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Abstract:
Guidance on a variety of topics useful to the consultation and decision making of Bahá'í administrative bodies and individuals: formation and functioning of Local Spiritual Assemblies...
Notes:
See also the supplements on Bahá'í Groups and on Domestic Violence.

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Developing Distinctive Bahá'í Communities:
Guidelines for Spiritual Assemblies

by National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of the United States

2001
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PREFACE XXXIII

PART ONE: THE INSTITUTION OF THE LOCAL SPIRITUAL ASSEMBLY
1 THE LOCAL SPIRITUAL ASSEMBLY 1.1
2 THE FORMATION OF THE ASSEMBLY 2.1
3 ORGANIZATION OF THE LOCAL SPIRITUAL ASSEMBLY 3.1
4 CONSULTATION 4.1
5 PROTECTION OF THE FAITH 5.1

PART TWO: COMMUNITY GROWTH AND DEVELOPMENT
6 COMMUNITY MEMBERSHIP 6.1
7 TEACHING AND CONSOLIDATION 7.1
8 THE DISTINCTIVE BAHA'I COMMUNITY 8.1
9 HOLY DAYS, THE NINETEEN DAY FEAST, AND SPECIAL EVENTS 9.1
10 THE BAHA'I FUNDS 10.1
11 BAHA'I EDUCATION 11.1
12 EXTERNAL AFFAIRS 12.1
13 SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT 13.1
14 PROPERTIES 14.1

PART THREE: APPLICATION OF BAHA'I LAW
15 APPLICATION OF BAHÁ'Í LAW 15.1
16 MARRIAGE 16.1
17 DIVORCE 17.1
18 BURIAL LAW, WILLS, LIFE AFTER DEATH 18.1
19 MISCELLANEOUS SUBJECTS 19.1
20 INDEX 20.1




-----------------------------------------

DEVELOPING DISTINCTIVE BAHA'I COMMUNITIES
GUIDELINES FOR SPIRITUAL ASSEMBLIES

Page ii

Office of Assembly Development, Evanston, Illinois 60201
Copyright (c) 1998 by the National Spiritual Assembly
of the Bahá'ís of the United States
All rights reserved. Published 1998
Printed in the United States of America
02 01 00 99 98 4 3 2 1
Cover design by Pepper Oldziey.




+iii

Table of Contents


PREFACE XXXIII

Part One
The Institution of the Local Spiritual Assembly




1) THE LOCAL SPIRITUAL ASSEMBLY 1.1


Spiritual Foundation 1.1

Ordained by God 1.1
The Uniqueness of the Administrative Order 1.1
Pattern for Future Society 1.2
Aided by the Spirit of God 1.2
Basic Administrative Unit of Bahá'u'lláh's World Order 1.3
Development of Local Spiritual Assemblies 1.3
Newly-born Institutions 1.3
Assembly Development Related to Entry by Troops 1.4
Salient Objectives 1.5


The Local Spiritual Assembly and the Bahá'í Community 1.5

Attitude of Assembly Members 1.5
The Relation of the Assembly with the Bahá'ís 1.7
The Relation of the Bahá'ís with the Assembly 1.9


The Local Spiritual Assembly and Its Relation to Other Institutions 1.12

The National Spiritual Assembly 1.12
Its Authority and Significance 1.12
Its Relation with Regional Bahá'í Councils 1.13
Its Relation with Local Spiritual Assemblies 1.14
Coordinating National and Local Interests 1.15
The Institution of the Learned 1.15
The Hands of the Cause of God 1.16
International Teaching Center 1.17
The Continental Boards of Counselors 1.18
The Auxiliary Board Members 1.19
Flexibility and Speed in Response 1.22
Support Maturation 1.22
Prop and Mainstay of National Spiritual Assembly 1.22
Free to Determine Manner of Support 1.22
Should not Divert Attention from Adopted Plans 1.23
The Assistants to the Auxiliary Board Members 1.23


Suggested Readings 1.25

The Covenant and the Administrative Order 1.25
The National Spiritual Assembly 1.25
The Local Spiritual Assembly 1.25


2) THE FORMATION OF THE ASSEMBLY 2.1


Forming the Assembly 2.1

Obligation to Form 2.1
Historical Perspective 2.1
Responsibility of Bahá'ís in the locality 2.2
Election Day: First Day of Ridván 2.2
Annual Meeting 2.2
Preparation for the Annual Meeting 2.3
Agenda 2.4
Annual Report 2.4
Reports of Committees 2.5
Incorporated Assemblies 2.6
Tellers 2.6


