Kalimat Press and Distribution by Bahá'í Agencies1999, 2005, 2006, 2008
Letter from the Universal House of Justice to Kalimat, 19993 August 1999
Transmitted by email
Dear Bahá'í Friend,
The Universal House of Justice has reviewed the letter of 8 May 1999 to the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of the United States, signed by you on behalf of Kalimat Press and copied for the House of Justice, on the subject of the manner in which Kalimat has promoted to Bahá'ís Juan Cole's book, Modernity and the Millennium. We have been asked to write as follows.
A good deal of the work of Kalimat Press, which you have ably directed during the twenty or so years of the firm's existence, has constituted a significant contribution to the advancement of the Cause we all love and seek to serve. It is clear, too, that, beyond the administration of Kalimat's activities, this valued contribution owes a great deal to your own creativity and professional talents. These circumstances move the House of the Justice to share with you candidly the deep concern it feels regarding your relationship with the Bahá'í Faith.
As you are aware, such concern prompted earlier efforts, including those made by Counsellor ___ and ___, a member of the Auxiliary Board, in their interview with you and your wife, Dr. ___, in May of 1996, to draw to your attention the serious dangers of the course you have long been following. At that time, you expressed to Mr. ___ your deep regret over actions on your part that were seen by the House of Justice to be clearly in conflict with the beliefs you profess as a follower of Bahá'u'lláh, as well as your firm assurance that your actions would not again give cause for such intervention.
It is impossible to reconcile professions of this kind with the arguments made by you in the 8 May letter. The inappropriateness of the promotional statements and of the approach taken in the letter serves as an illustration of the attitude and behavior on your part that have long been a source of difficulty. It is these personal elements that the House of Justice has asked us to address.
Clearly, no one would dispute the right of Dr. Cole to write and publish whatever work a publisher is prepared to handle. Nor has anyone questioned the right of a Bahá'í who is interested in such a book to purchase it. To suggest that the House of Justice is saying otherwise would be to seriously misconstrue the nature of its concern. The book itself is incidental to the problem of attitude on your part that the National Assembly was asked to raise with you. As a participant in various Internet discussion groups over the past five years, and particularly in the last year or two, you cannot but be aware from these exchanges that Dr. Cole has embarked on a deliberate assault against the Bahá'í Cause, in which he has not hesitated to attack its institutions, to misrepresent its fundamental teachings, and to abuse the trust of Bahá'ís who had been led to believe that they were engaged with him in a detached and scholarly search for the truth. These same Internet exchanges exposed you, like other participants, to a flood of calumny and invective against a great many of your fellow believers, on the part of Dr. Cole, that is scarcely credible in rational discourse.
Had such a book as Modernity and the Millennium been written by a disinterested non-Bahá'í scholar, its misconception of the nature of Bahá'u'lláh's Mission and its other shortcomings would have represented no more than understandable weaknesses of an honest attempt to explore a religious phenomenon as yet little understood in the West. Indeed, in this context, such an attempt to make the Bahá'í Faith comprehensible to the Western academic mind, however inadequate it might appear to knowledgeable Bahá'í scholars, would surely have earned its author a measure of genuine Bahá'í appreciation for the writing and research skills deployed in devising it.
As you — like other participants in certain Internet discussion groups — are well aware, however, the book's author is not a disinterested scholar. Rather, he is a deeply embittered individual who, as his book was in preparation, had just denounced in the most intemperate language an apparent twenty-year allegiance to Bahá'u'lláh, in the wake of a failed attempt on his part to impose his private ideological agenda on the Bahá'í community's study of Bahá'u'lláh's Message. Modernity and the Millennium represents an effort to provide the current stage of this long-running scheme with the underpinnings of scholarly rationalization.
What is this rationalization? Although distorted by its evasion of Bahá'í Texts that contradict its main assertions, and blurred by reliance on speculations peculiar to its author's purpose, the thesis appears to run somewhat as follows: Bahá'u'lláh's work and Writings represent essentially one of several efforts by Middle East thinkers to work out a "response" to the challenges posed by European modernity in the form of rationalism, revolution, nationalism, economic upheaval, feminism and other contemporary developments.
Although Oriental in origin, this particular "response", in contrast to various others, was unusually "progressive", "liberal", "idealistic", even "radical". Because it "grew up" in a congenial modernist era, its Author was able gradually to adjust and revise the ideas with which He had been "grappling", through benefiting (in a manner generally insinuated rather than explicitly stated) from successive interactions with other thinkers and movements. By 1862, apparently in order to deal with the problem of religious exclusivity in the Muslim world, and in response to some form of "private mystical experience", He "decided to make a prophetic claim of his own".
