Documents Relating to Expulsion of Michael McKenny from the Baha'i Community

Documents Related to the Expulsion by the Universal House of Justice of Michael McKenny from the Baha'i Faith, 25 July 1997


Author: (McKenny Michael)
Date: Sat, 2 Aug 1997 08:51:29 -0400 (EDT)

Reply-To: H-NET List for Bahai Studies <H-BAHAI@H-NET.MSU.EDU>
Sender: H-NET List for Bahai Studies <H-BAHAI@H-NET.MSU.EDU>

From: (McKenny Michael)

Greetings, Juan.
Many thanks for your message requesting a brief bio. It's
possible the following bio posted to a list or two to introduce
me is of most interest here. It was also sent along with a few
other posts to Auxiliary Board Member Susie Tamas just prior to
our meeting in January, and I feel played a role in confirming
her view that I was as she knew not an enemy of the Faith.
I read over last night the letter from the Universal House
of Justice to me dated April 8th. One remarkable thing in it
which I had forgotten is the quote near the end which says a
person's faith may be conditioned by no one else . . .

May this find you very well, and may that long be so.

Greetings from Ottawa.
Here's a glimpse of this list member. It may help explain why
narrowness is most apt to draw a reply from me.
My father's people were Irish Catholics. My great grandfather,
Patrick McKenny, was born in this Valley in 1830. It's said he,
the oldest son, did not inherit the family farm as he got along
too well with the Protestants. He moved some distance into the
bush to cut down trees for a new farm. There the Catholic church
was built on McKenny land given to the priest, and when
Protestants travelled some thirty miles across Catholic territory
to visit each other before there were cars, they would break their
journey at the McKenny farm. Protestants went into the Catholic
church, not a common event in those days, for the funeral of my
great grandfather.
My father's mother's people fled the Great Hunger. It is worth
noting that 150 years later the population of Ireland is not yet
back to what it was before the Famine and the resulting diaspora.
Jane O'Gorman only went to grade five, all they had in her country
school, but she completed those five grades fast enough that she
was able to assist the teacher with the younger children before
leaving the school to work full time on the farm. Forty years
later on the death of my Grandfather McKenny she walked out onto
the veranda of the McKenny farmhouse and called by name my father
and two of his brothers. And three thousand miles away, from
different parts of an army base in England, the three of them
came together and looked at each other realizing their father had
My mother's people were French and English Protestants. My
Grandmother Lavergne died of childbirth in her 20s when my mother
was born. When my mother was a little girl she asked her relatives
"Who is that pretty lady standing on the stairs?" and since they
could not see anyone there they believed this was her mother
watching over her. My mother did not complete grade 8 and went to
work in a factory when she was 15 years old. My father completed
the 6 grades in the village school. Both of them encouraged me to
study and to work in the summer to pay for university. I spent my
summers from May 1st to early September cutting grass at a local
cemetery 40 hours a week at minimum wage.
I have always been attracted by trees. When I was 12 I spent
three days alone in the woods.
When I was 18 I joined the World Federalists and worked very
hard for this movement. I was acting president of the Canadian
branch of World Federalist Youth a few years later.
When I was 19 I encountered the Buddha and am grateful to this
day for His gift of the Eightfold Path.
When I was 21 I read the Qur'an and accepted Muhammad as
another Enlightened One like Buddha.
Immediately, I was introduced to the Baha'i Faith and accepted
it within a couple of weeks. That was 25 years ago. I spent most
of those years in small communities. I spent all of them
convinced of the unity of the human species. I have met and
corresponded with people from all over the world. I have been to
India and the former Soviet Union. I have only had this awareness
of our common humanity confirmed . . .

fare very Well,

Author: McKenny Michael <bn872@FreeNet.Carleton.CA>
Date: 1996/08/01
Forum: soc.religion.bahai

Greetings, from Ottawa.
I'd like to mention to Sohayl and any like him that I respect
his views about the administration and his right to express
them. My understanding is that freedom of thought is a very
important thing in the Baha'i Faith.
Also, I think we are very fortunate these days for the
Universal House of Justice possibly ten or more years ago drew
our attention to the fact that specialization was possible and
possibly even necessary in our activity within the Baha'i
community. In the past when we were so few and the greatest
need was to raise up as many Spiritual Assemblies as possible
many Baha'i communities barely consisted of anything except
nine people serving on the Spiritual Assembly.
Now, there are more communities with significant numbers of
people who are free to spend their time focusing of a wide
variety of other things. Only a few months age I became aware of
the increased attention being given to devotional gatherings.
This is only one example of many, so that wherever our interest
and talants lie, we may increasingly be able to feel welcome here.
May this find you very well and may that long be so.
Very Best Wishes,

Author: McKenny Michael <bn872@FreeNet.Carleton.CA>
Date: 1996/09/16
Forum: soc.religion.bahai

Greetings, from Ottawa.
I am very sorry that so many other things keep me from a
careful reading of so fascinating a newsgroup. My most recent
glimpse revealed words which encouraged me to post in a
unifying spirit the comments below. Praise be to God, that in
this day the watchword is unity in diversity. Since God has
created us all in such wondrous variety, uniformity is not
a Baha'i concept.

One of the vast areas opened up for consideration is this
question of the mental tests that the Master is said to be
sending the American believers.
I am aware that one possible interpretation of mental tests is
the information, even the attitude of academics. Inasmuch as this
Faith so strongly supports (I was taught that this was the first
Baha'i principle, upon which all spiritual progress depended) an
unfettered investigation of truth, and true scientific and
scholarly pursuit of reality takes this as its highest ideal, the
agreement of religion and science, of faith and reason so
strongly upheld in our Sacred Texts is not endangered by the
method of academics.
Modern scientists and scholars, of whatever field, in total
agreement with the Blessed Beauty regard human understanding of
the creation as incomplete, subject to ever deepening perception.
There can, thus, be no real threat to our Faith or mental
well-being, especially through any particular discovery or concept
by Baha'i academics, who themselves are doubly inclined to
understand that their ideas are finite.
Those less favoured with a lengthy university or other
institutional exposure to the secular expectation that one will
professionally follow this fundamental teaching of Baha'u'llah
still have sufficient inspiration in the Word of God for this age.
One interpretation of this reference to mental tests which may
not have occurred to a number of believers is that some wonderful
souls who have, in response to the encouragement to be found in
the Writings and the advice from the World Centre, dedicated
their working lives to the investigation of subjects of direct
relevance to the Cause in this day, may find their researches,
their thoughts, their mode of thinking, their very motives
misunderstood and suspected by fellow lovers of the Blessed
There may be greater mental tests. However, surely near the
top of the list is this realization that by following a Baha'i
way one has received the mistrust of Baha'is.
My only intent here is to convey a glimpse of the mental
tests which may, unawares to many Baha'is, be tormenting some
wonderful believers. I hope that this may help encourage that
understanding and true Baha'i spirit which will do most to help
us pass beyond the surely limited historical period when we
Baha'is will be such great tests to each other.
May this find you very well, and may that long be so.
Very Best Wishes,

From Tue Jan 7 12:32:31 1997
Date: Thu, 14 Nov 1996 17:58:35 GMT
From: McKenny Michael <>

Greetings from Ottawa.
I believe the following adequately responds to Burl's
request that I back up my assertion that people are being kept
out of the Faith in troops, as well as Richard's remark about
there being more important things than the issue of gender
equality and the Universal House of Justice. What follows is
too incredible to be invented. I lived it.
Around 1990 my wife and I were invited to a "fireside". I
was amazed to discover that there was a whole circle of people
holding these "firesides", pot luck suppers blended with
stimulating conversation. There were a couple of dozen, I think,
at the first one I attended, none of whom were aware that the
term "fireside" had a Baha'i significance. None had been around
when these firesides had started up years earlier, and no one
could tell me their origin.
While historical verification is not at present available, it
is possible these firesides were linked to those of the same
nature held in the same area by an active Baha'i who had moved a
decade or so earlier.
Some time later Ottawa Baha'is had a magnificent celebration
of the birth of Baha'ullah, and believers were encouraged to
present official invitations to prominent people they knew. My
wife's old school friend, the same person who had introduced me to
these firesides, received one of these invitations from each of the
two Baha'is who had her as boss. She gave one to my wife and they
went together. Actually, she was quite surprised to learn that
my wife was not a Baha'i, as she had attended our Baha'i wedding
and she was reading about the Faith, which seemed very attractive.
I recall that she said to my wife, "Well, tell me something
bad about the Baha'i Faith."
My wife answered, "Women are not allowed on the Universal
House of Justice."
How was my wife able to say that? Well, in the late 80s the
Universal House of Justice had called for the use of the Peace
Message in leading to entry by troops. Not only had I presented a
copy to pretty well everyone I knew, but I began to hold "Peace
Talks" to which scores of friends and acquaintences were regularly
invited, although generally only half a dozen or so would show up,
seldom any other Baha'i. The people attracted to these "Peace
Talks" over the years were people of capacity and included some
pretty keen local activists, individuals who belonged to many
groups and circles likely sympathetic to the social teachings of
this Faith. And, I think it was at one of these "Peace Talks"
that a non-Baha'i friend, said, "But women are not allowed to be
on the Universal House of Justice." So, this information, which I
had not seen fit to share even with my wife, was out in the open.
How was my non-Baha'i friend able to say that? She and I
were founding members of a writers' circle formed here in January
of 1980. After years of patient attention, I succeeded in having
her come to a fireside at the Ottawa Baha'i Centre. I was the
speaker and the topic was "Humour in the Baha'i Faith". After I
finished my talk and informal discussion had begun, one of the
Baha'i men present said, "And do you want to know something else
that's funny? Women aren't allowed on the Universal House of
Justice. Ha, ha."
Burl, the truth is that I do not know the total number of
different organizations and circles exempted, as related above,
from the opportunity of experiencing members, who are people of
capacity, becoming enthusiastic new Baha'is. This is the story
of one Baha'i in one city.

From Tue Jan 7 12:32:32 1997
Date: Fri, 20 Dec 1996 10:41:48 -0500 (EST)
From: McKenny Michael <>
Subject: Response To UHJ letter

Thanks, Robert.
Here's my response, paragraph by paragraph, to that portion of
the UHJ letter you posted. It is important to stress that
responding to this letter, as I have done, indicates an interest,
and a positive one at that, in the Faith and its institutions.

At the very core of the aims of the Faith are the establishment of
justice and unity in the world, the removal of prejudice and enmity
from among all people, the awakening of compassion and
understanding in the hearts of all men and women, and the raising
of all souls to a new level of spirituality and behavior through
the vitalizing influence of divine Revelation. The course set forth
by Baha'u'llah for the attainment of these aims is the double task
of simultaneously building an ideal sociaety and perfecting the
behavior of individuals.


For this dual and reciprocal
transformation He has not only revealed laws, principles and
truths attuned to the needs of this age, but has established the
very nucleus and pattern of those institutions which are to evolve
into the structure of the divinely puposed world society.

This is clearly undesirable if the intent is to impose a single
viewpoint on humanity, and suppress human rights.

Central to your perception of the statements made by the believers
about whom you are concerned are their assertions that they are
entirely obedient to the spirit of the Covenant and the institutions
of the Faith; that they are merely voicing their disagreement with
certain decisions and policies made by these institutions; are
protesting against what they perceive to be unjust or improper
actions by some people who occupy prominent administrative positions;
and are suggesting modifications to Baha'i procedures to prevent such
abuses of authority.