Election Process 2.6

The Spirit and Character of Bahá'í Elections 2.6
Qualifications for Membership 2.7
Physical Handicaps 2.9
Representation of Minorities 2.9
The Benefits of Electing New Members 2.9
Eligibility to Vote or Hold Office 2.10
Age 2.10
Members of the Institution of the Learned 2.10
Residency Requirements 2.10
Special Circumstances 2.12
Voting 2.13
Sacred Responsibility 2.13
Nine Votes Must Be Cast 2.14
Voting for Oneself 2.14
Voting Absentee 2.14
Tie Votes 2.15
Counting the Ballots 2.17
Invalid Ballots 2.17
Preservation of the Ballots 2.17
Election Results and Recognition 2.18
Electing Officers 2.18
Election with Less Than a Quorum 2.18
Resignation of Assembly Member 2.19
Election of a Believer Who Has Withdrawn 2.19
Reporting Election Information to the National Spiritual Assembly 2.19
Formation Report Form Not Received 2.20
Joint Declaration 2.20
Policy of the National Spiritual Assembly 2.21
Registration of a Bahá'í Group 2.22
By-Elections 2.22
Jeopardized Assemblies 2.23


Jurisdiction 2.24

A Bahá'í Locality 2.24
Bahá'í Boundaries Determined by Civil Boundaries 2.24
Annexed Areas 2.25
Area of Jurisdiction 2.25


Suggested Readings 2.26



3) ORGANIZATION OF THE LOCAL SPIRITUAL ASSEMBLY 3.1


Meaning of Organization 3.1

Meetings and Membership 3.1

Meetings 3.1
Convening the Assembly 3.1
How Often to Meet 3.1
Quorum 3.2
Emergency Committees 3.2
Temporary Administrative Committees 3.3
Smoking during Assembly Meetings 3.4
Election of Officers 3.5
Discussion of Duties 3.5
Electing Officers by Majority Vote 3.5
Reporting Inconclusive Ballots 3.6
Duties of Officers 3.6
Chair 3.6
Vice-Chair 3.7
Secretary 3.7
Treasurer 3.9
Dissatisfaction with Officers 3.10
Attendance 3.10
Importance of Regular Attendance 3.10
Refusal to Serve 3.11
Prolonged Absence 3.12
Resignation 3.13
Can Request Not to Be Appointed Officer 3.13
Removal from Assembly Membership 3.14


Duties and Goals 3.14

Duties of Assembly 3.14
Teaching Accorded Precedence 3.14
Win the Confidence and Affection of Those They Serve 3.15
Systematic Planning and Execution 3.17
Capitalize on the Talents of All Members 3.17
Delegation of Authority 3.18
Committees 3.19
Responsible to Assembly 3.19
Service of Children and Youth 3.19
Terms of Appointment 3.20
Election of Officers 3.20
Administrative Committees for Sub-Units of a City 3.20
Intercommunity Committees 3.21
Using Non-Bahá'í Experts/Agencies 3.21
Public Information Representatives and Committees 3.21


Assembly Communications 3.22

Record-Keeping 3.22
Records 3.22
Agenda 3.22
Reports 3.23
Minutes 3.23
Correspondence 3.24
Incoming Correspondence 3.24
Outgoing Correspondence 3.25
Privileged Communications 3.27
Archives 3.28
Maintaining the Archives 3.29
Retention of the Records 3.29
Maintaining the Library 3.30
Local Publications 3.30
Bulletins and Newsletters 3.30
Promotion of Private Businesses 3.31


Legal Basis 3.31

Incorporation 3.31
Steps of Incorporation 3.32
Maintaining Incorporation 3.33
Status of Incorporation if Assembly Cannot Re-Form 3.34
Insurance 3.34
The National Spiritual Assembly's General Liability Insurance Coverage 3.34
Who Is Covered? 3.34


Suggested Readings 3.35

APPENDIX A: PUBLIC INFORMATION REPRESENTATIVES AND COMMITTEES 3.36

Bahá'í Public Information Network 3.36

Annual Appointment 3.36

Responsibilities of the Public Information Representative 3.36

Qualifications and Knowledge 3.37

Communication with the Office of Public Information 3.37

APPENDIX B: GUIDELINES FOR THE DISPOSITION OF A SPIRITUAL ASSEMBLY'S RECORDS 3.38

APPENDIX C: THE NATIONAL SPIRITUAL ASSEMBLY'S GENERAL LIABILITY INSURANCE COVERAGE 3.39

Scope of Coverage 3.39

Public Liability 3.39
Limits of Public Liability 3.39
Exclusions 3.39


When to Obtain Additional Coverage 3.40

Accidents and Claims 3.41

Proof of Insurance and Certificates of Insurance 3.42

Certificates of Insurance from Vendors, Contractors, Etc. 3.43

APPENDIX D: UNIT CONVENTION 3.44

Purpose of Unit Convention 3.44

Unit Convention in the Administrative Order 3.44

Role and Responsibility of the National Spiritual Assembly and the Regional Bahá'í Councils in Unit Convention 3.45