As mentioned above, if such a view had represented the interpretation of Bahá'u'lláh's Mission arrived at by a non-Bahá'í as the result of his objective study of the sources, no Bahá'í institution could have an objection. Its relevance to the concern of the House of Justice about your behavior arises rather from your long-standing and widely recognized involvement with a few present and former members of the Faith who seek to foist this caricature of the Cause on the Bahá'í community, and your perceived identification with their purpose.
The Covenant, the distinguishing feature of Bahá'u'lláh's Revelation, has been made the central target of this effort (a maneuver that Dr. Cole's book is at particular pains to shore up). Although forced to acknowledge the appointments of `Abdu'l-Bahá and the Guardian as Interpreters of Bahá'u'lláh's Message, every effort has been made to call such authoritative interpretation into question wherever it presents a problem for the notions being promoted. Similarly, although ostensibly acknowledging that the Universal House of Justice is Head of the Bahá'í Faith today, this opposition has tried by every means possible to undermine the broad authority conferred in Bahá'u'lláh's own words and emphasized in the Master's Will and Testament. (In Dr. Cole's book, this agenda makes its appearance in the conclusion: namely, that the Faith founded by Bahá'u'lláh has failed in its mission because, like "the Khomeinist state in Iran", it has been somehow captured by "fundamentalists", by which term Dr. Cole has repeatedly characterized the members of the Universal House of Justice.)
Why would a Bahá'í or a Bahá'í publisher who is genuinely devoted to advancing Bahá'í scholarship and to encouraging confirmation of believers in Bahá'u'lláh's Covenant seek to persuade his Bahá'í readers that a device intended as the mainspring of an attack on their Faith is "an indispensable book for any serious student of Bahá'í history"? How could an effort to represent to the Bahá'í community such a work as "a brilliant, scholarly analysis of the life and teachings of Bahá'u'lláh" serve the Cause of God? What moral benefit do you imagine a Bahá'í reader could conceivably derive from taking seriously the theories of an individual whose apparently ungovernable malice has made his activities the focal point of contention and disharmony among any believers unwise enough to be influenced by him?
Indeed, what relevance do Dr. Cole's academic credentials, so strongly emphasized in your letter of 8 May, have to the moral and spiritual issue raised in the letter from the National Spiritual Assembly? Clearly, no reader, Bahá'í or otherwise, would be interested in reading a supposedly scholarly study whose author lacked the relevant scholarly qualifications. Nor, presumably, would any publisher, Bahá'í or otherwise, promote a work from such an unqualified source. It is both meaningless and disingenuous to argue that these qualifications, however valid in themselves, assure that a publication meets the moral and spiritual standards that are made explicitly clear in the Writings of the Faith whose interests Kalimat's activities are ostensibly designed to serve.
The assumption of Bahá'í institutions is that the purpose motivating a group of believers to create a publishing house that enjoys privileged access to the Bahá'í community is in order to promote the advancement of the Bahá'í Cause. The House of Justice has always assumed — as is no doubt the case with Bahá'ís generally — that this was the desire that motivated you and your associates to create Kalimat Press. If some different conception of purpose underlies the Kalimat enterprise, then it is essential that you advise the United States National Spiritual Assembly of the facts of the situation, frankly, unequivocally, and without delay.
The House of Justice calls on you to meditate profoundly on the questions raised in the foregoing, as these issues bear directly on the relationship that binds you to your Lord. Does not the Master in His Will and Testament itself, specifically warn: "According to the direct and sacred command of God we are forbidden to utter slander, are commanded to show forth peace and amity, are exhorted to rectitude of conduct, straight-forwardness and harmony with all the kindreds and peoples of the world"? Does He not, in that same foundation document of the Cause, counsel all of us: "O ye beloved of the Lord! Strive with all your heart to shield the Cause of God from the onslaught of the insincere, for souls such as these cause the straight to become crooked and all benevolent efforts to produce contrary results"?
The impressive services that you have rendered the Faith, with ___'s loving support, represent for you a spiritual treasure. God forbid that so precious a capital should be squandered. While there is yet time, the House of Justice earnestly appeals to you to turn away from the course on which you have long been set, a course that has been marked by steady spiritual deterioration and that will lead to grievous loss in both this world and the next. As you will recall, because the matter was of direct concern to her, ___ asked urgently to be included in your discussion with ___ and ___. Because these issues continue to bear so immediately on the well-being of your family, you need to recognize your moral obligation to take her fully into your confidence also on the contents of this present letter.
In the past, you have expressed bewilderment that your actions should have required the intervention of senior Bahá'í institutions. The House of Justice expects that you have now understood clearly what is at stake and that you will resolve, unambiguously and at once, to abandon the course you have, alas, been pursuing.