Modern Western democracies at least have removed some abuses because
there are whistle blowers, because there is freedom of the press
and because public opinion forces action to be taken. None of this
activity has been due to opposition to the US Constitution or to
the institutions it ordains, or the Constitution and the institutions
ordained elsewhere. It is a desire to see the system uncorrupted. It
is identical here, with regard to the intent of those seeking to see
the system uncorrupted. The difference lies in the attitude that the
methods which work in the secular world may not be employed in the

These assertions,
however, overlook certain important Baha'i principles which
provide the methods and channels for the voicing of such grievances
or disagreements, and which are designed to lead to resolution of
problems while preserving the unity of the community.

The experience of Soviet history etc. proves that it is possible
to pretend to unity under a single imposed ideology etc only
through the suppression of contrary opinions. The Baha'i Faith
has the remarkably effective tool of allowing for all sorts of
unauthoritative understandings of the Writings etc, unity in
diversity, the only possible solution to the actual diversity of
human thought.
There is complete difference between criticism intended to
preserve the integrity of the system and opposition to the
Nevertheless, the UHJ is correct that the use of positive
language and focus is usually better and more productive than
strident negativity.
The implication that comments mentioning imperfection in the
actual functioning of the system and suggesting it get back on
track, even if positively expressed, may not be made publically
is in complete accord with totalitarian rulership, and
incompatible with the best interests of this species. Fortunately,
in BAHA'I CANADA there is a statement about making positive
comments in public (for example, at the Feast).

Over many years, a few believers in the United States, instead of
confining their protests against what they saw as abuses of
authority by Baha'i bodies to the channels and agencies which are
plentifully provided for such a purpose, have been publicly and
privily assailing the institutions of the Cause and generalizing
specific accusation of injustice to such an extent as to accuse the
entire system of corruption, not only in practice but also in form
and theory.

See above. Also, the most positive response even to inappropriate
criticism is to put into place, if such does not already exist,
measures which make it very difficult for any corruption to
exist. At the very least, the secular rules concerning conflict
of interest and transparency ought to be in place, and referred
to in the responses to any aspersions against the Faith by any
opposed to the Faith, or, as here, any wishing it well.

One outcome of this
continuing stream of negative criticism has been the gradual
conversion of unverified accusations into accepted "facts" in
the minds of some of the hearers.

See above. Optics and transparency. An attempt to pretend all is
well or that allegations are wrong simply because the claim is
made that all is well is as fallacious as an allegation anything
is wrong. Operating procedures are needed which are openly in
accord with Baha'i principle.
For example, one allegation made is that in the US the Faith
is excessively run by individual action rather than by the joint
administration of the National Spiritual Assembly. It ought to be
very easy to make public the decisions of the National Spiritual
Assembly, so these may be compared with how the Faith is being
run at the National level. In addition, it would be a good idea
to have all nine members of the National Spiritual Assembly on
hand full time at the National Centre, being remunerated in accord
with the spiritual nature of the job rather than with corporate
America's concept of executive financial worth. Thus, the Faith
may be seen to be operating in accord with principle, despite
any contrary words from any source, hostile, or, as in this case,

Through such activities, and the mutual support that they give to one
another, these friends have increasingly assumed the appearance of a
dissadent group of Baha'is who are attempting to arouse widespread
disaffection in the community and thereby bring about changes in the
structure and principles of Baha'i administration, making it accord nore
closely with their personal notions.

Bluntly, what is happening here is that a dominant conservative
faction is attempting to suppress the expression of liberal
ideas, to characterise the informal and free association of
like-minded individuals, who are not in agreement with the
narrowness and exclusivity of conservative thought, as members
of a faction, and to say factions are contrary to the Baha'i
This is a partisan political attempt to discredit ideas at
variance to conservative ideology. Further, it is an attempt to
whip up opposition to individuals associated with these ideas,
in complete contradistinction to normal patterns of Baha'i
This does not negate the fact that at present the Baha'i
system seems to have it right in trying to run itself without
formal parties and candidates. I would also like to repeat my
statements made in the past that nothing I've posted is meant
to do anything other than present to existing leaders vision
enabling them to act in accord with the best interests of the
Faith. I, and, as far as I can tell, all of the professors,
writers etc. being portrayed as an opposition party, are not
interested in running for office. We are not an organized
political party. We are individuals who, on many issues, are
more open-minded and accepting than the viewpoint apparently
seeking to establish itself as the sole Baha'i doctrine.

Such an activity is closely analogous
to the pursuit of a partisan political program, an activity
which is accepted and even admired in most societies, but is
entirely antithetical to the spirit of the Baha'i Faith. It
promotes an atmosphere of contention, and Baha'u'llah has
expressly stated: "Conflict and contention are categorically
forbidden in His Book."

The partisan political act of portraying those holding views
which differ from the conservative viewpoint as a dissident
faction is itself an act of "conflict and contention". It is not
possible to force us all to agree with any doctrine. The
interpretation of unity to mean uniformity prevents Baha'u'llah,
the World Unifier, from achieving His purpose.
It is not possible to enforce narrowly dictated orthodox thought
on a species and maintain its harmonious and positive unity, which
is why Shoghi Effendi stated this lies beyond the jurisdiction of
the Universal House of Justice.

The laws, commandments, injunctions and exhortations we have agreed
to obey and follow as Baha'is include a clearly defined approach to
decision-making and to the implementation of decisions. You are,
undoubtably well familair with the various aspects of this approach,
which is built on the conviction that the path of unity is the only
path that can lead to the civilization envisioned by Baha'u'llah.
So strong is the emphasis on unity that, for example, once a
decision is made by an Assembly, everyone is expected to support
that decision wholeheartedly, relying confidently on 'Abdu'l-Baha's
assurance that, even if the decision is wrong, "as it is in unity
the truth will be revealed and the wrong made right."

This pre-supposes the decision makers are truly interested in
things going properly, that by the carrying out of the wrong
decision and its failure, the administrators will then change
the erroneous decision.
The conservative understanding of the infallibility of the
decisions of the Universal House of Justice, and the failure of
imagination by those holding such ideological myths as that the
people of the West are unspiritual means that the wise idea of
allowing administrators the possibility to fix their mistakes as
soon as possible may be frustrated.
If the mistakes are not fixed, then there's no reason for
those who know they are mistakes to provide this submissive
opportunity for them to be fixed.
It cannot be over emphasised that all the Baha'i quotes
about unity and the authority of institutions cannot justify
any action whatsoever by the institutions and the supposition
this species can, in any honourable way, be expected to obey.
Those in authority can win respect and whole-hearted support
from those they guide through their wise, unifying and
principled decisions. An attempt to impose anything at all by
appealing to the authority of the institution and the need for
unity has and will be no more successful than an attempt to do
so within a Marxist or Papal framework, or any other.
The clearest example is the knowledge since at least 1988
that women may serve on the Universal House of Justice. At the
latest, compelling evidence has been made public in 1996 that the
refusal to accept Baha'i principle here (the censoring of the
Service of Women paper and the persistence in excluding women from
the Supreme body) has had serious negative consequences for the
Faith. So, how long are humans expected to wait for the situation
to be rectified?

This principle of unity is supplemented by other,
related guidelines covering such issues as how criticism can be
expressed, how the wrongdoing of members of the community is to be
corrected, how the principle of justice is to be applied and appeals
admitted, and how the integrity of the individuals, the institutions
and the Cause is upheld.

See above. Possibly further quotes from this letter will receive
further comments from me. If the frank and relatively positive
nature of this response seems like the words of an ill-wisher,
there's a problem and it's not this writer's.

Date: Tue, 14 Jan 1997 11:35:51 -0500 (EST) From: (McKenny Michael) To:
Subject: SECRET

Greetings, Juan, from Ottawa
I thought you'd be interested in hearing the local Auxiliary Board Member phoned Sunday night, spoke in a very friendly manner stating that she was responding to the e-mail message I sent to Counsellor Birkland, and suggested, if I wish, we get together for coffee. She firmed up a time (Saturday morning) in a call last night.
As she said she has one sample post of mine sent by Counsellor Birkland, I sent her three this morning, and a brief accont of my arrival in Baha'i cyberspace. These underline open-mindedness.
The tone was very positive, and she is one I know from the past (several years ago she lived in Ottawa) to be open-minded and to give off positive vibes. I'll let you know how this turns out.
May this find you very well, and may that long continue.

re Good Standing
Author: McKenny Michael <bn872@FreeNet.Carleton.CA>
Date: 1997/01/07
Forum: soc.religion.bahai

Greetings, Paul, from Ottawa.
Many thanks for your valuable post. I'm sorry I haven't
really been following this thread, so I can't comment on what
others may have said.
Your vital contribution is to draw to our attention this
situation which appears to be incompatible with the mood of
throwing the doors of the Faith wide open, and inviting troops
to stream in.
You see, historically, a few score years ago and more the
concern was to create a kind of US Marine Corps of the spirit,
an elite spiritual force to go out and blaze with the light of
Baha'u'llah all around the globe. There were so few Baha'is
that the beloved Guardian wanted to ensure that everyone could
glimpse the glory of the Faith, as much as possible, from
looking at any believer.
Just US citizenship, or eligibility to participate in US
elections is not restricted to Marines, so our Faith does not
really expect to disenfanchise those who make minor infractions
of Baha'i law for the next 850 years. In civil society one's
rights are restricted to the extent you suggest due to penal
confinement. Baha'u'llah has specified the fines for some of the
infractions you mention, so it is reasonable to expect the
Universal House of Justice to instruct the National and Local
Spiritual Assemblies to allow for greater participation in
Baha'i community life by those who would not be imprisoned in
a Baha'i society.
Far more important, the whole Baha'i approach is one of
education rather than excessive concern with punishment. Yes, of
course, there is punishment, but as the Master said edification
of souls is the focus, in contradistinction to a prevailing view
in the general society of his time.
I, for one, am extremely grateful for your bringing to our
attention the fact that we've got some ways to go to attain his
balanced viewpoint, and I look forward to the Universal House of
Justice taking remedial action to ensure this aspect of opening
the doors of the Faith is speedily taken.
Fare very Well,

Date: Sun, 19 Jan 1997 08:15:40 -0500 (EST) From: (McKenny Michael) To:
Subject: Private

Greetings, Juan, from Ottawa.
I met with the local Auxiliary Board Member.
My perception is that this meeting went very well. The tone was very positive from both sides. I did say that I believed the Universal House of Justice was not infallible (as evidenced by the historical event of hesitating to implement Baha'i principle when the Service of Women Paper was presented and not permitting the paper to be published), but since I added that I accepted such concepts as trying to obey them even when they are wrong, just as we do with the Spiritual Assemblies, and not insisting on one's views, she seemed to accept that. I also said for me the fallibility of the Universal House of Justice was not an issue of faith, that God still existed whether or not they got it wrong once in a while.
She herself read quotes about variety of understandings, so on that issue there appeared to be quick agreement.
We had a fairly lengthy discussion, and I was open about what I thought, trying hard, though, to keep a relatively light and even humorous tone and to use neutral language most of the time. The word "fundamentalist" slipped out several times, and made her cringe, but I'd quickly add something like "Uhm, those people who tend to understand everything literally." I showed her two quotes from that talk by 'Abdu'l-Baha so timely posted by Eric where the Master praises liberalism.
When I said or implied I'd take the findings of science over the literal text, she read a quote suggesting something like science was to be understood in the light of Revelation, and seemed to have no problem when this led me to observe that Revelation includes the comment that religion without science is superstition.
She suggested that I write to the Universal House of Justice about this issue of women on the House and the Service of Women Paper, and she gave me a copy of the Rights and Freedoms letter to re-read and I can get back to her with any comments.
In short, as she is fairly open herself, the discussion was what one would expect from two reasonable people, even where they didn't completely agree.
May this find you very well, and may that long be so.
All the Best,

Date: Wed, 29 Jan 1997 07:02:41 -0500 (EST) From: (McKenny Michael) To:
Subject: Letter to UHJ

Greetings from Ottawa.

