Schools owned by Bahá'ís and "Bahá'í schools"
by / on behalf of Universal House of Justice1994-03-30
Department of the Secretariat
Dear Bahá'í Friend,
The Universal House of Justice has received your fax of 7 February 1994 and instructed us to convey to you the following on its behalf.
The Universal House of Justice does not know of any text indicating that all Bahá'í educational facilities are to be owned by the institutions of the Faith. Presently, schools connected with the Faith fall into three categories: those that are administered by the institutions, those that are privately owned and operated by individuals, and those that are owned and directed by Bahá'í- inspired non-profit organizations. In the case of the latter two, the word "Bahá'í" does not appear in the name of the school.
As a national community grows, the activities undertaken by its members also increase in number and diversity. Some of these activities will be initiated and administered by Bahá'í institutions. Others will fall in the realm of private initiative. When an initiative is in the form of a private business venture undertaken by an individual or group, the institutions of the Faith have little reason to interfere with its daily affairs. In general, only if difficulties arise among the friends involved in such an enterprise, if their activities could damage the good name of the Faith, or if they misrepresent their relationship to the Faith, would a Local or National Spiritual Assembly intervene. Bahá'í institutions should, of course, welcome any effort by such private ventures to apply the Teachings to their operations and to use their position in society to further the interests of the Faith. Spiritual Assemblies would do well to offer them guidance, as requested or as circumstances require, and to help them develop their potential for the advancement of the Cause. A privately owned school would, naturally, enjoy a more intimate relationship with the institutions than would most other private enterprises, since the education of children and youth is a fundamental concern of the Faith.
The private initiatives of believers need not, however, be limited to business ventures. The laws of most societies allow for the establishment of non-profit organizations which, while private, are subject to special regulations and enjoy certain privileges. Customarily a board of trustees is responsible for all the affairs of such an organization and must ensure that its income is spent for the purpose stipulated in its by-laws. This board also oversees the functioning of the projects of the organization and the work of those who are in charge of them. An increasing number of believers around the world are taking advantage of this possibility and creating organizations dedicated to the application of Bahá'u'lláh's Teachings to the analysis and resolution of important social and economic issues. The House of Justice looks with keen interest on this growing phenomenon in the Bahá'í world. It only cautions the friends that in establishing such organizations they should exercise care not to become a burden on the institutions or unduly divert the contributions of the believers from the essential and primary tasks of supporting the Funds of the Faith and the activities of the institutions. It also expects them to conduct their affairs according to Bahá'í moral and ethical principles.
A question that often arises in relation to private organizations dedicated to social and economic development is whether they are "Bahá'í" or not. Such a question cannot be answered by a simple "yes" or "no". Clearly, the fact that they have their own management structures puts them in a different category from projects and organizations administered by Bahá'í institutions. In that sense they are not "Bahá'í" enterprises. In another sense, to the extent that they are owned and directed by Bahá'ís and strive to apply the Teachings and serve the purposes of the Cause, they may indeed be regarded as "Bahá'í". It is important to avoid the impression that participating in the projects of these organizations does not constitute legitimate service to the Cause. Otherwise sincere and devoted believers will be discouraged from engaging in activities that are "Bahá'í" in nature.
It is hoped that these general comments will assist you in reaching a decision as to whether to pursue your aspiration to open a high school with a special focus on the performing arts. We are asked to assure you of the loving prayers of the Universal House of Justice in the Holy Shrines on behalf of you and your family.
With loving Bahá'í greetings,