The House of Justice will pray ardently at the Holy Threshold that you will be granted the courage and will to meet the spiritual challenge you face.
Department of the Secretariat
Letter from the National Spiritual Assembly to Kalimat, August 2005National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of the United States
August 22, 2005
Dear Bahá'í Friend:
The National Spiritual Assembly noted in your July 13 email message conveying news of your forthcoming publications that you intend soon to distribute a reprint of Abbas Amanat's Resurrection and Renewal: The Making of the Babi Movement 1844-1850, with the addition of a new preface in which — according to your description — Mr. Amanat comments on developments in the field of Babi-Bahá'í studies since the original publication of the book in 1989.
Word has reached us from independent sources that Mr. Amanat's preface is severely critical of institutions of the Faith. Not having seen it, we have drawn no conclusions about the preface and are obviously not in a position to comment on it. We hope that Kalimat Press is exercising appropriate care in the nature of the material it propagates and is mindful of the need, especially during this critical period in the Faith's development, of safeguarding the high station and dignity of institutions that derive their being from the wellsprings of Bahá'u'lláh's mighty revelation.
We look forward to your reply.
[National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of the United States]
Editor's note, 2014
Following this letter, Kalimat removed the following four titles from their website: Modernity and the Millennium by Juan Cole, Church and State by Sen McGlinn, Resurrection and Renewal by Abbas Amanat, and The Bahá'í Faith in America by Bill Garlington, as the publisher believed these were the ones the Baha’i Administration found objectionable. Those titles remain unavailable, and the publisher confirms that they have no plans to resume sale of them. [-J.W., citing personal correspondence, 2014/12/21]
Open letter from the US National Spiritual Assembly, December 2005
published in the American Bahá'í online edition)
[Intro note, from American Bahá'í]
The National Spiritual Assembly wishes to draw to your attention a recent decision it has reached regarding the distribution of books and other materials marketed by Kalimat Press.
Please see at right [below] letters written by the National Assembly to Kalimat and to Local Spiritual Assemblies.
December 29, 2005
To all Local Spiritual Assemblies
Dear Bahá'í Friends,
Enclosed [below] for your information is a copy of our letter of today’s date addressed to Kalimát Press. We ask you to comply with the decision we have made that all national and local Bahá'í agencies cease to distribute books and other items marketed by this publisher. However, you may continue to sell whatever you may have in stock until your inventories are depleted. Individuals are free, of course, to decide to purchase books from any publisher.
Our decision was regretfully reached as a result of increasing concern in recent years that a number of titles handled by Kalimát Press, aside from those which have enriched Bahá'í literature over the years, contain matter inimical to the best interests of our Faith. It is highly inappropriate for Bahá'í institutions, which are obligated to safeguard such interests, to provide channels of distribution for publishers promoting such titles.
[National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of the United States]
Letter from the National Spiritual Assembly to Kalimat, December 2005December 29, 2005
Dear Bahá'í Friend,
We write to inform you of our decision to instruct the Bahá'í Distribution Service and all other national and local Bahá'í agencies serving our community to cease to acquire and sell any titles marketed by Kalimát Press. We have been impelled to so decide out of a serious concern that your company is increasingly offering titles that are inimical to the best interests of the Bahá'í Faith.
[National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of the United States]
Letter from the National Spiritual Assembly to an individual, January 2006January 30, 2006
Dear Bahá'í Friend,
The National Spiritual Assembly has received your email messages of December 31, 2005 and January 10, 2006 and appreciates the concerns you have shared in response to its decision to cease to distribute books and other materials published, produced or marketed by Kalimát Press. First, we wish to assure you that the National Assembly has no issues with your titles ___. As you state, the manuscripts for these books were properly submitted to the National Assembly for literature review and subsequently passed.
Our decision to cease to distribute books and other items handled by Kalimát Press was reached, as indicated in our December 29, 2005 letter to all Local Spiritual Assemblies, not so much because of any specific titles but rather in light of the pattern and motives of Kalimát Press in promoting books over the years that include material that is harmful to the interests of the Bahá'í Faith. You have, in your own letter, given a good assessment of the problems inherent in such action. However, continued support of Kalimát Press under these circumstances, through distribution of its products, would be illogical and contradictory to the principles and purposes of a Bahá'í institution.