I am writing following a meeting with Auxiliary Board Member, Sue Tamas, in which there was some discussion about present opportunities for achieving greater open-mindedness and unity within the Cause of the Prince of Peace, the World Unifier.

As I understand it, Baha'u'llah presented to all of humanity the means of unifying the species. He did not come for one land, or one people, or one class, or one philosophical mindset. This Faith, I believe, is not reserved for those of either the left or the right. It was not intended to be the exclusive domain of either the literalist or those who sail the seas of metaphor.
Yet, my perception is that there is currently a strong sentiment that only the literalist, only those comfortable with the political views of the right, are true believers. Seekers holding other than conservative views are confronted by serious obstacles obscuring the universality of this latest Revelation.
Believers who do not abide on the right are not always made to feel welcome.

There are a number of specific attitudes and practices that may be cited as symptoms of a general condition less than inclusive, of perceiving the world-embracing vision of the Universal Manifestation of God as something contained within the theories and deeds of one of the political wings of human experience. Is it not perhaps somewhat chilling to encounter the concept that solely the ways of the right are kosher, in a Baha'i sense, to see the questioning of such terms as human rights, liberalism and liberty in a document that quotes about the significance of specific words in attracting or repelling people?
Segments of this species, perhaps not unjustifiably, are very attracted by these terms and likely to doubt tbe beneficent capacity of any group using such terms in a negative manner.
More important, in my view, than the use of particular words are the deeds performed by Baha'is and their Institutions. Are we not told that it is by our deeds that we are to distinguish ourselves as the embryonic example of a mature and ethical divinely inspired civilization? Thus, I find it disquieting that the presentation of the Service of Women Paper resulted in what may be perceived as a hesitation by the Baha'i Faith to implement one of its fundamental principles, that the believers were not provided the opportunity to read this paper, and that, while my words describing these actions may be loftier than those usually employed in current accounts of the practices of administrations not very concerned with fundamental principle and basic human rights, the deeds themselves are difficult to distinguish from those of such administrations.
My perception of the present focus from the World Centre is one largely directed at highlighting the authority of the Baha'i Institutions, especially the infallible Universal House of Justice.
In my view, this repeats the focus of many of the least attractive regimes, religious and political, whose deeds demonstrate we are coming from the childhood of the species.
I wonder whether an authority focusing on the need for the obedience of the individual most appropriately reflects the sign humans are becoming mature? Are the adult members of a family most appropriately treated by their parents through a focus on the need to obey? Is there perhaps not a loftier method of promoting the experience and wisdom of the parents? Is it not possible that adults perceiving principled vision may be more counted on to render an enthusiastic acceptance of parental guidance than those presented with an insistence that anything at all must be obeyed because of its source, a theory which would appear of greatest utility to bring into existence deeds perhaps a bit short of the ordinary standards of decency and conscience?
Connected to this is the traditional worldview of us and them, a way of seeing reality above which I believe this Revelation seeks to elevate this species. Has not the Master said that we are to be kind to all and see all as well-wishers, since to view some people as enemies and treat them kindly is hypocrisy?
Yet, have I not encountered believers so convinced that only one who is a literalist, one who is at home in the political philosophy of the right, may be a true believer, that they have treated others as if they were enemies? Beyond the frequent response of reality to human perception (perhaps, at least in part the Master's purpose here) is the very reason for the Manifestation of God to humanity in this time. How may the unity of this species be demonstrated through the portrayal of those who feel and think in a manner proving unity in diversity as people other than loyal friends?
May not such a unifying vision best protect this species even from misguided assertions and ambitions that caused the Centre of Guidance to feel called upon to enact extra-ordinary measures in the infancy of this Dispensation? While in the days a handful of Baha'is, remote from the Cradle of the Faith and the World Centre, dwelt in this vast dominion, safeguarding them from misinformation and ego necessitated the identification of a few people as beyond the pale, have not conditions changed? Were a person today to advance the claim, although unelected, to be prime minister, or president, or king of this country, what respect and honour would the legitimate authorities attain by responding as if they considered such a claim a threat? Are we to assume that the divinely propelled Faith of God which has diffused the fragrances of the Glory of God to the far-flung corners of this dominion, of the entire planet, can be any more threatened by any unauthorised pronouncements? Have we not that Source of all good, undeniably established in accordance with the Covenant and unquestionably re-elected every five years? What honour and respect may result through reacting as if the Faith God has firmly established is more fragile than the legitimate administration of this secular state?
Has not history taught us that the real danger to the souls of individuals and to the harmonious flourishing of human society lies more often in the assumption by those in positions of responsibility that their viewpoint, their personal well-being, their ability personally to continue to direct the course of action, is to be equated exclusively with the light, and that whatever the Creator may have provided which is inconvenient for them does not deserve continued existence? Is perhaps this Faith not more at risk of repeating such history than it is of anyone usurping that clearly transmitted authority now exercised by the Universal House of Justice? how much less of a threat is any even intemperate criticism from those largely influenced by modern practices which relect another wing of human political experience?

In my view, there may also be a confusion of attitude as to how to resolve apparant contradictions amongst principles and concepts revealed for this Age. Thus, when we encounter a seeming discrepency between, on the one hand, such fundamental Baha'i principles as independent investigation of truth, the harmony of science and religion, freedom from prejudice, and equality of gender, and, on the other, the concepts of a literal reading of the Sacred Text and the words of the Authorised Interpreters and the infallibility of the Universal House of Justice, it appears there has been temptation to resolve this by setting aside fundamental principle.
Thus, I have encountered the view that it is un-Baha'i to follow what initiates a seeker's discovery of the Faith, that open-minded dispassionate search for truth, the foundation at once of science and religion. I have met the conviction that there ought to be no interpretation of science and history at variance with the literal words of the Sacred Text, whatever may be the documents or discoveries elsewhere. I have run into the attitude that those attracted by the light of other Manifestations are dwelling in the darkness of error. I have seen it stated that, regardless of the findings of historians and fundamental principle, the direction at the global level of this example and harbinger of mature human civilization is to be reserved for those who are of that gender which historically has played the leading role in the exercise of power.
All of the above views reflect pre-dominant thought from the childhood of the species. It is neither disloyalty, nor a lack of mature spirituality which has rendered significant segments of current populations responsive to fundamental Baha'i principle, and unattracted by such lofty expressions as the term "exempted" for what does not completely co-incide with principle.
The history of recent generations may help explain why many people find such euphemistic speech no substitute for principle in action.

In my view, the Revelation of the One Who came to unify humanity has been provided with a remarkable means to safeguard the species from dissention and disunion. While attention has been focused largely on the transmission of authority, and the preservation of a World Centre towards which all may turn, yet, is not also of very great importance in assuring the harmony of humanity that sagacious permission to each member of a mature species to ponder and share personal understanding gained by faith and reason, fully informed that such perception, by the very nature of contingent existence, must be seen as imperfect, unauthoritative and likely subject to modification with the passage of time? Does not this glorious illumination of the principle of unity in diversity secure the garden of this single species from the heresies, the sectarianism, the discord and the darkness which occupy so prominent a part of the records of previous religious cycles and past secular movements?
Thus, is it not somewhat alarming to meet an apparant attempt to advocate a set Baha'i canon, to question the legitimacy of the term relative, to present as orthodox understanding only the viewpoint of a portion of the world community, to suggest there may be heretical views, to advance suspicion against those whose inclination is scientific, metaphorical, mystical, to place in opposition what may be viewed as two great pillars of the divinely purposed unification of this species in wondrous diversity, of the Covenant, in effect?
I feel one specific point needs to be made, for I have heard that the very existence of mystics has been of concern to some, who fear such individuals, who have existed throughout history, may claim some kind of authority. However, since the Faith has the protection against authoritative assertions of individual understandings mentioned above, by what means is this overlooked simply because the perception involved derives largely from one, rather than the other, side of the brain, the intuitive, rather than rational?

While it is thrilling to encounter such unifying concepts as focusing on the positive and avoiding the partisan political activity of modern nations, would the Baha'i Faith by an adoption of such practices as doctrinally directed academic enquiry, focusing the jurisdiction of the press to the publication of material passing theological scrutiny, encouraging anyone wishing to comment on official behavior to directed comments in polite tones solely to the appropriate administrators, exemption of individuals in positions of responsibility from conflict of interest guidelines and public accountability, etc., actually achieve that elevated distinction envisaged by its Founder? Are not such practices, which some may extrapolate as being advocated by the letter on rights and freedoms, among historical patterns of behavior considered among the least ethical? Is it not these patterns of behavior which engender the least trust of authority?
May it not be that love, honour and respect for the divinely established Institutions will more greatly flow from those procedures modern states have implemented to deal with unethical practices than modes of administration which remind humanity of previous examples of the distance from principle this species dwelt?
Indeed, was it not such unresponsive remoteness from principle which gave birth to frustration, dissention, conflict, even revolutionary upheaval, the consequences of which often have included something greatly at variance with unity?

In conclusion may it not be suggested that the well-being of the Cause of God and the unity of humanity would greatly benefit from a wider awareness that each personal understanding, including the scientific, the metaphorical and the mystic validates the principle of unity in diversity, that there is room in the world community of the Universal Manifestation of God for those influenced by other than the right wing of human political experience, that many modern practices, including freedom to seek scientific and historical truth, freedom of the press, standards of conflict of interest, public disclosure and public scrutiny of individuals in positions of public trust, are, actually to be preferred to what preceeded them, that full compliance with the principle of equality of gender is not prohibited by an understanding of the evolving circumstances of Baha'i history, and, even were there to appear a contradiction between the perception of the infallibility of the Guardian and such a fundamental Baha'i principle, ethical compliance with the Will of God lies not in setting aside fundamental principle.

May this find you very well, and may that long be so.
All the Best,

Re: Freedom of thought in the Baha'i religion
Author: McKenny Michael <bn872@FreeNet.Carleton.CA>
Date: 1997/02/21
Forum: soc.religion.bahai

Greetings, Chris and Steve, from Ottawa.
Many thanks for your comments about excessive freedom in
the Western World.
One point which I feel needs to be made is that this Faith
is for every people and nation. I have been to India and the
former Soviet Union. The people I met there only confirmed my
awareness that Baha'u'llah was correct in calling for us to
recognize the oneness of humanity.
I believe He was also correct in calling upon the rulers
of the American continent to promote freedom and human rights.
Western Baha'is have been cautioned to take care about the
influence we may feel from the distance our countries remain from
spirituality, selflessness, unity in diversity, etc. With so many
of us converts, there is a natural temptation to imagine that
everything about the old is wrong. Yet, Baha'u'llah said that in
this day if a jewel is buried in a mountain it will be revealed.
I feel that perhaps the greatest jewel of Western Civilization
going back over more than two thousand years is the deep awareness
of the value of the individual, a value I find confirmed in the
Writings of the One Who came to guide us into the Age of the
maturity of our species. I feel that there is a middle path, a
golden mean, between anarchy and totalitarianism. I have been
quite emotionally stirred in the presence of those who come from
lands other than this 15 percent you mention. There is enormous
worth outside the West and shining souls. And this need not lead
us into prejudice against the peoples of the West, nor against the
precious harvest they have produced for all humanity.
I may praise the wondrous souls of the 85 per cent and delight
in all that is good in the variegated cultures in all those lands,
and offer thanksgiving to God for the radiant strand of respect
for freedom of thought and conscience that runs through the
heritage of the West.
May this find you very well, and may that long be so.

