Administrative Rights - Loss of

A person whose administrative rights of membership in the Bahá’í community have been removed is a Bahá’í at heart if he still recognizes Bahá’u’lláh and believes in His Revelation. Since his spiritual commitment is not in question, his continuing Bahá’í life can include worship of God through the prayers of the Báb, Bahá’u’lláh and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, and observance of the Fast, of the Bahá’í Holy Days, and of all the personal and family occasions of the Faith. He has access to the literature of the Faith and, unless specified otherwise by the National Spiritual Assembly, may attend proclamation meetings and Bahá’í school sessions that are open to the public. He may subscribe to Brilliant Star and World Order Magazine and other general publications, but he cannot receive The American Bahá’í. He cannot have a Bahá’í marriage or go on pilgrimage.

Shoghi Effendi, in Principles of Bahá’í Administration, p. 88

As regards the question about a person who is mentally ill attending the Feasts, anybody who is well enough mentally to attend a Bahá’í Feast and understand what it is all about is certainly well enough to be a voting member. Only people who are very seriously deranged mentally and confined to institutions or under constant supervision should be deprived of their voting rights.

Shoghi Effendi, Messages to Canada, p. 241

Concerning your question as to the status of those individual whom the Local Assembly or the National Spiritual Assembly have considered it necessary to deprive of the voting right and to suspend from local meetings and gatherings; such action which Local and National Assemblies have been empowered to take against such recalcitrant members, however justified and not matter how severe, should under no circumstances be considered as implying the complete expulsion of the individuals affected from the Cause. The suspension of voting and other administrative rights of an individual believer, always conditional and therefore temporary, can never have such far-reaching implications, since it constitutes merely and administrative sanction; whereas his expulsion or ex- communication from the Faith, which can be effected by the Guardian[1] alone in his capacity as the supreme spiritual head of the Community, has far-reaching spiritual implications affecting the very soul of that believer.

The former as already stated, is an administrative sanction, whereas the latter is essentially spiritual, involving not only the particular administrative relationship of a believer to his Local or National Assembly, but his very spiritual existence in the Cause. It follows, therefore, that a believer can continue calling himself a Bahá’í even though he may cause to be a voting member of the community. But in case he is excluded from the body of the Cause by an act of the Guardian he ceases to become a believer and cannot possibly identify himself even nominally with the Faith.

[1 The function of expulsion or ex-communication from the Faith is now effected by the Universal House of Justice supreme "as spiritual head of the community."]

Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 56

On the other hand when any person is expelled, the Assembly should not act hurriedly. There is a great spiritual responsibility attached to the act. The Assembles do not have only rights against the individuals, they have great duties also. They should act like the good Shepherd whom Christ mentions in His well-known parable. We also have the example of the Master before us. The individual Bahá’ís were organic parts of His spiritual being. What befell the least one of the friends brought deep affliction and sorrow to Him also. If by chance one of them erred He counseled him and increased His love and affection for him. Only after months of constant attention, if the Master saw that that friend was still stubbornly refusing to reform his ways, and that his being among the other Bahá’ís endangered the spiritual life of the rest, then He would expel him from the group. This should be the attitude of the Assemblies towards the individuals. the best criterion whereby you can measure the spiritual attainment of an Assembly, is the extent its members feel themselves responsible for the welfare of the group. And perchance they feel forced to deprive a person from his vote it should be only to safeguard the rest and not merely to inflict punishment.

Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 60-61

Regarding persons whose condition has not been defined by the civil authorities after medical diagnosis, the Assembly on the spot must investigate every case that arises and, after consultation with experts, deliver its verdict. Such a verdict, however, should, in important cases, be preceded by consultation with the NSA. No doubt, the power of prayer is very great, yet consultation with experts is enjoined by Bahá’u’lláh. Should these experts believe that an abnormal case exists, the withholding of voting rights is justified.

Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 54

Regarding the interpretation of mental unfitness, this is not the same as being physically incapacitated. By the latter is meant a condition much more serious than any temperamental deficiency or disinclination to conform to the principle of majority rule. Only in rare cases when a person is actually unbalanced, and is admittedly proved to be so, should the right of membership be denied him. The greatest care and restraint should be exercised in this matter.

Shoghi Effendi to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States and Canada, May 15, 1940: Bahá’í Procedure, p. 20