Regarding your suggestion that the National Assembly identify for the friends those titles that it finds inimical to the interests of the Faith, we are sure you will appreciate upon reflection that we are not interested in creating a list of banned books. As to the distribution of those titles of which the Assembly approves, this has been the approach for a number of years and has only emboldened and enabled Kalimát Press to carry more harmful titles. Individuals are entirely free to purchase any books and other items they choose through Kalimát Press or any other publisher or distributor. The National Assembly has simply taken the step of terminating institutional support of a company that has for many years exhibited a disregard for the repeated guidance and admonishments of Bahá'í institutions to disengage itself from affiliation with and promotion of material that harms the Faith to which it professes allegiance.
The National Assembly appreciates the seriousness of its decision and assures you that it was not taken precipitously. We regret the distress this action has caused you and your family, but we are confident that the steps you have already initiated to ameliorate this immediate challenge and your steadfast allegiance to the institutions of the Faith will in the end provide resolution and attract the confirmations of the Blessed Beauty.
You and your family are lovingly remembered in our prayers. May your every devoted endeavor on behalf of the glorious Cause of the Blessed Beauty be divinely assisted and abundantly confirmed.
[National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of the United States]
Letter from an individual to the Universal House of Justice, May 2006May 21th, 2006
Dear friends of the Universal House of Justice,
I have learned with shock and dismay about the expulsion of scholar Sen McGlinn, from Leiden, in the Netherlands, and about the boycott of Kalimat Press on the part of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States of America. [Note: McGlinn's name retained with permission; the complete, unedited letter is on McGlinn's own website. (-J.W., 2014)]
I am writing to you as the supreme authority of the Bahá’í Faith, in the hope that you might reconsider your decision, and induce the NSA of the United States to reverse theirs.
Both decisions involve the status and image of devoted believers and outstanding scholars who have dedicated their lives to studying and spreading the Bahá’í message. Both appear utterly at variance with the principle of independent search for truth, which was established by the Manifestation of God for this age, and with the Sacred Writings’ repeated urge to strive for excellence in learning as in all other human endeavours. Both have caused much suffering among sincere believers and may result in damage being done to the Cause of Bahá’u’lláh.
As was the case with the expulsions of ___ and ___, the motives for the disenrollment of Mr. McGlinn or the boycott of Kalimat Press were not clearly stated, either to the people involved or to their fellow believers. While, in conscience, I cannot abstain from again calling your attention to the fact that such fogginess raises serious issues of injustice, it is not with due process – or the lack thereof – that I am concerned with here.
What seriously worries me is the rather narrow conception of intellectual freedom in general, and scholarly research in particular, that Bahá í authorities have foisted upon Bahá’í men and women of learning.
That attitude is evidenced in a document issued on your behalf by the Department of the Secretariat on November 14 2005, and subsequently disseminated onto the Internet and onto official Bahá’í Bulletins such as Note Bahá’í in Italy. That paper does not mention Mr. McGlinn explicitly, but makes it easy to recognize him by quoting, out of their proper context, some sentences from the Foreword to his new book Church and State, self published in the Netherlands and distributed in the USA by Kalimat Press.
[lengthy discussion of Mr. McGlinn omitted]
Now, this leads to my second concern: the boycott against US-based publishing house Kalimat Press.
In October 2005 the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States instructed all Local Spiritual Assemblies and Bahá’í booksellers to gradually cease from keeping and selling titles handled by Kalimát Press. The NSA stated that some of its books “aside from those which have enriched Bahá’í literature over the years, contain matter inimical to the best interests of our Faith” and that “it is highly inappropriate for Bahá’í institutions, which are obligated to safeguard such interests, to provide channels of distribution for publishers promoting such titles”.
Further explanation was sought for by Kalimat Press itself and by some concerned Bahá’í’ authors. The NSA declined to go into any detail as to what the “inimical” works were, explaining they had no wish to draw a list of forbidden books.
Now, while one is relieved to hear that the Bahá’í Faith is not going to have an Index Librorum Prohibitorum such as established by the Catholic Inquisition, one cannot help wondering what the inimical titles may be, and why.
Since all the books published by Kalimat Press have passed Bahá’í Review, one must infer that the problems lie with the titles that Kalimat distributes. Among them one can’t avoid to single out Mr. McGlinn’s Church and State, professor Juan Cole’s Modernity and the Millennium, Dr. William Garlington’s The Bahá’í Faith in America: three outstanding, stimulating works that happen to apply, from different perspectives, the methods of contemporary western scholarship to the study of the Bahá’í Faith.
All three appear in Kalimat Press’ series “Studies in the Bábí and Bahá’í religions”, that has significantly raised the standards of Bahá’í scholarship, and made Bahá’í studies an acceptable subject in academic circles worldwide. This in itself is no small accomplishment, and one our Beloved Guardian would have no doubt appreciated. Labelling any of these books “inimical to the best interests of the Faith” might not only result in damaging the cultural standards of the community as a whole; it might also put at risk the teaching of the message of the Blessed Beauty to prominent and well-educated people.