Role and Responsibility of the Individual in Unit Convention 3.46

Youth and the Unit Convention 3.46

Suggested Readings 3.46



4) CONSULTATION 4.1


The Nature of Consultation 4.1

Source of Guidance and Understanding 4.1
Consultation in All Things 4.1
Consultation and the Divine Institutions 4.2
Conditions Necessary for Effective Consultation 4.2
Prime Requisites 4.2
Absolute Love and Harmony of Thought 4.2
Patience and Restraint 4.3
Prayerfully Seek Divine Assistance 4.3
If Necessary Conditions Are Not Present 4.3


The Process of Consultation 4.4

Investigation of Truth 4.4
The Role of Spiritual Principles 4.4
Elements of Consultative Discussion 4.4
Should Not Cause Conflict 4.5
Every Member Must Be Free to Express Own Opinion 4.5
Differing Opinions Is No Cause for Discouragement 4.6
Do Not Stubbornly Cling to Personal Opinions 4.6
The Promise of Divine Assistance 4.7
Uncompromising in Principle; Flexible in Procedure 4.7


Reaching a Decision 4.7

Additional Facts May Be Necessary 4.7
Ideal to Arrive at Unanimous Decision 4.7
No Dissenting Votes in the Cause 4.8
Abstaining Does Not Exist in Bahá'í Voting 4.8
A Motion Is Not Required 4.8


After a Decision Is Reached 4.8

Majority Decision Must Be Upheld 4.9
If Majority View Is Wrong 4.9
Reconsideration of a Decision 4.10
Appeal of a Decision 4.10


Consultation with Others 4.10

Fact-Gathering 4.10
Cooperating with the Assembly 4.11
May Assign Counseling to Individuals or Committees 4.12
Personal Consultation with Assembly Members 4.12
Assembly Cannot Require Member to Absent Himself 4.12
Member May Wish to Absent Himself 4.12
Non-Assembly Members in Attendance 4.12
Interpreter 4.14
Assembly Not Only Channel to Which Bahá'ís May Turn 4.14
Consultation Differs from Confession 4.14
Confidentiality 4.15
Members of Assemblies Who Are Also Assistants to Auxiliary Board Members 4.15


The Individual: Freedom of Expression and Criticism 4.16

Right of Individual to Self-Expression 4.16
Criticism 4.18
Offering Criticism 4.18
Negative Results of Excessive Criticism 4.18
Underlying Spirit of the Cause Must Be Preserved 4.19


Suggested Readings 4.21



5) PROTECTION OF THE FAITH 5.1


The Covenant 5.1

Power of the Covenant 5.1
The Greater and Lesser Covenants 5.1
Perpetuation of the Covenant 5.1
The Passing of Shoghi Effendi 5.2


Reviewing Bahá'í Literature and Materials 5.2

Purpose of Review 5.3
Role of the National Spiritual Assembly and Local Spiritual Assembly in Reviewing Publications 5.3
Reviewing Committees 5.4
Criteria for Review 5.4
Materials to Be Reviewed 5.4
Persian Language Materials 5.5
Written Materials 5.5
Approval of Work Approved Elsewhere 5.5
Bahá'í Authors 5.6
Translations 5.6
Bahá'í Publishers 5.7
Approval Notice 5.7
Editing 5.7
Cables 5.7
Music 5.8
Jewelry, Needlework, Painting, Etc. 5.8
Reverence in Relation to the Review Process 5.8
Portrayals of Holy Figures 5.8
Pictures, Portraits of 'Abdu'l-Bahá 5.9
Record and Film of 'Abdu'l-Bahá 5.9
Use of the Greatest Name 5.10
Trademarks 5.11
Copyrights 5.11
Sales and Distribution of Bahá'í Literature 5.12


