Abuse - Reporting

It is apparent that some assistance is needed for Assemblies in . . ., and the Counselling Committees working under their direction, to have further guidance in the means by which their investigative functions can best be performed. The House of Justice believes this is best accomplished through their deepening more fully in the principles of consultation described by the Master and elaborated further in the writings of the Guardian, and also in the nature of Bahá’í law. The members of these administrative bodies should strive for a heightened consciousness of the heavy responsibilities resting upon them in carrying out their functions, and for a deeper awareness of the reality and potency of the spiritual forces to which they have access, through the prayerful and consecrated attitude with which they approach their tasks, in the search for truth and the pursuit of justice. Through this deepening they will be enabled to determine what is the best approach to be followed in each particular situation with which they are confronted. They will also be able to preserve that flexibility which is so very important at this early stage in the development of the Administrative Order.

From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to a National Spiritual Assembly, 15 January, 1992

The Bahá’í approach to the administration of the laws of the Faith is fundamentally different from that used by non-Bahá’í judicial bodies in the investigation of alleged behavioural delinquencies. This difference arises from the spiritual nature of the Assembly's deliberations, the importance of a prayerful attitude, the due weight given to the preservation of the unity and integrity of the Bahá’í community, and the distinctive character of Bahá’í law as a means for individual spiritual development.

From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to a National Spiritual Assembly, 15 January, 1992

The House of Justice does not feel that it is appropriate, at this time, to attempt to define a detailed procedure of steps to be taken in carrying out such an investigation. Every case is different and every individual has his or her own particular circumstances which must be taken into account. In reviewing the procedure proposed to you, it is apparent to the House of Justice that there may well be circumstances in which this would not be the best course of action. Likewise, the process to be followed for the investigation may only become apparent progressively, and could not be outlined at the beginning.

From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to a National Spiritual Assembly, 15 January, 1992

The House of Justice is aware that, in some civic jurisdictions in other countries, reporting requirements do not apply to religious institutions. This is a derivation on what is commonly called the “priest-penitent privilege”. In light of the relatively strong position of the Christian churches in some provinces in . . ., you may want to further research this point, if you have not already done so. Should religious institutions be exempt from reporting in any or all provinces, this would not, of course, mean that an Assembly should not, or may not, report an instance of child abuse to authorities. Rather, it raises the question of whether it should presume, based on the National Assembly's disseminated policy, that it is legally required to report the issue to the authorities.

From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to a National Spiritual Assembly, 4 August, 1996

While an Assembly should not and is not competent to determine whether a child is truly at risk, it is competent, and may have an obligation, to determine whether the allegation has some reasonable basis and the manner in which to proceed with

reporting requirements.

From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to a National Spiritual Assembly, 4 August, 1996

While it can be a severe test to a Bahá’í to see fellow believers violating Bahá’í laws or engaging in conduct inimical to the welfare and best interests of the Faith, there is no fixed rule that a believer must follow when such conduct comes to his notice. A great deal depends upon the seriousness of the offense and upon the relationship which exists between him and the offender. If the misconduct is blatant and flagrant or threatens the interests of the Faith the believer to whose attention it comes should immediately report it to the Local Spiritual Assembly. Once it is in the hands of the Assembly the believer's obligation is discharged and he should do no more than pray for the offender and continue to show him friendship and encouragement- unless, of course, the Spiritual Assembly asks him to take specific action … If, for some reason, he is reluctant at that stage to inform his Spiritual Assembly, he can consult an Auxiliary Board member or assistant.

Letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, dated February 20, 1977