Covenant-Breakers, Encountering Online
by / on behalf of Universal House of Justice1997-11-18
1. Question to the Universal House of JusticeDear friend,
If you are one of the many Bahá'ís who like to teach over the internet, you may have already had the unpleasant experience of being confronted by a Covenant-breaker... When confronted by a Covenant-breaker, what is the appropriate course of action to take?
As Bahá'ís, we are told to be obedient to the teachings, and Abdu'l-Bahá, in his "Will and Testament" equated shunning Covenant-breakers to one of the greatest laws of God. He went on to say that we must shun them entirely. From this perspective, it would appear that leaving that situation is our only recourse.
However, from personal experience, I know many Bahá'ís are loathe to leave a group of seekers with a Covenant-breaker present. It is their belief that to leave a virtual space just because of the presence of a Covenant-breaker would be similar to abandoning a Bahá'í Center just because a Covenant-breaker entered the door. Of course, were this ever to happen, we could easily expel the rascal, but that just isn't possible when engaged in online conversations due to the policies of various servers who do not wish to restrict conversation to anyone, provided they fall within certain criteria set forth by the servers' Terms of Service...
2. Response from the Universal House of Justice27 October 1997
Dear Bahá'í friend,
Your letter dated 4 July 1997 concerning the situation in ... and occasions of Covenant-breakers' participating on America Online was passed by Mr. ... to the Universal House of Justice, which has considered the situation described. We are to reply as follows.
The House of Justice feels that, when Bahá'ís are teaching in an online "chat room" and Covenant-breakers intrude upon the discussion, the friends should not feel obliged to sign off simply because Covenant-breakers are present in this virtual space. They should, however, refrain from knowingly engaging the Covenant-breakers in discussions and, in any case, should avoid being drawn into contentious or disputatious situations.
For Department of the Secretariat