Administrative Rights

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

. . . 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

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