Shoghi Effendi was adamant that it was our duty as Bahá’ís to contact men and women of learning, distinction and responsibility:
“The more people of capacity who accept the Faith, the higher will become the standard of the entire group. (17 June 1942, written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi)Particular care was to be used when addressing the learned, present and future:
“As to teaching work in colleges and universities, this is very important, for students as a whole are open-minded and little influenced by tradition. They would easily enter the Cause if the subject is properly presented and their intellect and sentiments properly satisfied. This, however, should be attempted only by persons who have had university training and are therefore acquainted with the mind of the intelligent and educated youth”. (3 February 1932 written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, published in “Bahá’í News” 64 (July 1932), p. 4)Today, just as in the times of the Guardian, we need books such as those that Kalimat Press has published over the years: thoroughly scholarly, commendable works, stimulating for the mind and soul. It is a solace to peruse challenging works on the Bahá’í Faith that can – without embarrassment – be brought to the attention of learned and demanding readers. It is these readers that we need to attract “to raise the standard of the entire group”. The very same readers whose support and sympathy we are now risking to alienate.
The boycott of Kalimat Press will not go unnoticed in the academic circles of the United States. Nor will the expulsion of Sen McGlinn go unnoticed at Leiden University, where he works and where he’ll soon be busy researching his Ph.D. dissertation. Middle East Studies is a relatively small field. Academic worlds interconnect, and news spreads fast.
I wonder what the former Italian students of Professor Alessandro Bausani, now tenured professors themselves at the Universities of Rome or Naples, will have to say about those two cases, especially as they are currently being asked to petition the Italian Government in support of the right to higher education of Iranian Bahá’ís.
As an Italian Bahá’í, I find it depressing to think that the precious work of our open-minded, enlightened and devoted community, that has a leading role in many progressive activities (including inter-faith dialogue, development of integration policies for destitute immigrants, and of academic programmes for the enhancement of business ethics) should be put in jeopardy by the expulsion of an honest, devout scholar in the Netherlands, or by the boycott of a distinguished independent publishing house.
Since I am a professional journalist, I have sometimes been called to lend a hand in PR work in favour of our beleaguered sisters and brothers in Iran. It is my duty to warn the Universal House of Justice, may God enlighten and protect it, that academics, politicians and prominent journalists in Italy are unlikely to give their heartfelt support to an organization that expels scholars for doing (or publishing) scholarly research.
For all the above reasons, I beseech you to reconsider your decision to expel Dr McGlinn. Please, give him back the place in the Bahá’í community that is the right of “a receptive soul who hath in this Day inhaled the fragrance of His garment and hath, with a pure heart, set his face towards the all-glorious Horizon”. Please, encourage the Bahá’ís around the world to benefit from reading, engaging, confronting his deep and honest intellectual efforts, as well as those of Kalimat Press, its owners, directors, and authors. Please, consult with the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States and urge them to remove the ban on Kalimat Press that risks strangling a meritorious publishing house.
Response from the Universal House of Justice to the above letter, June 2006
(see last three paragraphs) 12 June 2006
Transmitted by email
Dear Bahá’í Friend,
The Universal House of Justice has received your email letter dated 21 May 2006, and we have been asked to convey the following in response.
Your inquiry about the decision concerning the Bahá’í membership of Mr. Sen McGlinn contains quotations on a number of topics, such as the importance of knowledge and the role of learned individuals in this dispensation. [Note: McGlinn's name retained with permission; letter first posted on his own website. (-J.W., 2014)]
The House of Justice feels that the objections you raise could be resolved if you were to conduct an equally thorough review of the complementary statements in the Writings that shed light on the process of the acquisition and use of knowledge, admonish the learned, and set out the provisions of the Covenant that safeguard the integrity of the Faith.
Every individual has the right to hold and express personal views. This does not mean, however, that whatever is said is consistent with the Bahá’í Teachings. Bahá’u’lláh has established the criteria for understanding and practicing His Faith, and no one who professes to be a Bahá’í can systematically propagate personal interpretations that violate these criteria.
An individual who insists upon a personal view in an effort to change the essential character of the Faith places himself outside the circle of Bahá’í belief. Concerns with Mr. McGlinn’s actions have nothing to do with his treatment of topics such as church and state; yet, the extent that he uses these themes as a vehicle to justify and broaden his presumed authority to "criticize, clarify, purify and strengthen the ideas of the Bahá’í community" cannot be ignored.
You have also inquired about the decision of the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States not to market the books of Kalimát Press through Bahá’í agencies in that country.