Covenant-Breaking 5.12

The Meaning of Covenant-Breaking 5.12
The Nature of Covenant-Breaking 5.13
Response of the Believers to Covenant-Breaking 5.14
Meetings at Which Covenant-Breakers Are Present 5.14
Books Written by Covenant-Breakers and Enemies of the Cause 5.15
Mail from Covenant-Breakers 5.16
Covenant-Breakers on the Internet 5.16
Reporting Covenant-breaking Activities 5.16
The Auxiliary Boards for Protection 5.16


Opposition 5.17

Opposition...Natural and Inevitable Stage in the Unfoldment of the Faith 5.17
Opposition and the Plan of God 5.18
Sources of Opposition 5.19
The Forms Opposition Will Take 5.19
The Response of the Believers to Opposition 5.20
The Response of the Assemblies to Opposition 5.22
Triumph of the Cause of God 5.22


Suggested Readings 5.23

Quoting Passages from the Central Figures of the Faith 5.25
Using Musical and Artistic Works 5.25
Using Films, Filmstrips, or Other Visual Materials 5.25
Acknowledging the Author or Source 5.25
"Fair Use" 5.25
Obtaining Permission 5.26

Part Two
Community Growth and Development




6) COMMUNITY MEMBERSHIP 6.1


Three Conditions of Membership Status 6.1

Bahá'ís in Good Standing 6.1
Bahá'ís Deprived of Membership Rights 6.1
Expulsion for Covenant-Breaking 6.2


Declaration and Enrollment of New Believers 6.2

Declaration 6.3
Criteria for Acceptance 6.3
Enrollment 6.3
Recording the Enrollment 6.4
Special Enrollment Procedures 6.4
Southeast Asians 6.4
Iranian (Persian) Muslims and Other Muslims from the Middle East 6.4
Israelis 6.5
Mainland Chinese 6.6
Prisoners 6.7
Mentally Ill and Mentally Handicapped 6.7
Persons Whose Behavior Is Contrary to Bahá'í Law 6.8


Status of Children and Youth 6.10

Children of Non-Bahá'í Parents 6.10
Under 15 Years Old 6.10
15 to 21 Years Old 6.10
Children of Bahá'í Parents 6.11
Registration Cards for Children 6.11
Possible Circumstances for Not Registering Children 6.12
Registration and Declaration 6.12
Reaching the Age of Maturity...Fifteen 6.13
Registered Youth Contacted at Age Fifteen 6.14


Bahá'í Credentials 6.14

Checking Credentials 6.15
Transfer of Membership 6.15
Special Membership Transfer Procedures 6.16
Transfer of Southeast Asians 6.16
Transfer of Persians 6.16


Withdrawal from and Reinstatement of Membership 6.18

Handling Requests for Withdrawal 6.18
Meaning of Withdrawal 6.19
Criteria for Withdrawal 6.19
Inactivity Not a Basis for Removal from Membership 6.20
Withdrawing to Avoid Bahá'í Law 6.20
Reinstatement from Withdrawal 6.21


Community Membership 6.21

Register of Vital Statistics 6.21
Marriages, Births, Burials 6.21
Community Membership List 6.22
Suggestions for Verifying Addresses of Mail-Returns 6.23
Use of Bahá'í Directories and Membership Lists 6.23
Creation of Mailing Lists for Businesses 6.23
Destruction of Obsolete Lists 6.23
Sharing Community Lists with Other Communities 6.23


7) TEACHING AND CONSOLIDATION 7.1


Three Aspects of Teaching 7.1

Proclamation 7.1
Expansion 7.3
Consolidation 7.4
Balancing Expansion and Consolidation 7.7
No Proselytizing 7.8


The Nature of Teaching 7.9

Commandment of God 7.9
Divine Assistance 7.10


The Local Spiritual Assembly and Teaching 7.12

Teaching and the Individual Believer 7.12

The Obligation to Teach 7.13
Steps In the Process of Individual Teaching 7.13
The Role of the Individual 7.14
Counteracting Frustration of Slow Progress 7.15
Why Individuals Do Not Teach... What the Assembly Can Do 7.16


Teaching and the Local Community 7.18

The Family and Teaching 7.19
Youth and Teaching 7.20
Bahá'í Youth Service Corps 7.21
Creating a Teaching Plan 7.22
Suggested Goals for Local Spiritual Assemblies 7.23
Numerical Enrollment Goals 7.25
Extension Teaching 7.26
Need for Systematic Efforts 7.26


Teaching the Masses/Large Scale Growth 7.27

The Process of Teaching the Masses 7.27
Entry By Troops 7.27
The Entry of Large Numbers 7.27
Increased Reception to Message 7.29
The Importance of Consolidation 7.29
The Importance of Indigenous Believers 7.30
Experiments in Teaching 7.31
Different Methods of Approach 7.32
Balance Between Local and National Projects 7.32
Guarding Against Extremes 7.33