Date: Sat, 29 Mar 1997 20:18:07 -0500 (EST) From: (McKenny Michael) To:
Subject: Letter to UHJ

Greetings, Juan.
Here's the letter for you to archive and do what you wish with after the reply from the UHJ:
Thanks for taking it.
Fare very Well
Michael To the Universal House of Justice

Greetings from Ottawa.
In January when Auxiliary Board Member Susie Tamas met with me she warmly encouraged me to present my concerns about the Universal House of Justice to you. Throughout February she very attentively considered the preliminary drafts of the letter I began to compose in response. On reflection, moved by the spirit of this special period of the Fast, I came to perceive from her considered comments that I was trying to write to you from the head and that this was not enough.
Aware of my imperfections, here I try also to open to you my heart.

In the darkest hour before the dawn, when war seemed inevitable and the prime minister of this country travelled to the capitals of the nuclear powers to plead for peace, I prayed to the beloved Guardian:
"Dearest Shoghi Effendi, my understanding is that you have said quite clearly this cataclysm will come. Your words depict the falling of fearsome weapons of destruction upon our cities and the deaths of two thirds of the people of the world. Please, I beg you, would it not be better for us to be spared this devastation, for us to find a symbolic explanation of such frightful words than for you to be confirmed as completely and literally correct by means of the murder of these billions of people?"
My ardent prayer, often repeated at that time, was that God demonstrate His all-compelling authority and might by inspiring us peacefully to transform this planet into that reflection of heaven foretold in Sacred Scripture. I asked Him: "Is it not a greater sign of divine power and love to grant human leaders the imagination and will to move ever more peacefully towards world peace than through inaction to provide the opportunity for the indescribable agonies of such a holocaust? Is it not more befitting the Almighty, the Most Munificent Creator of the Worlds to lead us to transform with our own hands physically and spiritually the dark landscapes around our bodies and our souls into the perfumed gardens visualized in the Writings than to watch the burning craters appear, radiation ride the winds and the minority of survivors driven rather than guided into the Cause of God?"
I was not alone. In every Terran language, from every land on Earth the pleas for peace were raised to Heaven.
And the Prime Mover, to the astonishment of the nations of the world, answered. That mortal man portrayed by Cold War rhetoric as the Evil Emperor was inspired to lead the way in the move to peace, even at the cost of his position and his Empire itself, an event perhaps without parallel in the annals of this world. And the very precious soul we call the Priceless Pearl did not insist on inflicting humanity with the literal fulfillment of his authoritative statements about weapons and death.

Auxiliary Board Member Susie Tamas in response to concerns I raised at what I considered a dangerously divisive impression that the definition of a true and loyal believer consisted in one's literal interpretation of the Word of God shared with me this passage which you wrote on March 6, 1982:
"In considering the whole field of divinely conferred infallibility one must be careful to avoid the literal understanding and petty mindedness that has so often characterized discussions of this matter in the Christian world. The Manifestation of God (and to a lesser degree, Abdu'l-Baha and Shoghi Effendi) has to convey tremendous concepts covering the whole field of human life and activity to people whose present knowledge and degree of understanding are far below His. He must use the limited medium of human language against the limited and often erroneous background of His audience's traditional knowledge and current understanding to raise them to a wholly new level of awareness and behaviour. It is a human tendency against which the Manifestation warns us, to measure His statements against the inaccurate standard of the acquired knowledge of mankind. We tend to take them and place them within one or the other of the existing categories of human philosophy or science while, in reality, they transcend these and will, if properly understood, open new and vast horizons to our understanding.
"Some sayings of the Manifestation are clear and obvious.
Among these are laws of behaviour. Others are elucidations which lead men from their present level of understanding to a new one.
Others are pregnant allusions, the significance of which only becomes apparent as the knowledge and understanding of the reader grow. And all are integral parts of one great Revelation intended to raise mankind to a new level of its evolution."
This uplifting of humanity is a process which seems to be continuing outside the Faith.

The beloved Guardian says, "It should also be borne in mind that the machinery of the Cause has been so fashioned, that whatever is deemed necessary to incorporate into it in order to keep it in the forefront of all progressive movements, can, according to the provisions made by Baha'u'llah, be safely embodied therein."
(WOB 22-23)

In 1988 in response to your call to summon the troops into the Cause of God by sharing with them the Peace Message, I presented a copy of this document to almost everyone I knew. I invited many of them to regular followup "Peace Talks" at my place. This resulted in some keen consideration of this Faith by people of capacity, members of many circles and organizations. Whatever the probability, it was not impossible that some of these very active and capable individuals could have ignited the fire of the love of the Glory of God within troops of souls. When a non-Baha'i exposed that this Faith does not practise the full equality of the sexes, none of these people could accept that the Will of God for this Age could be so far from the forefront of all progressive movements as to perpetuate the concept and the practice of women being excluded from highest office.
The spirit of this very communication, "The Promise of World Peace", moved the leaders of the Cold War beyond mistrust and the paralysis of will which had so divided and threatened humankind for decades. It would appear that the Cause of God today needs to be uplifted above such mistrust and paralysis of will.
You called for: the submergence of theological differences, identification of and guidance by principle, the sweeping away of assumptions and formulae ceasing to promote the welfare of a continually evolving humanity, women to be welcomed into full partnership.
Indeed, you advised the rulers and peoples of this world: "The emancipation of women, the achievement of full equality between the sexes, is one of the most important, though less acknowledged prerequisites of peace." I am delighted to be able to tell you that almost everyone I know seems to agree with you on this point. The openness of my heart compels me to add that apparently no non-Baha'i I know accepts that the Baha'i Faith may claim to practise what it is preaching until women may serve on the Universal House of Justice. An assertion that somehow there may be equality of men and women with the highest positions reserved for men, draws forth scorn and demonstrates that this is a false religion ("By their fruits shall ye know them") of people "whose words exceed their deeds", a people given to Orwellian Newspeak, doubletalk and euphemism.

Last year I learned of some of the energizing discoveries made which facilitate our demonstration of the clearly expressed principle of the equality of men and women that we may surpass that petty minded preference of an interpretation which not only tasks reasonable thought when read in full, but tests souls beyond their capacity, something God has urged us not to do. If there is to be a choice between a literal application of the concept of infallibility and the implementation of such a basic principle as the equality of men and women, bearing in mind your own words concerning literalism and infallibility quoted above and the quote that "It is incumbent upon them who are in authority to exercise moderation in all things" (THE PROCLAMATION OF BAHA'U'LLAH p. 113) are we truly powerless to be people whose principled deeds clearly match our words? There is also the warning: "In all matters moderation is desirable. If a thing is carried to excess, it will prove a source of evil." (Quoted in BAHA'U'LLAH p. 46.) The chief tidings in my prayer to you is that, in the estimation of troops, for us to refuse to moderate our attachment to literal infallibility even when this leads us to subservience to previous levels of understanding at variance with Baha'u'llah's fundamental principle exposes the unworthiness, the hypocrisy, the falsity of this Faith.

Many and varied are the words possible and my heart is overwhelmed. How may I proceed when these eyes dim with tears?
Still, how may I not continue to pray as I prayed for the protection of this world and its peoples from impending devastation?
You yourselves have drawn the connection between the full equality of the sexes and peace, and presented the choice as to "Whether peace is to be reached only after unimaginable horrors precipitated by humanity's stubborn clinging to old patterns of behaviour, or is to be embraced now by an act of consultative will."
The connection of these two points, the necessity of this species to will to arise above old patterns of behaviour in order to avoid unimaginable horrors and the necessity to move beyond the period of the restriction of women in order for there to be peace convulses my soul, because it is evident to non-Baha'i observers that the community to which you directed the scrutiny of the nations is still bogged down in that anachronistic pattern of behaviour which has supreme authority in the grasp of men alone.
My heart is very perturbed both because I fear this has to a significant extent delayed the creative and positive forces from taking full advantage of the unexpected opportunity provided by the courage and vision of the Soviet leadership and because I am aware of what seems a very unhealthy anticipation within the Faith for the chastisement of the peoples of the world who largely have ignored this latest Revelation.
The anguished questions that follow may seem truly amazing.
However, I would not be opening fully to you my heart were I to leave them unspoken. Is it really so unspiritual, is it worth the death penalty for individuals and the burning of cities that the literal words of the fundamental principle of the equality of the two sexes be seen as taking precedence over a narrowly literal perception of the Guardian's interpretation of those words of the Master which appear to refer to the House of Justice in Chicago?
Is humanity to experience that catastrophe that the so-called Evil Emperor delayed, if he did not overcome it, or some other one, to cleanse the world of those so influenced by the Prince of Peace that they expect Baha'is to comply fully with His fundamental principle, although the world in the lifetime of the Blessed Beauty did not follow this principle, one reason, perhaps, for its gradual implementation? How may the troops pour in through the open gates of this Faith, while this drawbridge remains raised in their faces?

At this point I feel I must mention my father. You know I did receive some advice that it was not a good idea to write to you, and that if I did I ought to say what you'd find pleasing, as you may otherwise respond in the manner of historical Terran monarchs and view one daring to impart information you may not like to hear as quite a presumptuous fellow. Yet, how would I contribute to the proof we are leaving behind anachronistic habits if I remained silent or, according to past patterns of behaviour, concealed from the Source of All Good the real news of how this Faith is now becoming perceived by ordinary people?
Although I lived in the same house as my father until I was twenty-three years old, I heard him say almost nothing about how he spent his early 20s. This was a time of such intense experience for him that he still does not speak of it, not even after the passage of fifty years. He, as so very many people at that time, had his life greatly impacted by events in the world at large. He left the family farm to participate in the defence of the Free World from one of this Century's most notorious examples of totalitarianism.
The relevance of this is that this country, so extolled in the Tablets of the Divine Plan for, among other things, its freedom, others in the Free World and those lands which experienced totalitarian regimes contain a lot of people who are quite unsympathetic to certain characteristics of those unpleasant administrations inflicting such anguish upon boh their citizens and foreigners.
Among these features is that old pattern of behaviour which involves the control of information. My weeping heart leads me to tell you very bluntly that my perception of people here is that no alleged details unflattering to this Faith can exceed in negative impact the fact that there is control of information within the Baha'i Faith. Forbidding the use of the word "censorship" and insisting upon the term "review" only seems to underline the very distasteful impression this gives of our Faith. It is the same with the term "exemption" being insisted on as a substitute for "excluded" in reference to women hitherto being prevented from serving on the Universal House of Justice.
Very frankly, it is very difficult to see the distinction between such Baha'i practices and those directed by Goebbels which at length required the intervention of my father and many millions like him. I can not describe for you the extent of the impact it had on me when I learned that your initial response to the reception of the information that the Writings contain passages in which women are referred to as "men/rulers" and that it is quite likely that Abdu'l-Baha was speaking about the House of Justice in Chicago and not the Universal House of Justice at all was to prohibit the publication of this data. It may suffice for you to know that this was the principle reason I told Auxiliary Board Member Susie Tamas that a literal understanding of the infallibility of the Universal House of Justice would be contrary to the evidence of my senses.
Further, while the Constitution of the Universal House of Justice contains as one of your powers and duties, "To safeguard the personal rights, freedom and initiative of individuals," a responsibility resonating strongly with peoples in this Century which has endured such onerous oppression, you have made recent comments that may be perceived as a denunciation of "liberty", "liberalism" and "freedom".
I can imagine no more effective means to inflict harm upon this Faith than for someone to call a news conference and simply read quotes hostile to liberalism and liberty. Would you not be understood as demonstrating this reponsibility to protect personal rights was falling victim to euphemism and cause alarm that were God to permit you to direct the course of human affairs this would inflict upon the peoples of this planet a global oppression, compared to which the regionalized and relatively low tech regimes of the recent past would pale?
May I not pray that you in future remove such an opportunity from anyone wishing harm upon this Cause, that however you raise our understanding of the value of co-operation and harmony, you keep before our eyes this shining jewel of individual rights and freedoms for which my father endured so much and many others died?
Will you join me in praying that the Blessed Beauty ever inspire you to guide humanity through insightful and imaginative vision, embracing fundamental principle and winning by this means the admiration and wholehearted support of those comprising a maturing species, as remote as possible from the totalitarian tendency to focus on literal details defining legitimate authority and the insistence upon the obedience of anything at all? So very many people yearn to witness the evidences of the influence of the Higher Worlds that they may exert all their energies backing something so constructive and positively creative. Very few of these can see in the tedious reiteration of an insistence that there is yet another Centre which must be obeyed whatever it may command anything more than the basis for the commission of immoral and unethical deeds. The fact that women have been prohibited from service on the Universal House of Justice and that Scriptural grounds to lift this prohibition hitherto have been concealed from the generality of the believers does nothing to allay what ought to be quite incredible apprehensions about our similarity to other totalitarian systems uttering such assertions and staining the annals of history with unprincipled behaviour.

