Homosexuality in Uganda, Non-involvement of Bahá'ís in repression of
by / on behalf of Universal House of Justice2010-12-22
Background: I [B. Poirier] read on the Internet that a law banning homosexuality was being debated in Uganda, a law which would impose imprisonment and even the death sentence for homosexual acts. Some religious groups were in support of this legislation, and according to the report on the Internet, the Bahá'í community sent a representative to an anti-homosexual gathering. At this gathering there were signs with hateful slogans and heinous depictions of death and dismemberment of homosexuals. The Bahá'ís of Uganda were portrayed as being fully in support of this, including support for the death penalty for homosexual acts. Reportedly, so the story went, the Universal House of Justice sent a Continental Counsellor to educate the Ugandan Bahá'ís. I wrote to the Universal House of Justice to ask for the truth of the matter. The response was as follows. [-B.P.]
DEPARTMENT OF THE SECRETARIAT
22 December 2010
Transmitted by email
Mr. Brent Poirier, U.S.A.
Dear Bahá'í Friend,
Your email letters of 3 November 2010, with queries regarding an Internet blog posting about the involvement of Bahá'ís in the Ugandan government's response to homosexuality and regarding Shoghi Effendi’s notes about the subject of homosexuality in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, have been received by the Universal House of Justice, which has asked us to convey the following.
With respect to the incident to which you refer, media reports incorrectly associated the Bahá'ís of Uganda with certain activities directed against homosexuals in that country. In 2007 an interfaith association consisting largely of Christian denominations began to take an active role in opposition to homosexuality in Uganda. In a single incident, a Bahá'í representative to the association was unwittingly drawn into this controversy; this involved providing an explanation of the Bahá'í teachings on homosexuality. The National Spiritual Assembly of Uganda took immediate action, and the Bahá'í community subsequently has had no part in such matters.
The story from the Web site that you have quoted asserts that the Bahá'í administrative order in Uganda fell into line and added its voice in support of the proposed death sentence for homosexual individuals. This is absolutely false. With regard to the idea that the House of Justice dispatched a Counsellor to Uganda to educate the community, this is also not accurate. There is, however, a resident Counsellor in Uganda who helped to resolve initial misunderstandings at the time.
Regarding the comments of ..., her understanding of the nature of the letters written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi is incorrect. In a postscript to a letter dated 7 December 1930, written on his behalf to an individual believer, Shoghi Effendi described the normal procedure he followed in dealing with correspondence written on his behalf:
I wish to add and say that whatever letters are sent in my behalf from Haifa are all read and approved by me before mailing. There is no exception whatever to this rule.Further clarification regarding the authoritative nature of letters written on the Guardian’s behalf was provided in a letter dated 25 February 1951 written on his behalf to a National Spiritual Assembly:
Although the secretaries of the Guardian convey his thoughts and instructions and these messages are authoritative, their words are in no sense the same as his, their style certainly not the same, and their authority less, for they use their own terms and not his exact words in conveying his messages. (25 February 1951 to the National Spiritual Assembly of the British Isles)The Research Department at the Bahá'í World Centre has confirmed that the Guardian’s manuscript notes for the Codification of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, which includes in the list of prohibitions the word "homosexuality", are in his own handwriting in English. Furthermore, Shoghi Effendi’s handwritten notes in Persian clearly cross-referenced this entry to the specific term in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas concerning "the subject of boys" (Ḥukm-i-Ghilmán).
Department of the Secretariat