Enrollment and Systematic Follow-Up 7.34

Conditions for Enrollment 7.34
Follow-Up with New Believers 7.36


Teaching Methods 7.37

Many Different Methods 7.37
Weaving Bonds of Fellowship 7.38
Firesides 7.39
Door-To-Door Teaching 7.39
Other Methods 7.40


Other Topics 7.41

The Arts and Teaching 7.41
Teaching and the Role of the Learned 7.41
Close Collaboration with the Learned 7.41
Primary Tasks of Propagation Boards 7.42
Subjects to Be Discussed with the Community 7.42
Pioneering 7.44
Homefront Pioneering 7.45
International Pioneering 7.46
Deputization 7.47
Obtaining Funding Support 7.48
Traveling Teaching 7.48
Sensitive Countries 7.49
Teaching Minorities 7.50
All Minorities 7.50
American Indians 7.51
African Americans 7.52
Special Circumstances Regarding Teaching Chinese 7.53
Special Circumstances Regarding Teaching Persons from Southeast Asian Countries 7.53
Special Circumstances Regarding Teaching Muslims 7.53
Summer and Winter Schools 7.53
Applying the Teachings to the Needs of Society 7.54
Involvement with Society 7.54
Bahá'í Scholarship and Teaching 7.54


Suggested Readings 7.54

Eastern and Southeastern Asia 7.60
Iranian Muslims 7.60
Black Muslims 7.61


8) THE DISTINCTIVE BAHÁ'Í COMMUNITY 8.1


Developing a Distinctive Bahá'í Community 8.1

Characteristics of Distinction 8.1
Purpose for a Distinctive Bahá'í Community 8.2
Bedrock of Bahá'í National Growth and Development 8.2
Transformation of Human Life 8.2
Attracting Others to the Faith 8.3
Characteristics of a Bahá'í Society 8.3
Unity of Mankind 8.3
Dawn Prayers 8.5
Devotional Meetings 8.6


Role of the Local Spiritual Assembly 8.6

Responsibility of Individual Assembly Members 8.6
Unity Within the Assembly 8.7
Instruments for Establishing Unity and Harmony 8.7
Developing the Bahá'í Community 8.7
Fostering Love and Unity 8.7
Unity in Diversity 8.8
Integrating Persian Bahá'ís 8.8
Encouraging Minority Participation 8.8
Integrating Southeast Asian Bahá'ís 8.9
Supporting Youth Participation 8.10
Equality of Women and Men 8.10


How to Develop a Distinctive Community Life 8.10

Firmness in the Covenant 8.10
Spiritual Development 8.11
Consolidation Activities 8.11
Nineteen Day Feasts 8.11
Service to Humanity 8.11


Role of the Community 8.12

Relationship Among the Bahá'ís 8.12
Unity Among the Believers 8.13
Freedom from Prejudice 8.14
Promote Harmony 8.14
Role of Individuals 8.14
High Moral Character 8.15
Demonstrate Belief in Peace 8.16
Unity in Family Life 8.16


Suggested Readings 8.16



9) HOLY DAYS, THE NINETEEN DAY FEAST, AND SPECIAL EVENTS 9.1


Bahá'í Holy Days, Festivals and the Fast 9.1

Dates 9.1
Descriptions 9.1
Naw-Rúz...March 21 9.1
Ridván Festival...April 21-May 2 9.2
Declaration of the Báb...May 23 9.2
Ascension of Bahá'u'lláh...May 29 9.3
Martyrdom of the Báb...July 9 9.3
Birth of the Báb...October 20 9.4
Birth of Bahá'u'lláh...November 12 9.4
Day of the Covenant... November 26 9.4
Ascension of 'Abdu'l-Bahá...November 28 9.4
Ayyám-i-Há...February 26-March 1 9.5
The Fast...March 2-March 20 9.5
Preparing for the Holy Days 9.5
When to Observe 9.6
Definition of the Bahá'í Day 9.6
Daylight Savings Time 9.6
Events Commemorated on Their Gregorian Anniversaries 9.7
Observing the Holy Days 9.7
Reciting the Tablets of Visitation 9.8
Suspension of Work and School 9.9
Nine Days Relating to the Báb and Bahá'u'lláh 9.9
Being Excused from Work 9.9
Suspension of Bahá'í Administrative Activities 9.11
Children...Being Excused from School 9.12