One of the most illuminating events in the more than fifteen decades of the history of the New Era was that glorious spiritual act by the Hands of the Cause of God on the occasion of the election of the Universal House of Justice. In a deed elevated above traditional human temptation to seek to retain control of authority, these laudable souls not only permitted the Supreme Body to replace them in directing the affairs of the Cause of God, but went so far as to ask not to be elected to the Universal House of Justice. This happening has a profound influence on the soul of any seeker of truth receiving word of it. How likewise must be the impact of each example of the ability of the Prince of Peace to elevate His declared followers, and, especially, those wielding authority within His Faith, above the normal manner of human behaviour. May we not expect the peoples of the world to respond very positively to every proof that this is indeed a New World Order?

In conclusion, here is the gist of my ardent prayers for the progress of the Cause of God and the protection of the peoples of this planet from cataclysm, death and destruction:
May we please receive the communication that from now on women may also be considered eligible for membership on the Universal House of Justice?
May we please be notified of the suspension of the temporary policy of review?
May we please be guided to an understanding of co-operation and harmony consistent with "the personal rights, freedom and initiative of individuals", and sensitive to the significance in the Free World of the terms and concepts "freedom", "liberty" and "liberalism"?
May we please delight in the vision of human harmony radiating from the World Centre, embracing in a wondrously rich garden the great variety of human thought bestowed upon this species by an Ever-Loving, Most Bounteous, All-Powerful Creator?

May the Most Merciful Lord allow the intent of this message to transcend all the barriers to effective communication and permit you to see what is in my heart that you may know for certain that the above was written only with the purpose of supporting you in guiding humanity towards what is truly worthy of being described as an ever-advancing civilization and a Golden Age.

"I beseach Thee, O my God, by that Letter which, as soon as it proceeded out of the mouth of Thy will, hath caused the oceans to surge, and the winds to blow, and the fruits to be revealed, and the trees to spring forth, and all past traces to vanish, and all veils to be rent asunder, and them who are devoted to Thee to hasten unto the light of the countenance of their Lord, the Unconstrained, to make known unto me what lay hid in the treasuries of Thy knowledge and concealed within the repositories of Thy wisdom. Thou seest me, O my God, holding to Thy Name, the Most Holy, the Most Luminous, the Most Mighty, the Most Great, the Most Exalted, the Most Glorious, and clinging to the hem of the robe to which have clung all in this world and in the world to come."

Date: Wed, 30 Jul 1997 09:54:05 -0400 (EDT) From: (McKenny Michael) To:
Subject: Personal Expulsion

Greetings, from Ottawa.
I thought the following which arrived in the morning mail would be of interest.
I'm also posting it to several Baha'i lists.
fare very Well,

25 July 1997
Mr Michael McKenny
424 Cambridge Street South
Ottawa, Ontario K1S 4H5

Dear Mr. McKenny,

The Universal House of Justice has advised us of its conclusion that, on the basis of the correspondence it has had with you and the established pattern of behaviour you have demonstrated over the past several months, you cannot properly be considered a member of the Baha'i community. Accordingly we have removed your name from our membership rolls and have informed the Baha'i institutions concerned.
National Spiritual
Assembly of the
Baha'is of Canada

Judy L. Filson

Date: Wed, 30 Jul 1997 20:52:26 -0400 (EDT) From: (McKenny Michael) To:
Subject: Personal Thanks etc

Greetings, Juan, from Ottawa
Many thanks for your kind comments concerning my expulsion.
Please forgive the haste of this reply.
Actually, I'd like to try a more Zen like response than approaching the media and exposing injustice etc. My impression is that this would only confirm the fundamentalists in their illusion that they are dealing with an enemy. If at all possible I'd like to respond as I imagine Abdu'l Baha would respond to such a situation.
I would like to apologize that all that was going on in July (this included having my marriage almost fall apart; that was already mending, and this situation today has further brought us together) not only kept me from replying to the UHJ, but also kept me from finishing more sections of Tumansky. I know how very eagerly you are awaiting this. God willing, August will be a better month.
Thanks again for your thoughtful concern. I don't intend to drift away. I think I'll post to Talisman and Irfan the remarks I made just yesterday on the ad hominems thread on bahai-st. These seem quite applicable as a response to the main practical objective of booting me out of the Faith, the removal of personal legitimacy.
I'll send you a copy, too.
So, I look forward to trying to follow the lead of the Perfect Exemplar. God willing, the consequences will be positive and beneficial.
May this find you very well, and may things ever get better.

Date: Thu, 31 Jul 1997 02:09:41 -0400 (EDT) From: (McKenny Michael) To:
Subject: To the Universal House of Justice Reply-To:

Dear National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of Canada,
Many thanks for your letter of July 25th. The reply below has just been sent to the Universal House of Justice.
I am also enclosing copies to e-mail lists with whom I shared your letter. I notice that in my haste in typing the letter you sent me I left out the position of the assistant secretary who signed it. This was done in error and is not an indication of any lack of respect.
May this find you very well, and may that long be so.

To The Universal House of Justice

Greetings from Ottawa.
I am responding to the letter I received this morning from the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of Canada stating that you have advised them that I may not appropriately be considered a Baha'i.
I found this a rather unexpected message, as it was not preceeded by any communication from any Baha'i authority subsequent to the letter you sent me in April with its three enclosures.
I had declared a personal goal of responding to at least one of that letter's three enclosures by the 21st of July, though I stated that I may not be able to do so. Since I received from the National Spiritual Assembly no reason for your announcement, I guess that the timing indicates that you may have expected this reply by that date.
I am able to inform you that I was unaware that you wished me to answer you by that date, indeed, I was unsure as to whether you would appreciate a reply at all. I stated that I would not further address you on these issues, after that response, unless you invited me to do so, as in my mind while one response to the enclosures I received from you was legitimate, to go beyond that was contrary to the spirit of the Faith. With this attitude I assumed that no special notification was necessary that I had failed to meet my personal goal and that you would not mind were my intended response indefinitely postponed.
I am able to testify that my wife, my brother and other members of my family can confirm that I was fairly pre-occupied throughout the month of July. My inability to send you a reply is quite understandable, and my failure to advise you of this was based on my impression, as stated above, that this was not necessary.
The heart of the issue is that no lack of respect was meant towards you by my failure to meet a personal goal. More germane is the wider issue that in all my consultations with Auxiliary Board Member Mrs. Suzanne Tamas, in the carefully composed letter I sent to you on March 23rd, in my hope to reply once to your response, my only aim was to advance the Cause of God, to increase the influence of its institutions and to promote the harmony of the human species.
When I was 21 and exerting enormous energies as a student leader of the World Federalists, convinced that nothing could be done to avoid nuclear catastrophe, but determined to die trying, I was blessed by the Prince of Peace with the awareness that God was determined to manifest the harmony of the human species. This has not changed.
I believe that this communication concerning my belief in the Blessed Beauty originated in misunderstanding as to the reasons for my not notifying you that I was missing a personal goal. I have nothing else to go on. And I am willing to receive any clarification you can provide, and on my part to offer you assurance of my belief in God and the harmonizing role of His most recent Manifestation of God. I have already strongly urged believers by phone and by e-mail to refrain from any response to this announcement which would create disharmony.
I do consider the Baha'i Faith endowed by the Blessed Beauty with the capacity to infuse humanity with harmony, and I feel we may do so by responding as the Master would wish, by perceiving others as friends and well-wishers, by transforming anachronistic inclinations, suspicions, insecurities, factionalism into the expansive, inclusive over-arching acceptance of the harmony of humankind.
May this find you very well, and may that long be so.

My first letter

Author: (McKenny Michael)
Date: Mon, 18 Aug 1997 13:58:01 -0400 (EDT)

Sender: H-NET List for Bahai Studies <H-BAHAI@H-NET.MSU.EDU>

Dear Friends,

For the information of list members we have been posting documents
regarding the recent expulsion of Michael Mckenny from the Baha'i
community, with this individuals approval. Our rationale for doing so
is that we regard this event of historic importance because to our
knowledge, no one has ever been expelled in this manner
previously without any further administrative sanctions. You may
recall that Mr. Mckenny wrote the House of Justice asking for
clarification of his expulsion. For your information I am reposting
that original letter as well a response he received from the Canadian
NSA. I include also Mr. Mckenny's own response.

I would like to remind the list members that the expression
of opinions regarding the appropriateness of the action taken against
Mr. Mckenny would likely veer us far from the list purpose, and
therefore will not be entertained by the moderators. Persons wishing
to discuss these documents on that level are welcome to subscribe to
Talisman for this purpose. Posts discussing the possible
historic ramifications of this action will be accepted on this list
providing they are expressed within the bounds of academic discourse.
Our primary goal in posting this exchange of correspondence is for
their significance as primary source documentation. We ask the list
members to exercise all due restraint in discussing this matter.

Susan Maneck
Co-moderator H-Bahai

To the Universal House of Justice

Greetings from Ottawa.
Although on the day I received from the National Spiritual
Assembly of the Baha'is of Canada a notice that on your assessment I
was no longer a member of the Baha'i community I addressed to you a
message seeking to respond on the basis of my instant deductions as to
what may have prompted such a decision, and although since that time I
have continued to speculate as to what could have been the reasons for
this it seems more constructive that I place the following question
before you that I may affirm your assessment, attempt to clarify any
misunderstanding which may exist, or consider any other steps which
you may draw to my attention:
"What were the specific reasons for your assessment that I am not
a member of the Baha'i community, and what is required for this to
I would be grateful if your reply could confirm or deny your
desire to receive from me the response to your communication to me
dated April 8, 1997 which I had stated I would try to send by July
I look forward to hearing from you.
May this find you very well, and may that long be so.