Individuals and institutions have not been prevented from purchasing Kalimát’s books or from keeping them in their libraries. Rather, the National Assembly has simply decided that Bahá’í agencies will not sell them.
The use of the word "boycott" in this connection misrepresents the action taken by the National Assembly. The general policy in this regard, well known to Bahá’í institutions and publishers of Bahá’í books, is that even after a text is reviewed, publishers do not have the right to expect that a National Spiritual Assembly, through its Publishing Trust or any other agency, will stock, promote or advertise the publication or offer it for sale.
Department of the Secretariat
Open letter from independent publisher Special Ideas, June 2006Contemplating a World without Kalimat [mirrored from bahaisonline.net]
Written by Justice St. Rain
Saturday, 03 June 2006
As Special Ideas celebrates its 25th anniversary, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the pioneers of independent Bahá’í Publishing at Kalimat Press, who took the heat, took the risk, and made the sacrifices so that I — and all of you other artists, writers and musicians out there — could express ourselves freely without being told that we couldn’t or shouldn’t.
When I became a Bahá’í in 1974, there was one publisher of Bahá’í materials in the United States. One. Sure, there was George Ronald Publishing in England, but everyone knew that it was owned by a member of the Universal House of Justice, and had been started at the recommendation of Shoghi Effendi, so it was almost as official as the Publishing Trust. The idea of an individual just deciding to start publishing an entire line of Bahá’í-oriented materials was almost unthinkable. Then something amazing happened.
I was working at the Bahá’í Publishing Trust when I first heard about Kalimat Press. The children’s book The Gift had been out of print for several years, and we were struggling to finish up The Secret in the Garden when suddenly, along came — not one, not two, but FIVE new full-color children’s books priced at only $2.50 each. You remember The Black Rose, The Unfriendly Governor and The Scottish Visitor, don’t you? Chances are you either read some of these to your children, or had them read to you as a child.
Later, when Kalimat produced a line of Bahá’í greeting cards, the Trust scrambled to copy them with a line of their own. Kalimat was setting trends, raising the bar, and shaking things up. By the end of my first year at the Publishing Trust, I looked at what Kalimat Press was doing, and looked at what I was doing at the Trust, and realized that I could probably accomplish a lot more by following Kalimat’s lead and striking out on my own. I gave notice and started working on my own line of Race Unity materials. (Do you remember the “United Doves” campaign?)
This is something I never could have seen myself doing if I hadn’t seen someone else do it before me. That might sound silly now, but you have to remember our mindset back then. We thought printing Bahá’í books was kind of like running the phone company. Only one company had permission to do it. The rest of us had to sit back and hope that they would print what we wanted to read. Once one person shattered that expectation, doors opened for all of us. I could not have been that person. Could you have been?
Even with Kalimat’s example, it wasn’t easy. I was actively discouraged from starting my business, and for the first ten years, I was asked “is this legal?” at every conference I attended. It took about fifteen years before I could support a family on the income. But the ability to use my talents in service to the Cause has made every minute of the struggle worthwhile. Watching others follow in my footsteps is even more inspiring.
With Kalimat Press blazing a trail for publishers, and Special Ideas and Images International creating teaching materials and providing alternative distribution outlets, the last 25 years has brought an explosion of independent Bahá’í Publishing. Instead of one or two prominent Bahá’í authors being given an avenue for sharing their ideas in print, scores of authors, artists, musicians, software designers and movie makers find an outlet for their creative expression through independently produced and distributed materials. Chances are that someone you know has produced something that has been distributed outside of your local community. This is not just a matter of new technology. It is the result of a new way of thinking about Bahá’í Publishing that — believe me — didn’t exist 30 years ago.
Do you have any idea of the impact that independent publishers are having on the Faith? Go look on your bookshelf. Look at the spines of your books. How many of them have a K, a GR, a One World, or even a Special Ideas? If it isn’t Sacred Text (and even if it is) the odds are ten-to-one that it was published by an independent publisher! Ruhi books? That’s right, independent publisher. In fact, every book in this catalog is produced independently! With teaching materials, the percentages are even higher. Special Ideas, Stonehaven Press, the Dallas LSA, Warwick England, these independent publishers produce the majority of the pamphlets available. Perhaps that’s because we are willing to sell them at prices close to what they were back in 1981! Need an 80¢ prayer book? You wouldn’t have them without independent publishers offering low-cost alternatives. Then there are stickers, teaching cards, T-shirts, buttons, balloons, jewelry and music. These are almost exclusively produced independently. Imagine your next teaching event without them.
What would Bahá’í Community life look like without these materials?
Specifically, what would the Bahá’í Community look like if Tony Lee at Kalimat Press had not had the courage, vision and perseverance to blaze a trail for the rest of us to follow? If it has been difficult for me, I know it has been even more difficult for them.