The Nineteen Day Feasts 9.13

Bahá'í Months and Dates of Nineteen Day Feasts 9.13
Purpose and Significance 9.13
Three Distinct Parts 9.14
Room for Variety 9.14
Historical Evolution 9.14
Expression of Community Life 9.15
Link to Entire Structure of Administrative Order 9.15
Preparation 9.15
Spirit of Hospitality 9.16
Purpose 9.17
Observance of Feast by Groups and Isolated Believers 9.18
When to Hold the Nineteen Day Feast 9.19
Where to Hold 9.20
Civil Area 9.20
Outdoors 9.20
Area Feasts 9.20
Holding of Feasts in a Church or Other Religious Building 9.21
Organization of the Feast 9.21
The Devotional Aspect 9.22
The Administrative and Consultative Aspects 9.23
The Social Aspect 9.25
Attendance and Participation 9.25
Attendance Encouraged 9.25
Children of Bahá'í Parents 9.26
Children of Non-Bahá'í Parents 9.26
Youth 9.27
Visitors 9.27
Behavior of Children 9.27
Sale of Items During Feast 9.28
Music 9.28
Smoking During Feast 9.29
Non-Bahá'ís 9.29
Non-Bahá'í Family Members and Persons Close to the Faith 9.30
Unity Feasts/Joint Feasts 9.30


Cultural and Religious Festivals of Other Religions and Communities 9.31

Preserving Inherited Cultural Identities 9.31
Participation in Other Cultural/Religious Festivals 9.32
Attending Other Religious Ceremonies 9.32


Special Events 9.33

Dates and Descriptions 9.33
World Religion Day 9.33
Race Unity Day 9.34
United Nations International Day of Peace 9.34


Suggested Readings 9.35



10) THE BAHÁ'Í FUNDS 10.1


The Nature and Purpose of the Bahá'í Funds 10.1

Nature of the Funds 10.1
Spiritual Activity and Material Means 10.1
Funds Established by 'Abdu'l-Bahá 10.1
Huqúqu'lláh...A Separate Institution 10.2
Purpose of the Funds 10.2
To Promote the Spread and Development of the Cause 10.2
To Address the Needs of Humanity 10.2
Requirements of the Cause Take Precedence Over Individual Needs 10.3
Major Funds 10.3
The Local Bahá'í Fund 10.4
The National Bahá'í Fund 10.4
The Continental Bahá'í Fund 10.5
The Bahá'í International Fund 10.5


Principles of the Fund 10.7

Obligation and Privilege 10.7
Obligation of Rich and Poor 10.7
Only Bahá'ís in Good Standing May Contribute 10.8
Contributions from Children 10.9
Contributions from Non-Bahá'ís 10.9
Nature of Giving 10.10
The Spiritual Nature of Giving 10.10
Universal Participation 10.12
Voluntary 10.12
Confidential 10.12
Regularity 10.13
Sacrifice 10.13
Not Borrowing Money to Give 10.14
The Local Spiritual Assembly and the Fund 10.16
Responsibilities of the Assembly 10.16
Responsibilities of the Treasurer 10.17
Trustworthiness 10.17
Custodians of God's Trust 10.17
Specific Duties 10.17
Presentations to the Community 10.19
Financial Reports to the Community 10.20
Reports to the National Spiritual Assembly 10.20
Care in Handling Funds 10.20
Treasurer's Committees and Treasurer's Assistants 10.23
Budgeting, Accounting and Auditing Procedures 10.24
Budgeting 10.24
Fiscal Year 10.25
Accounting 10.25
Auditing Procedures 10.26
Confidentiality of Financial Records 10.26
Tax Exempt Status 10.26
Fund Education 10.26
Teaching and Deepening New Believers 10.27
Fund Appeals 10.28
Use of Pledges 10.29
Fund Raising 10.29


Ways of Giving 10.33

To the Bahá'í Funds 10.33
Cash and Gifts in Kind 10.33
Anonymous Contributions 10.33
Reimbursement of Expenses 10.34
Contributions in Honor and Memory of a Loved One or Special Occasion 10.34
Automatic Contribution System 10.35
Planned Giving and Estate Bequests 10.35
Insurance and Securities 10.35
To Charity 10.35


Suggested Readings 10.37

APPENDIX A: HANDLING EARMARKED CONTRIBUTIONS 10.38

APPENDIX B: TAX ISSUES 10.39

Tax Exempt Status 10.39

Unrelated Business Income Tax 10.40

Federal Tax Identification Number 10.40

Receipting Contributions 10.41
Quid Pro Quo Contributions 10.42


APPENDIX C: BUILDING THE ARC 10.44



11) BAHÁ'Í EDUCATION 11.1


The Nature of Education 11.1

Definition of Education 11.1
Purpose of Education 11.1
For the Individual 11.1
For Society 11.1