13 August 1997/ 13 Perfection 154

Mr. Michael McKenny
424 Cambridge Street South
Ottawa, ON
K1S 4H5

Dear Mr. McKenny,
We have your e-mail message of 31 July 1997, transmitting a
of a letter which you have addressed to the Universal House of
Justice. You mention that you have published copies of both to
various internet lists. This being the case, you should note that
the House of Justice does not respond to communications handled in
this manner.
You should note, too, that the conclusion reached by the House
Justice that you cannot properly be considered a member of the
Baha'i community was in no way related to any failure on your part
to write the additional letter you described. As we stated in our
own letter to you, this decision was based entirely on your
pattern of behaviour and attitude, as reflected in your
Assembly of the
Baha'is of Canada
Reginald Newkirk,

Greetings from Ottawa.
Many thanks for the letter which you so kindly sent me in reply to
my query as to the specific reasons for the decision that I could no
longer be considered properly a member of the Baha'i community. It was
great that you answered with the clear information that the letter I
was unable to send to the Universal House of Justice by the 20th or
21st of July was not a factor, and that the complete cause of this
decision may be determined from my correspondence.
I note that the second part of my question concerning what would
be required for this conclusion to change has not been answered. This
strengthens the impression that actually it is the exercise of freedom
of thought and conscience, i.e. heresy, which is the issue.
I'm sorry that this matter likely requires you to redeem your note
GL 89, of which I am the holder. My inclination would be to wait until
I was next in Toronto to exchange this note for a cheque made out to
me for three thousand dollars, it being an interest free loan.
However, this may not be for several months, and you may prefer some
alternative, for example, providing the occasion for me to make this
exchange with the treasurer of the Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is
of Ottawa.
I am enclosing at the bottom of this thank you note analysis of
this situation posted recently to a couple of e-mail lists, and I draw
your attention specifically to the second last paragraph. There I make
the point that one interpretation of what has happened is that a novel
status of Baha'i heretic has been created, something completely
opposed to the Master's brilliant means of guaranteeing the unity of
the human species through the granting of freedom of thought,
conscience and expression. My response to what I consider quite an
alarming innovation has been formally to register as a member of the
neo-pagan community, thus quickly remedying the anomaly of an existing
Baha'i heretic. As I'm making clear, also, to a national pagan leader
who has been following this situation with considerable interest, this
is not merely a matter of convenience. Since the 80s I have been
telling pagans that were it not that i was Baha'i I would most likely
be pagan. It has to do with the recognition of the essential unity in
diversity so vital, at least in theory, in each. One way of perceiving
reality is that spirituality, as an ocean, covers the world, and
mortals scoop up some of this water in various shaped containers: a
cup, a glass, a bowl, etc., though really the water is what counts.
Again, many thanks for replying and clarifying the reasons which
led to this decision. Although we may have wide divergence in views on
such issues as the incapacity (in my opinion, praise be to God, or the
gods) of humanity to accept thoughtless obedience to any order soever
flowing from authority in disregard to fundamental principle and basic
decency, yet, our hopes for the well-being of humanity surely are
May this find you very well, and may that long be so.

Date: Tue, 19 Aug 1997 15:59:10 -0400 (EDT) From: (McKenny Michael) To:
Subject: Re Condolences

Greetings, Juan, from Ottawa.
Many thanks for your kind words.
I am glad that this new technology enabled me to meet you, to gain a clearer idea of the evolving (de-volving) situation within the Faith, and to exert my efforts to promote a more universal viewpoint.
Actually, one thing which strikes me is that it may be fortuitous in the long run that despite quite an Irish temper I was able to draw on Baha'i and Buddhist roots to respond to this situation.
As I understand it, the literalist world view expects and is prepared for opposition, both internal and external. This may well colour the perception of members of the Universal House of Justice and others, so that they really see a pattern of hostility in what is transpiring around them.
In my view, such a perception is anachronistic.
Anyway, in purely practical terms, since opposition conforms to their concept of reality, normal confrontational reactions would only seem to confirm the validity of past perceptions and policies.
By responding in a sort of Zen manner, in what I consider a Baha'i manner, then it becomes, I believe, much clearer to at least some people within the hierarchy that the definition of the problem isn't as simple as would most accommodate the literalist world view. I hope this will help mitigate the drift from universalism, and speed up the return of the Faith from exclusivist fundamentalism.
The future is very uncertain, and I hope I've helped reduce the odds for some of the nastier possibilities.
I am still subscribed to all these Baha'i lists, and even if a whole host of obligations begin catching up with me (I'm a month behind where I was last year in my work on BARDIC RUNES) I hope to remain active in Baha'i cyberspace.
Again, many thanks for your kind words. And if I may switch to the vernacular, "It's been a blast, and it aint over yet."
May this find you very well, and may that long be so.

Date: Sun Sep 7 08:56:01 1997
From: (Catherine Woodgold)
Subject: Natural Justice

To the Universal House of Justice:

I want you to know that my respect for you has diminished significantly because of the manner in which you expelled Michael McKenny from the Baha'i community.

Religion usually has fundamental importance in a person's psychological, emotional and social life, and expelling a person from their religion is a very serious matter. If it is to be done at all, certain principles of natural justice should be followed -- especially if the institution initiating the expulsion boldly carries the word "Justice" in its name!

A person who is expelled should be informed of the reason for the expulsion. Michael was not so informed. He was given extremely vague statements about "behaviour" and "attitude" -- but since everyone exhibits some form of behaviour and attitude, these statements did nothing to explain the expulsion. He was provided with a small amount of information: that it had something to do with his correspondence. This is not sufficient to satisfy the principle of natural justice that he should be informed of the reason.

You should have a finite list of written rules that Baha'is are expected to follow, and you should tell Michael which rule or rules he failed to follow which led to his expulsion, as well as which specific acts of his were considered by you to be violations of those rules.

You should have warned Michael in writing that he might be expelled and told him what rules he was breaking and what he would have to do to avoid being expelled. Although Susan Tamas talked to Michael, as far as I know she didn't warn him that he might be expelled, or state rules he should begin to follow, or provide rules in writing.

Since Michael has been expelled without explanation and without warning, I believe that many other Baha'is must now be afraid that they themselves might be expelled at any moment; and they have no way of knowing what they might be able to do to prevent such expulsion from happening.

You should have told Michael whether his expulsion is to be in effect lifelong and if not, what he would have to do to regain his status as a member of the Baha'i community.
You should also have provided more clarification about what his status is now. Can he be a Baha'i without being a member of the Baha'i community? How does his status differ from that of a Baha'i whose administrative rights have been removed?

It's my understanding that the founders of the Baha'i faith did not bestow upon the Universal House of Justice the authority to expell people from the Baha'i community, and that they did not plan that anyone be expelled except for Covenant-breakers, which apparently you are not accusing Michael of being, nor has he behaved as such. It would be interesting to see if you can provide quotes from the Baha'i Writings to justify your authority to take such action.

In summary: Even if, in spite of the name of your institution, you have not set up a system of "due process", there are still principles of natural justice which you should follow.
You should have warned Michael, you should have explained why, you should have clarified his current and future status, and maybe you shouldn't have expelled him in the first place. (Some of these deficiencies can be corrected by providing more information to him now.) Those are the reasons why I have less respect for the Universal House of Justice than I once did.

By the way, I am writing this on my own initiative; Michael made no suggestion to me to do so.

Catherine Woodgold

Date: Mon, 29 Sep 1997 18:27:30 EST Reply-To:
Sender: H-NET List for Bahai Studies <> From: Susan Maneck <smaneck@BERRY.EDU>
Organization: Berry College
Subject: Re Catherine Woodgold
To: Multiple recipients of list H-BAHAI <>

Date: Fri, 26 Sep 1997 11:49:04 -0400 (EDT) From: (McKenny Michael) Subject: Re Catherine Woodgold

Greetings from Ottawa.
If you are well, it is well.
I think it may be worth noting, as was mentioned recently on some other lists that Catherine Woodgold, the author of the appeal to the Universal House of Justice on the issue of the assessment by the Universal House of Justice that Michael McKenny could not properly be considered a member of the Baha'i community, has other characteristics besides being Michael McKenny's wife.
Catherine Woodgold is a social and political activist, who has worked in previous elections for Canada's New Democratic Party, and now is a member of this country's Green Party. She has written frequently to governments and political figures urging progressive action. She is a member of numerous activist organizations.
Her letter to the Universal House of Justice is possibly a rare example of one this Institution has received from an active Social Democrat on the topic of justice.
May this find you very well, and may that long be so.

From: ("Baha'i World Centre")
Date: Thu, 25 Sep 97 17:15:22 IST

24 September 1997

Ms. Catherine Woodgold

Dear Ms. Woodgold,

We have been asked to respond to your email letter of 7 September 1997 to the Universal House of Justice, regarding its conclusion that your husband, Mr. Michael McKenny, cannot properly be regarded as a member of the Baha'i community. The House of Justice hopes that the following comments will be of assistance to you in understanding the step that was taken in Michael's case.

The Baha'i Faith, as the name implies, is a religion, not a political movement. Its foundation, Baha'is believe, is the revelation of God for our day and its focal teaching is the oneness of humankind. The mission that has been laid by Baha'u'llah on those who recognize and would follow Him is the promotion of the unification of the earth's peoples in one global society guided by Divine principle. In order for the Baha'i community to discharge this responsibility, it must itself remain united. It must demonstrate to a skeptical age that human beings, in all their diversity, can learn to live and work as a single people in one global homeland.

The means by which Baha'u'llah has chosen to preserve the unity of Baha'i society is the institutions established in the Covenant which He made with those who accept Him. His Writings make it indisputably clear that the spiritual and social teachings thus set forth cannot be separated from the institutional means their Author has provided for their promotion. Particularly is this true of the interpretive functions with which the Guardianship has been endowed and the ultimate decision-making power invested in the Universal House of Justice, both of which are assured of unfailing Divine guidance.

One is entirely free to accept or reject the system of belief Baha'u'llah teaches. The Baha'i Faith is a religion which believes ardently in freedom of spiritual choice. No one is -- or can ever be -- compelled to be a Baha'i, nor does any discredit attach to one who, having decided, for whatever reason, that he or she cannot continue to accept the Teachings, may decide to renounce them. What one cannot properly do is to behave in a way that undermines the unity of the Baha'i community, by challenging the institutional authority that is an integral part of the Faith one professes to have accepted.

This is precisely what Michael has persisted in doing. He has made it unmistakably clear that he does not accept the nature of the authority conferred in Baha'u'llah's Covenant on either the Guardianship or the Universal House of Justice, in important areas of belief. Indeed, some of his statements give the impression that he does not accept Baha'u'llah's many statements about the nature of the authority of a Manifestation of God.

Ms. Catherine Woodgold 24 September 1997
Page 2

Efforts to help Michael in overcoming his misunderstanding of these Baha'i teachings were entirely without avail. The Universal House of Justice provided him with guidance from the Writings which should have corrected a number of his misconceptions, including for this purpose a memorandum specially prepared by the Baha'i World Centre's Research Department on an issue central to his expressed concerns. A knowledgeable believer selected for the purpose did her best to assist him, through hours of discussion and a patient exchange of correspondence on these and other issues. Michael's subsequent statements made it clear that his views remained entirely unaffected by these efforts.

