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Abstract:
Three short letters concerning Baha'i participation in Alcoholics Anonymous.
Notes:
Transmitted by email. Compiled by the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of Alaska on behalf of the Universal House of Justice.

Alcoholics Anonymous

by / on behalf of Universal House of Justice

1987-11-09
Dear Bahá'í Friend,

In response to your letter of 28 July 1987, we have been asked by the Universal House of Justice to quote below for your benefit from letters written on its behalf concerning Alcoholics Anonymous.

The malign effects of the widespread use of alcoholic beverages upon almost every society in the world cannot but confirm every Bahá'í in the wisdom of Bahá'u'lláh in banning its use, thereby shielding faithful believers from a legion of difficulties . . .

The Bahá'í community should feel free to call upon such agencies as Alcoholics Anonymous for assistance and upon public agencies who work with the problem, but must realize that the greatest healing of this social and individual disease is God's Cause which in its fulness will eliminate the causes of alcoholism . . .
(From letter to a National Assembly dated 8 August 1979)

The Universal House of Justice . . . has instructed us to say that there is no objection to Bahá'ís being members of Alcoholics Anonymous, which is an association that does a great deal of good in assisting alcoholics to overcome their lamentable condition. The sharing of experiences which the members undertake does not conflict with the Bahá'í prohibition on the confession of sins; it is more in the nature of the therapeutic relationship between a patient and a psychiatrist.
(From letter to an individual believer dated 26 August 1986)

4 June 1987

Dear Bahá'í Friends: Your memo of 28 May enclosing ...'s letter concerning confession has been received. There does not appear to be any conflict between Step 5 of the Alcoholics Anonymous program and the Bahá'í teachings concerning confession.
(From letter to a Local Spiritual Assembly, 4 June 1987)

The references within the Faith to prohibition of confession pertain to either public confession as a part of religious rites or to private confession to seek absolution from sins. A letter written on behalf of the Guardian states,
" . . .. If we spontaneously desire to acknowledge we have been wrong in something, or that we have some fault of character, and ask another person's forgiveness or pardon, we are quite free to do so."

The attached quotation from the compilation on consultation appears to be relevant. It is concerned with solving personal problems, and the final paragraph deals with discussing a problem with the intent of finding a solution. The Alcoholics Anonymous program seems clearly to be concerned with the solution of the problem as opposed to public confession or confession to seek absolution of sin.

If this does not provide a sufficient answer to ...'s question, please don't hesitate to let us know.

"Your letter of 14 February 1973 enquiring about the uses of Bahá'í consultation has been received.

"This is, of course, a matter in which rigidity should be avoided.

"When a believer has a problem concerning which he must make a decision, he has several courses open to him. If it is a matter that affects the interests of the Faith he should consult with the appropriate Assembly or committee, but individuals have many problems which are purely personal and there is no obligation upon them to take such problems to the institution of the Faith; indeed, when the needs of the teaching work are of such urgency it is better if the friends will not burden their Assemblies with personal problems that they can solve by themselves.

"A Bahá'í who has a problem may wish to make his own decision upon it after prayer and after weighing all the aspects of it in his own mind; he may prefer to seek the counsel of individual friends or of professional counsellors such as his doctor or lawyer so that he can consider such advice when making his decision; or in a case where several people are involved, such as a family situation, he may want to gather together those who are affected so that they may arrive at a collective decision. There is also no objection whatever to Bahá'í's asking a group of people to consult together on a problem facing him.

"It should be borne in mind that all consultation is aimed at arriving at a solution to a problem and is quite different from the sort of group baring of the soul that is popular in some circles these days and which borders on the kind of confession that is forbidden in the Faith. On the subject of confession the Guardian's secretary wrote on his behalf to an individual believer: "We are forbidden to confess to any persons, as do the Catholics to their priests, our sins and shortcomings, or to do so in public, as some religious sects do. However, if we spontaneously desire to acknowledge we have been wrong in something, or that we have some fault of character, and ask another person's forgiveness or pardon, we are quite free to do so. The Guardian wants to point out, however, that we are not obliged to do so. It rests entirely with the individual.'"
(From a letter dated March 19, 1973 to a National Spiritual Assembly

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