Duties of the Assembly 11.3

Incumbent to Educate the Children 11.3
Provide Well-Planned Programs 11.3
Duties of Individuals and Community 11.4


Organization and Methods of Instruction 11.6

Teaching Qualifications 11.6
Organization and Methods 11.6
What to Teach 11.8
To Children 11.9
To Youth 11.10
To Adults 11.11
Age to Begin Formal Children's Classes 11.12
Using the Creative Word 11.12
The Sciences and Arts 11.13
Drama 11.13
Music 11.13
Bahá'í Education Programs 11.14


Bahá'í Scholarship 11.14

Nature of Bahá'í Scholarship 11.14
Role in Bahá'í Community Development 11.15
Role of the Assembly Concerning Bahá'í Scholarship 11.16
Distinction Between Individual and Authoritative Interpretation 11.17


Bahá'í Schools 11.17

Primary and Secondary Schools 11.17
Bahá'í Curriculum 11.18
Summer and Winter Schools 11.19
Importance and Purpose 11.19
Any Suitable Location 11.20


Suggested Readings 11.21

APPENDIX A: A NATIONAL EDUCATIONAL PROGRAM, CORE CURRICULUM FOR SPIRITUAL EDUCATION 11.22

APPENDIX B: INSTITUTES 11.24

APPENDIX C: EDUCATIONAL SITES IN THE UNITED STATES 11.26

APPENDIX D: THE GIRL SCOUT AND BOY SCOUT RELIGIOUS EMBLEM 11.28



12) EXTERNAL AFFAIRS 12.1


New Stage in External Affairs work 12.1

Purpose of External Affairs Efforts 12.2


Collaborative Efforts 12.2

Relations with the World at Large 12.3

Relationship with Government 12.5

Applying the Principle of Non-Involvement in Politics 12.5
Loyalty to Government 12.6
Political Activity 12.7
Voting 12.9
Independent Candidates 12.9
Bahá'í Involvement with Campaigns 12.9
Contact with Government Officials 12.10
Petitions and Letter-Writing Campaigns 12.11
Credentials 12.11


Relationship with Prominent Persons, Other Organizations 12.11

Contacting Prominent People 12.11
Association with Other Organizations 12.14
Criteria for Deciding on Association 12.15
When Permission to Associate Is Needed 12.16
National Efforts Reinforced by Local Activities 12.16
Consistency, Commitment Important 12.16
Promoting Universal Peace and the Lesser Peace 12.16
Promoting Race Unity 12.19
The Term "New World Order" 12.20
International Initiatives 12.21
The Issue of the Death Penalty 12.21


Relationship with the Media 12.21

Contacting National Media 12.21
Contacting Persian Language Media 12.22
Public Image of the Faith 12.22
Use of Bahá'í Terms with the Media 12.23
Letters to the Editor 12.23
Publicity 12.23
Uses of Pictures of 'Abdu'l-Bahá 12.24
References to the Faith as an Offshoot of Islam 12.24
Use of the Term "Bahá'í World Faith" 12.24


Suggested Readings 12.25

APPENDIX A: THE NATIONAL SPIRITUAL ASSEMBLY'S SECRETARIAT FOR EXTERNAL AFFAIRS 12.26

Office Descriptions 12.26

Office of the Secretary for External Affairs 12.26
U.S. Bahá'í Refugee Office 12.27
United Nations Office 12.28
Office of Public Information 12.29


13) SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT 13.1


Social and Economic Development Projects 13.1

Mandate for Social and Economic Development Projects 13.1
Establishment of the Office of Social and Economic Development at the World Center 13.2
Wholehearted Involvement Will Ensure a Deeper Consolidation of the Community 13.3
Two Fundamental Principles 13.4
Getting to Know the Local Community 13.5
Census Data 13.6
Area Maps 13.6
Area Studies 13.6
Primary Objective: Service to the Community 13.6
Should Originate from Grass Roots 13.7
Different Communities Will Have Different Approaches 13.8
Advisable to Start with Modest Projects 13.8
Assess Needs and Capabilities 13.10
Project Design 13.11
Project Implementation 13.12
Managers 13.13
Collaboration with Other Organizations 13.13
Evaluation of Projects 13.13