In the last twenty-five years, Kalimat Press has continued to serve the community through the publication of scores of books, including scholarly works, compilations, prayer books, children’s books, poetry, historical works, diaries, memoirs, and more. The Bahá’í Community is a better place as a result of their work.
Recently, there has been some confusion over a National Spiritual Assembly decision concerning Kalimat Press materials. While I don’t claim to understand the reasoning behind its decision, I can, I hope, dismiss some of the rumors that have been circulating in response to it.
First, and most important, this was a decision to discontinue distributing materials through official administrative channels. Individuals are still free to purchase and read whatever they like.
I have been told in writing that I am free to sell any and all of Kalimat’s books; that individuals are free to purchase them; and that there are no specific books that have been banned or labeled inappropriate for distribution.
Furthermore, every book Kalimat publishes has been approved for publication by the Review Office of the National Spiritual Assembly [of the Bahá'ís of the United States]. The Review Office would have halted the publication of any book it considered inaccurate, undignified or untimely.
The rumors that one of their books is written by a covenant breaker, that a book puts Bahá’ís in Iran in danger, that a book was published over the objections of the National Assembly, or that Kalimat Press disobeyed any specific directives of the National Assembly are all false. Period. Whatever specific reasons the National Assembly has for making its decision has not been communicated to Kalimat Press or to me. So I suggest that we stop making guesses about what we don’t know and start focusing on what we do know: Namely, that Kalimat Press has served the Community faithfully for a long, long time, and they deserve our gratitude and support. If you like Prayers of Ecstasy, The Diary of Juliet Thompson, The Scottish Visitor, or any one of their other wonderful publications, and would like to see more of the same in the future, then now would be a good time to say “thank you” with a purchase of a Kalimat Press book. Since you can’t get them from the BDS anymore, we will be carrying their complete line. If you don’t see it in this catalog, check on-line or give us a call. We are still getting stock in.
[see an interview with St. Rain (offsite)]
Open letter from the United Kingdom National Spiritual Assembly, July 2006
(published in the UK Bahá'í News Service) National Spiritual Assembly [UK]
23 July 2006
Dearly loved Friends
The National Spiritual Assembly has taken the decision that Bahá'í Books UK and its agents will cease to distribute books and other items marketed by Kalimat Press with immediate effect.
The National Assembly's decision was reached as a result of increasing concern in recent years that a number of titles published by Kalimat Press, aside from those which have enriched Bahá'í literature over the years, contain matter inimical to the best interests of the Faith. The National Assembly believes that it would therefore be inappropriate for it, as the institution obligated to safeguard such interests in the United Kingdom, to provide channels of distribution for such material.
Bahá'í Books UK and its agents may continue, however, to sell whatever Kalimat titles remain in stock until their inventories are depleted. Further, individuals are free to decide to purchase books from other suppliers.
National Spiritual Assembly
Letter from the Universal House of Justice to an individual, 200624 November 2006
Dear Bahá’í Friend,
Your email letter dated 9 September 2006 has reached the Bahá’í World Centre and the Universal House of Justice has asked us to convey the following reply.
As you are an author directly affected by the recent action of the National Spiritual Assembly regarding material marketed by Kalimát Press, your concern is well appreciated.
The copy you sent to the House of Justice of your email letter addressed to ___ dated 2 November 2006 indicates that you have reconciled yourself to that decision, which was actually initiated by the National Spiritual Assembly itself; and the House of Justice has taken cognizance of your expression therein of loyalty and obedience. Even so, it feels that the main questions you have raised deserve an explanatory response. The reason the National Assembly gave you for having “taken the step of terminating institutional support” of Kalimát Press, as quoted in your letter, succinctly states the case. ... The House of Justice understands that the National Assembly felt there was no choice but to opt for the action it took. Finding that the National Assembly is justified in the conclusion it has reached, the House of Justice upholds its decision in the matter.
Clearly, then, this is not just about a few titles. In reality, nothing has been done against any specific title or author. Bahá’ís are free to purchase and read any titles they choose, whether by Bahá’í or other authors. Kalimát Press’s books are readily available directly from its address or from other distributors. The National Assembly, having no obligation to distribute the books of independent publishers, and disagreeing with Kalimát’s agenda, has simply decided that its agencies will not carry the books of that publisher. You express concern that the Assembly’s action may be used by those who wish to disparage the Faith. The House of Justice is of the opinion that this can be done only if the facts of the matter are distorted.