Had the situation continued at this level, Michael's confusion would have remained his personal spiritual problem. That it did not remain at this level was the result solely of his deliberate decision to continue a series of open Internet postings in which he challenged the authority of Baha'i institutions in language alternating between conventional professions of respect and contemptuous reflections on the integrity and actions of those institutions. As had been made clear during review with him by the advisor mentioned above, of the relevant passages from the Will and Testament of `Abdu'l-Baha, such deliberate contention is entirely unacceptable in one who claims to believe in Baha'u'llah. Indeed, as a general rule, it would raise a question about the loyalty to the Covenant of an individual behaving in this fashion. In Michael's case, the Universal House of Justice reached the conclusion that he neither understands the basic implications of Baha'i membership nor has any real desire to do so. His subsequent behaviour will doubtless be read by most dispassionate observers as confirming the accuracy of this assessment.

Your concern for your husband's well-being is understandable and does you much credit. Michael is not a victim of persecution.
Whatever notoriety may have become associated with his situation is, like the withdrawal of his membership, entirely the result of his own actions. The House of Justice feels that you can best assist him by encouraging him to set aside the question of his former involvement in the Baha'i community and devote his energies to the other religious and humanitarian interests which engage his attention.


Department of the Secretariat

Analysis of UHJ's response

Author: (Catherine woodgold)
Date: Mon Sep 29 18:39:03 1997

Sender: H-NET List for Bahai Studies <H-BAHAI@H-NET.MSU.EDU>

From: (McKenny Michael)

Greetings from Ottawa.
If you are well, it is well.
This evening I found in my e-mail box the following analysis by
Catherine Woodgold, my wife, the person to whom the letter of the
Universal House of Justice was addressed. She told me that it was
written for the Baha'i lists. It is entirely her own thing.
I would like to say that there are different views of reality,
and it would really be great if we could all get along, accepting
our varied perceptions.

From: (Catherine woodgold)

>... The House of Justice hopes that the following comments will be
>of assistance to you in understanding the step that was taken in
>Michael's case.

I didn't ask them to explain it to me nor to help me understand it.
I told them they ought to have provided an explanation to Michael.
It is a matter of correct protocol and formality to address an
explanation to Michael directly. Whether I understand what happened
is of little importance; it didn't happen to me.

>... Its foundation, Baha'is believe, is the revelation of God for
>our day and its focal teaching is the oneness of humankind. ...

That's what Michael kept saying.

>The mission that has
>been laid by Baha'u'llah on those who recognize and would follow
>Him is the promotion of the unification of the earth's peoples in
>one global society guided by Divine principle. In order for the
>Baha'i community to discharge this responsibility, it must itself
>remain united. It must demonstrate to a skeptical age that human
>beings, in all their Diversity, can learn to live and work as a
>single people in one global homeland.

Having a united community which was created by allowing only
those who agree with each other to be members has been done
many times already. What would be new would be to have a
united community which includes all types of people: exactly
the opposite of what they're doing by expelling Michael.

> The means by which Baha'u'llah has chosen to preserve the
>unity of Baha'i society is the institutions established in the
>Covenant which He made with those who accept Him. His Writings
>make it indisputably clear that the spiritual and social teachings
>thus set forth cannot be separated from the institutional means
>their Author has provided for their promotion. Particularly is
>this true of the interpretive functions with which the Guardianship
>has been endowed and the ultimate decision-making power invested in
>the Universal House of Justice, both of which are assured of
>unfailing Divine guidance.

I wonder why they mention the Guardianship here. Are they trying
to imply that the UHJ carries on the Guardianship function?
I can't see any other reason for mentioning it here; perhaps
I'm missing something. My understanding is that there is no
person or institution currently carrying on the Guardianship,
along with the authority to interpret the Writings, since the
passage of Shoghi Effendi.

They say that the decision-making power of the UHJ has Divine
guidance. Is that what they really mean; or do they also
mean that the letter-writing, explaining, understanding and
interpreting carried on by the UHJ also has unfailing Divine
guidance? In other words, are they only claiming Divine guidance
for their decision to expell Michael, or are they also
claiming unfailing Divine guidance for their understanding
of the Writings and their attempt to impose their own
understanding of them on Michael?

Furthermore, will they admit the possibility that
any Divine guidance they may receive to guide their
decisions may sometimes come in the form of unsolicited
letters of advice from Baha'i's, such as the letter
from Michael?

> One is entirely free to accept or reject the system of
>belief Baha'u'llah teaches. The Baha'i Faith is a religion
>which believes ardently in freedom of spiritual choice. No one
>is -- or can ever be -- compelled to be a Baha'i, nor does any
>discredit attach to one who, having decided, for whatever reason,
>that he or she cannot continue to accept the Teachings, may decide
>to renounce them.

Michael did not renounce the Teachings.

>What one cannot properly do is to behave in a way that undermines
>the unity of the Baha'i community, by challenging the institutional
>authority that is an integral part of the Faith one professes to
>have accepted.

Michael did not challenge the institutional authority. He always
acknowledged that the UHJ had sole authority to make the major
decisions of the Baha'i community.

> This is precisely what Michael has persisted in doing.

He has not.

>He has made
>it unmistakably clear that he does not accept the nature of the
>authority conferred in Baha'u'llah's Covenant on either the
>Guardianship or the Universal House of Justice, in important
>areas of belief.

What authority in areas of belief was conferred on the Universal
House of Justice? I thought they were supposed to legislate, not
dictate the beliefs of individuals. Was I wrong?

>Indeed, some of his statements
>give the impression that he does not accept Baha'u'llah's many
>statements about the nature of the authority of a Manifestation
>of God.

Why didn't they ask him whether he accepted these statements?

> Efforts to help Michael in overcoming his misunderstanding of
>these Baha'i teachings were entirely without avail.

Note the word "misunderstanding". Clearly Michael read the same
words and understood them differently. In the absence of a
Guardian, who is to say who is right? Who has the authority to
impose a specific understanding of the Teachings upon an individual?

>The Universal House of Justice provided
>him with guidance from the Writings which should have corrected a
>number of his misconceptions, including for this purpose a
>memorandum specially prepared by the Baha'i World Centre's
>Research Department on an issue central to his expressed concerns.
>A knowledgeable believer selected for the purpose did her best to
>assist him, through hours of discussion and a patient exchange of
>correspondence on these and other issues. Michael's subsequent
>statements made it clear that his views remained entirely
>unaffected by these efforts.

Apparently the members of the UHJ didn't change their views, either.
This looks like a great opportunity to apply some principles of
Baha'i consultation, if not academic discourse.

> Had the situation continued at this level, Michael's
>confusion would have remained his personal spiritual problem.

That is insulting, even worse than the word "misconception" above.
Michael was not confused. He had beliefs which differed from those
of the members of the UHJ. Furthermore, the problem he was
experiencing involved the well-being of a community, and World
Peace; it was not a mere personal problem of one individual.

>That it did not remain at this level
>was the result solely of his deliberate decision to continue a
>series of open Internet postings in which he challenged the
>authority of Baha'i institutions in language alternating between
>conventional professions of respect and contemptuous reflections
>on the integrity and actions of those institutions.

Michael did not challenge the authority of Baha'i institutions, as
far as I know.
He drew analogies between possible future paths of action of
Baha'i institutions, and fascist governments. I'm afraid that
these were read by many people in an emotional, rather than a
rational, frame of mind. For many people, particularly perhaps
those in Israel, feelings about fascist governments are so strong
that the mere mention of such a government, in any way remotely
connected with one side or another of an argument, immediately wins
the argument, with no further discussion allowed. If, however,
these were read in the spirit in which they were intended, as
warnings that certain paths of action would lead to eventual
disaster, is there anything in the Baha'i Writings that forbids the
provision of such advice by Baha'i's to the UHJ? Or is there
anything in the Writings that forbids the discussion among ordinary
Baha'i's of possible future actions of the UHJ? How is the UHJ
supposed to be guided in its actions without such discussion?
(OK, OK, Divinely.)

>As had been made clear during review with him by the advisor
>mentioned above, of the relevant passages from the Will and
>Testament of `Abdu'l-Baha, such deliberate contention is entirely
>unacceptable in one who claims to believe in Baha'u'llah.

Made clear to whom? How do they know what was made clear to
Michael? Since there are differences in understanding of many
things, it is quite likely that there was a difference here too.
The warning should have been provided in writing.

>Indeed, as a general rule, it would raise a question about
>the loyalty to the Covenant of an individual behaving in this
>fashion. In Michael's case, the Universal House of Justice
>reached the conclusion that he neither understands the basic
>implications of Baha'i membership nor has any real desire to do

I don't understand them either. Are they written down anywhere?
(Other than in the hundreds of books of the Writings, most of
which most Baha'i's have not read all of?)

This seems to be an allusion to Covenant-Breakers and to be
some sort of veiled threat, though whether against Michael
or against others I'm not sure.

>His subsequent behaviour will doubtless be read
>by most dispassionate observers as confirming the accuracy of this

I suppose they mean that because he became a Pagan, he must not have
been serious about being a Baha'i in the first place. This is untrue
and unfounded. Michael speaks for himself.
He became a Pagan because it seemed better than being
a Baha'i heretic, something which is not supposed to exist at all
and the existence of which is an embarassment to the Baha'i faith.
Perhaps it is those who created the position of Baha'i heretic
who don't understand the basic implications of Baha'i membership.

> Your concern for your husband's well-being is understandable
>and does you much credit.

That would be a very nice thing to say ... if it were said by
anyone else! But here it is being said by the very people who are
persecuting him.

>Michael is not a victim of persecution.

You said it! This sounds like one of those statements that just
by the fact that it needs to be said, suggests that it's probably
false. Like "This is not pyramid sales" or "Doing this doesn't
break any of our campaign promises." I didn't say anything about
persecution. I pointed out injustice.

>Whatever notoriety
>may have become associated with his situation is, like the
>withdrawal of his membership, entirely the result of his own

It is also entirely the result of the actions of the UHJ.

>The House of Justice feels
>that you can best assist him by encouraging him to set aside the
>question of his former involvement in the Baha'i community and
>devote his energies to the other religious and humanitarian
>interests which engage his attention.

I don't want any advice from them about how to assist Michael. Would
they want advice from me about how to run the Baha'i religion? I
think what they really mean is that what they suggest is the best
way to assist the UHJ, not to assist Michael. This is somewhat
insulting, actually: like "just forget about us hurting you".

They didn't address the injustices I mentioned in my letter.
They did provide a little more information about why Michael was
expelled; but they provided it in a letter to me, not to him
directly as would have been proper. The information is still
rather vague. Are Baha'i's to feel now that they must understand
all the Writings in the same way the UHJ understands them, or be
expelled? I don't think the basic requirements of Baha'i membership
are listed anywhere.

Perhaps they feel that the discussions
they mention, in which they believe certain things were made clear,
(though they admit failing to make other things clear) constituted
the warning I said they should have provided.

They haven't addressed at all the question of whether the
expulsion is temporary or permanent.


To: <>
From: Isaac Bonewits <> Subject: Re: email expulsion & religious censorship Cc: jrcole@UMICH.EDU
Date: Mon, 1 Sep 1997 01:14:03 -0400

Any human institution, even (or perhaps especially) religious ones, claiming to own The Absolute Truth about anything, will seek to silence dissenting voices. Absolutes remain absolutes only in the absence of criticism and questioning; that from knowledgeable insiders is always harder to defeat than the words of outsiders, and therefore more dangerous to the Powers That Be. When the institutions concerned have political, economic or military interests to protect, the suppression of dissent will be both quick and harsh. Hence the West's bloody history of crusades/jihads, inquisitions, witch hunts (both literal and metaphorical), etc.

