not attend Nineteen Day Feasts. Of course, not attending the Nineteen Day Feasts, he can take no part in consultation. While it is not forbidden for the friends to associate with the individual, yet their association should be on a formal basis. So far as the individual who has been deprived of his voting rights, teaching the Cause, he is of course free to do this, as every individual has been encouraged by Bahá’u’lláh to teach the Cause.
(Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, pp. 50-51)


Violent or abusive behavior is a serious violation of Bahá’í law. Depending upon the circumstances, the National Spiritual Assembly may apply the sanction of removing an offender’s Bahá’í administrative rights.
(National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States, Guidelines for Spiritual Assemblies on Domestic Violence, p. 115).


We feel that the Assembly should exercise its utmost wisdom when depriving believers of their administrative privileges, each case should be considered on its individual merits, and it should be realized that the application of Bahá’í sanctions is not an automatic action in response to a verdict of the court.
(Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 53)


We wish to emphasize, however, that although all immorality is condemned in the Teachings, it is only flagrant immorality that is now sanctionable. You should not pry into people’s affairs, and only in cases of flagrant immorality should you consider imposing sanctions, and then only after you have patiently explained to the believers concerned the Bahá’í laws involved and given them ample time to comply. Particularly in the application of these laws to indigenous people should you be patient and forbearing. The emphasis should be on education rather than on rigid enforcement of the law immediately.
(Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, pp. 383-384)


While the Assembly should always be concerned about matters which might affect the good name of the Faith, it should be remembered that a believer involved in such matters is entitled to the understanding of the Assembly and may need its guidance and assistance both before and after any decision regarding sanctions is made.
(Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 57)


… that they can deprive a believer of his administrative rights if they feel that the believer’s actions merit this. For the present only the National Assembly may deprive a believer of his administrative rights and this authority should not be given to Local Spiritual Assemblies.
(Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 55)