It is very much to be regretted that well-meaning writers like yourself are caught up in this situation, and the House of Justice sympathizes with you. In your case, the featuring of your work on Alain Locke in a recent issue of World Order, a periodical sponsored by the National Spiritual Assembly, should indicate to you that your contribution to Bahá’í literature is highly regarded. The predicament in which Kalimát’s behavior has put you and other authors of the good books it publishes will no doubt be overcome with the passage of time. You have only to be wisely patient until it becomes clear what course of action you may follow.
The House of Justice appreciates the spirit in which you wrote to it and will remember you and your family in its supplications at the Holy Threshold.
Department of the Secretariat
cc: National Assembly of the United States
Letter from the Universal House of Justice to Kalimat, 200626 November 2006
Dear Bahá’í Friend,
Your email letter dated 5 September 2006 has reached the Universal House of Justice, which has asked us to reply as follows. The letter indicates that you have written out of a desire to resolve the difficulty for Kalimát Press arising from the recent decision of your National Spiritual Assembly that Bahá’í agencies in the United States are no longer to distribute books published or handled by the company. Your stated purpose for writing is to find a way “to restore good relations” with national communities whose National Assemblies have taken a similar decision.
The House of Justice sees that at the core of the National Assembly’s action is its concern that you have for many years pursued an ideological agenda which is at variance with the spirit and interests of the Bahá’í Faith; and Kalimát Press has been used as an instrument in its promotion. Bahá’í institutions have attempted in various ways to apprise you of this concern, but to no avail. The House of Justice understands that the National Assembly felt there was no choice but to opt for the action it took. It has not imposed administrative sanctions on you.
You are well aware that it has not banned books. Bahá’ís are, of course, free, as are their fellow citizens, to acquire books as they wish from sources available to them within or outside the Bahá’í community. Nor is the question of prepublication review at issue here. The Assembly has simply concluded that, as agencies in its jurisdiction are under no obligation to distribute books other than those published by Bahá’í institutions, it is inappropriate that they should be the retailers of material from Kalimát Press and thus aid your agenda. The House of Justice finds that the National Assembly is justified in reaching this conclusion and upholds its decision in the matter.
In our letter of 3 August 1999 addressed to you on behalf of the House of Justice, relevant issues were discussed lovingly, openly and amply, but you have until now disregarded the counsel it conveyed; and you have done so even when you were subsequently reminded of the importance of the letter’s contents. You are urged once again to consider the advice you have already received.
You may be assured that the House of Justice will supplicate on your behalf at the Holy Threshold.
Department of the Secretariat
cc: National Assembly of the United States
Letter from the National Spiritual Assembly to Kalimat, 2008June 10, 2008
Dear Bahá'í Friend,
The National Spiritual Assembly received your email message of March 20, 2008, inquiring as to how Kalimát Press might go about reestablishing its business relationship with the Bahá'í Distribution Service and with other agencies of this institution. Please pardon the delay in our response, owing to the high volume of work at the National Center, which in recent months has included preparations for the 100th Bahá'í National Convention.
You have received several letters from the National Assembly and the Universal House of Justice which explain the reason for our decision in December 2005 that national and local Bahá'í agencies cease to distribute books and other items marketed by Kalimát Press. As the Supreme Body has written in its letter to you dated November 26, 2006, "you have for many years pursued an ideological agenda which is at variance with the spirit and interests of the Bahá'í Faith; and Kalimát Press has been used as an instrument in its promotion. Bahá'í institutions have attempted in various ways to apprise you of this concern, but to no avail." In spite of the ample guidance lovingly provided over the years, the National Assembly has not observed from the tone and content of your communications that you have taken to heart the counsels received thus far and that you sincerely desire to rectify the problems identified by the Faith's institutions.
The National Assembly would be interested to learn your thoughts on this matter. However, until it sees that you have understood the spirit of the concerns already expressed and demonstrate a genuine aspiration to change accordingly, the National Assembly cannot expect your future activities to differ from those of the past, and will thus have no cause to consider reestablishing its business relationship with Kalimát Press.
Please be assured of our ardent prayers in the luminous Mashriqu'l-Adhkár that the Blessed Beauty may bestow upon you His wisdom and protection.
National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of the United States
Letter from the Universal House of Justice to an individual, 2015May 2015
Dear Bahá'í Friend,
Your letter dated 10 December 2014 seeking clarification regarding Kalimat Press was received by the Universal House of Justice and forwarded to our department for response. As a result of concerns that Kalimat Press was pursuing a particular editorial agenda, offering certain titles that were not in keeping with the best interests of the Faith, in 2005 the National Spiritual Assemblies of the United States and Canada asked Local Spiritual Assemblies to no longer distribute its publications. Individuals are free, of course, to decide to purchase books from any publisher.
For Department of the Secretariat