Juan Cole's query about whether anyone previously has been excommunicated for *email publication* of religious dissent seems oddly naive. I don't know about Michael Quinn, but Matthew Fox wasn't "prominent" in the Roman Catholic Church until *after* his (I will cheerfully concede) heretical opinions began to reach the general public via books, magazine articles and interviews, radio and television shows, etc. It was the Vatican's own efforts to suppress his voice that made it so much louder.

For Internet-related examples, consider these: The Church of Scientology has spent a great deal of time, energy and money, attempting to silence criticism of its doctrines and practices (real and alleged) in all the media, especially including the Internet. While I don't read the Jewish, Christian, or Islamic Fundamentalist newsgroups and emailing lists, I would not be surprised to learn that someone had been kicked out of some denomination or another for heretical statements online. I know that many Islamic nations have been frantic to prevent their citizens from having access to the Internet, precisely because they might be exposed to dissenting opinions about Islamic doctrines, customs, and laws.

The point here is that Michael McKenny's expulsion from the Bahai institution he previously belonged to may or may not be the first such excommunication to be based on emailed opinions, but it certainly won't be the last, and is, in any event, merely a technological updating of classic totalitarian reaction to criticism. He should count his blessings that losing his membership card is probably going to be his only punishment for free thinking, rather than the torture and murder suffered by so many other dissenters.

Modern communications technology, especially the Internet and whatever will evolve from it in the future, is a terrible threat to all tyrannies, whether religious or secular. The current explosion of new religious movements in our time is directly traceable to the loss of political, economic and military power previously held by conservative monotheistic institutions in those places where NRMs are thriving. (I won't claim that more NRMs are being started currently, just that a smaller percentage of them are being throttled in their cradles.)

The post referring to cloistered religious communities controlling access to the outside world via any technology is irrelevant to the larger issue of attempts to suppress religious dissent by ordinary members of particular denominations. Members of ashrams, monasteries, etc., presumably know the degree of cloistering they are agreeing to when they join those communities.

In terms of the never-ending debates about defining "cults," BTW, the control of members' access to outside opinions as well as the degree of tolerence for dissent, are two of the categories listed in my "Cult Danger Evaluation Frame," which can be viewed at <>.

Isaac Bonewits

Date: Thu, 2 Oct 1997 10:52:01 EST Reply-To:
Sender: H-NET List for Bahai Studies <> From: Susan Maneck <smaneck@BERRY.EDU>
Organization: Berry College
Subject: On Various Points
To: Multiple recipients of list H-BAHAI <> X-Status:

Dear Colleagues,

While the following is not, strictly speaking, an academic post, I am placing it here as an important "source" document of recent events.

Susan Maneck
Berry College

Date: Thu, 2 Oct 1997 10:37:31 -0400 (EDT) From: (McKenny Michael) Subject: On Various Points

Greetings from Ottawa.
If you are well, it is well.
I am going to try to respond to some comments and questions that have appeared on these lists or been sent to me privately. I ask your forgiveness for being unable to take the time to reply in greater detail now to all of the fascinating points which have appeared in my mailbox lately. If you feel what you read below is not a response (whether or not you agree with it) to something you've sent me, you may kindly repost privately or to any list what you'd like my reaction to.
Firstly, on this issue of declaration cards, the Canadian declaration card, the most recent version I can recall, does not contain any statement of Baha'i belief. The declarant signs a statement similar, if not identical to, "I apply to be enrolled in the Baha'i Faith." I cannot recall whether it was different in 1971.
However, and moving on also to the comment that all I have to do is sign the first verse of the Kitab-i-Aqdas and send that to the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of Canada, even if what I signed in 1971 were to have been identical to the card in use in the US of A, this does not resolve the issue, in my view. Auxiliary Board Member Mrs. Suzanne Tamas provided me with some quotes making it clear that literalism is not demanded of Baha'is. Yet, my perception of the existing situation is that my affixing my signature to either the American declaration card or the first verse of the Aqdas which would have been quite possible had I only now encountered this religion and understood the words, "within reason," to be clearly contained, though unwritten, as part of the statement of belief, would not be deemed acceptable, unless I was asserting complete literalist perception and agreement with those words.
This, in my view, is part of the larger picture. As I view it, my spiritual path since I gave up my fling with Canadian nationalism when I was in high school, has been directed at how I may best aid humanity to attain to global peace and understanding. This has not altered in all the years and through the quite numerous and various conditions and periods of my life. While I perceive a current very crucial issue (how reasonably to accommodate both the authority bestowed upon the Universal House of Justice and the principles of the Baha'i Faith so that humanity and not a fundamentalist fraction of it may abide within a Faith whose raison d'etre is human harmony) for the Baha'is to resolve, the Universal House of Justice has provided me with the opportunity to explore options to the Baha'i path, seriously to assess the viability of alternatives in the event present trends continue and the Baha'i Faith fails in its purpose.
I would like to express an other view to the one stating the Baha'i Faith and its Administrative Order would be irreparably flawed, or however Shoghi Effendi stated it precisely, in the absence of a Guardian. In my view, the absence of any institution able to dictate understanding authoritatively fosters human harmony by permitting the holding and the expression of various unauthoritative opinions. Actually, my understanding is that nothing else can work, and without allowing each individual freedom to think and express personal and unimposed perception unity (in diversity) of the human species is unattainable.
As to the question of only the Guardian being capable of long range thinking, I believe this is not exactly a representation of reality. The distinction is that only he is perceived by literalists to have the authority adequately to impress his long range analysis upon the Universal House of Justice so that this is taken seriously and not as an interference in the issue of the authority of the Universal House of Justice.
I have stated repeatedly when I was a Baha'i that I do not assert any Baha'i authority, and I certainly don't claim any now.
This does not impede my ability to think in the long term. I reject any suggestion that I am unique in this regard. The Universal House of Justice ideally will be made up of individuals able spiritually to transcend the normal political temptation to focus so very much on a term by term basis, and this due to character, rather than a system which, as employed, has rendered membership on the UHJ a tenured position.
Indeed, it is my long term analysis that while one possibility is that the Baha'i Faith will not succeeed unless it overcomes the attitude of literalist exclusivity currently in vogue at the highest levels, the domination in the past of large areas of the globe by imperialistic monotheistic systems equally exclusive and literalist renders it impossible for me to discount a similar triumph for the fundamentalist version of the Baha'i Faith.
It is this analysis which lies behind my failed attempt to communicate effectively with the Universal House of Justice, my very strong encouragement for all those with less extreme views to resist temptations to resign from the Baha'i Faith, and my quite sincere exploration of the vast and varied world of neo-paganism.
Whatever the future may bring, personally my path remains one focused on contributing, as best I may, to the achievement of the harmony of humanity. This, to answer the question how can I allow Haifa to define my religion, does not seem to me compatible with pretending to be a Baha'i in opposition to the assessment by the Universal House of Justice that I am not one. I cannot conceive how I could demonstrate the harmony of humanity by claiming to be a Baha'i heretic, when my understanding is that the Founders of the Baha'i Faith intended that heresy not exist.
This does not mean that my past did not occur, nor that I need cast aspersions upon the Baha'i Faith. There is spirituality in the Baha'i Faith and enormous energy, even if some people claim not to have encountered this, and instead to have seen the opposite. Such spirituality is not restricted to the Baha'i Faith. It is a normal trait within humanity. And it is not excluded from the Baha'i Faith, even though at times and in places this may appear to be the case.
So, just as the Baha'is taught me that I was not rejecting my religious roots, that I was not denying the Ten Commandments, the Sermon on the Mount or the Eightfold Path of Buddha when I became a Baha'i, similarily I accept the value of where I have been as my path now moves on from the Baha'i Faith.
I am, indeed, pagan, and enjoying the thrill of flexing my paganism openly. I took a break in the writing of this to go out at dawn to stand inside a tree-ring, (5 great trees, though as a few split three feet or so from the ground, it can feel like 8, whose trunks touch at the bottom, with openings and space for someone to enter and stand inside) communing with the spirits of that place. I am steeped in the study of dreams and tarot and qabalah. These aspects of my life clearly are very much in keeping with paganism.
I hope this is adequate for now. So many of your posts remain unread. Other points may be addressed later. For now, I wish you well. May the future exceed our highest hopes.
Blessed Be,

Re: Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Freedom of Conscience
Author: jrcole

What is not being revealed here is that right wing Baha'is have a doctrine that they do not foreground, that the Baha'i institutions are in fact governments in embryo and shall gradually supplant existing civil governments. A group that represents itself as having ambitions for governmental power puts itself under international norms of behavior.

And let's take the McKenny case as an example here. If this were 500 years from now and the Baha'i State of Canada had dealt with Mr. McKenny as the current National Assembly did, how would this treatment stack up against the Universal Declaration of Human Rights?

>Article 1.

>All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are >endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a >spirit of brotherhood.

Is it a recognition that all human beings have reason and conscience to forbid them to publicly express the fruits of their reasoning or the considered views to which their conscience has led them? Yet that is what the Baha'i authorities wished to do to Michael McKenny.

>Article 2.

>Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this >Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, >language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, >property, birth or other status.

Therefore, the fact that Michael McKenny was a Baha'i, and yet held the opinion that women should be eligible to serve on the universal house of justice, should not have prejudiced his basic human rights.

>Article 8.

>Everyone has the right to an effective remedy by the competent national >tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the >constitution or by law.

Mr. McKenny's letter to the Canadian Spiritual Assembly inquiring what would be necessary to regain his status as an enrolled Baha'i was never answered.

>Article 9.

> No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.

Mr. McKenny was arbitrarily exiled from the Baha'i community.

>Article 10.

> Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an >independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and >obligations and of any criminal charge against him.

Mr. McKenny, of course, received no public hearing by any impartial body. The people who railroaded him were judge, jury and executioner.

>Article 11.

> (1) Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed >innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has >had all the guarantees necessary for his defence.

McKenny had no public trial and was given no opportunity to defend himself.

>(2) No one shall be held guilty of any penal offence on account of any act or >omission which did not constitute a penal offence, under national or >international law, at the time when it was committed.

There has never been a publicly promulgated code of Baha'i law that states that remarking on internet groups that one believes women should be allowed to serve on the universal house of justice is a penal offense, and no one had ever been sanctioned for such a thing before. Springing such arbitrary legal 'surprises' on people is tantamount to a bill of attainder and clearly forbidden in this document.

>Article 12.

>No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, >home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation Everyone >has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or >attacks.

Obviously, Mr. McKenny's honor and reputation in the Baha'i community to which he belonged for 25 years have been not only attacked but destroyed, and, on top of that, his correspondence was arbitrarily interfered with by an Auxiliary Board Member and other Baha'i officials.

>Article 18.

>Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this >right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either >alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his >religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.

Obviously, Mr. McKenny's freedom of thought, conscience and religion has been interfered with by the Baha'i authorities, as has his right to manifest his religion in teaching, practice, worship and observance. (He cannot go to Feats, e.g.)

>Article 19.

> Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right >includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and >impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

Mr. McKenny was obviously denied the right to freedom of opinion and expression within a Baha'i framework; his opinions were interfered with; and his attempt to impart information and ideas through any media were employed as a grounds fro expelling him from membership in the incipient Baha'i state.

>Article 30.

>Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, group >or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at >the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein.

That is, the incipient Baha'i state may not interpret anything in this document as letting it off the hook.

Juan Cole
History, U of Michigan

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