Financing of Projects 13.14

Financial Support from Non-Bahá'ís 13.15
Individual Ventures 13.15
Role of Women and Youth 13.16


Potential Projects 13.16

Information and Referral 13.16
Volunteerism 13.17
Food 13.17
Food Baskets 13.17
Food Pantries 13.17
Congregate Meals 13.17
Nutrition 13.17
Community Gardening 13.17
Housing 13.17
Shelter for the Homeless 13.17
Education 13.18
English as a Second Language (ESL) 13.18
Literacy 13.18
Tutoring 13.18


Suggested Readings 13.18



14) PROPERTIES 14.1


Description of Properties 14.1

The Mashriqu'l-Adhkár 14.1
Accessories 14.1
The Hazíratu'l-Quds...National and Local 14.3
Relationship with Mashriqu'l-Adhkár 14.3
Local Bahá'í Centers...Embryonic Hazíratu'l-Quds 14.4
Endowments 14.5


Factors to Consider Before Acquiring a Center 14.6

Consider Alternatives 14.6
Statement of Purpose 14.6
Consideration of Various Factors 14.6
Positive Factors 14.7
Negative Factors 14.7
Technical Issues 14.7
Financial Requirements 14.8
Physical Considerations 14.10
Property Operation 14.11
Property Maintenance 14.12
Legal Considerations 14.13


Other Property Issues 14.16

Jurisdiction of Local Centers 14.16
Contributions 14.16
Handling Earmarked Contributions 14.16
Contributions from Non-Bahá'ís 14.17
Rental of Bahá'í Property 14.17
Income-producing Property 14.17
Dancing in a Bahá'í Center 14.18
Use of Churches for Bahá'í Functions 14.19
Reports to the National Spiritual Assembly 14.19


Suggested Readings 14.19

Part Three
Application of Bahá'í Law




15) APPLICATION OF BAHÁ'Í LAW 15.1


Nature and Purpose of Bahá'í Law 15.1

Nature of the Laws 15.1
Purpose of the Laws 15.2
Order and Security 15.2
True Liberty 15.2
Spiritual Development and Happiness 15.2
The Progressive Application of Bahá'í Law 15.3


The Role of the Local Spiritual Assembly in Upholding Bahá'í Law 15.3

Administering the Laws 15.4
Upholding the Laws with Firmness 15.4
Distinction Between the Attitude of the Institutions and of Individuals 15.4
Responsibility of Individual 15.5
Need to Avoid Gossip and Backbiting 15.5
Handling Violations of Bahá'í Law 15.6
Due Process 15.6
Each Case Considered on Its Own Merits 15.7
Investigation, Review of the Facts, Warning When Necessary 15.7
Removal of Administrative Rights 15.8
Ignorance of the Law 15.8
Function of National Spiritual Assembly Only 15.9
Cannot Withdraw to Avoid Bahá'í Law 15.9
Limited Sanctions 15.9
Applied to a Youth 15.10
Distinction Between Function as Advisor and Role as Enforcer 15.10
Recommendations to the National Spiritual Assembly 15.10
Meaning of Deprivation of Administrative Rights 15.11
Attitude of Community toward Those Deprived 15.13
Handling Appeals 15.13
Second Party Appeals 15.14
Assembly Is Obligated to Forward an Appeal 15.14
May Be Preferable to Drop Appeal 15.14
Restoration of Administrative Rights 15.14


Laws and Standards of Behavior Subject to Administrative Sanctions 15.16

Immorality 15.16
Flagrant Immorality 15.16
Cohabitation 15.17
Homosexuality 15.18
Alcohol 15.19
Owning a Business That Sells Alcohol 15.20
Serving Alcohol 15.22
Political Activity 15.23
Use of Illegal Drugs 15.24
Criminal Offenses, Disobedience to Civil Laws 15.24
Criminal Matters in Which the State Claims Exclusive Interest 15.25
Physical Abuse 15.26
Sexual Abuse 15.27
Membership in Other Organizations 15.27
Other Religious Organizations 15.27
Secret Societies 15.27
Gambling, Lotteries 15.28
Behavior that Damages the Reputation of the Faith or Causes Disunity 15.29
Dishonest or Fraudulent Behavior 15.29
Irresponsible Behavior 15.29
Mental Illness/Psychological Problems 15.29
Laws Not Presently Binding Upon the Western Believers 15.30
Application of Laws to Citizens of the People's Republic of China 15.30


Obedience to the Laws 15.31

Importance of Obedience 15.31
Effect of Obedience 15.31
Effect of Disobedience 15.32
Obedience Will Necessarily Impose Hardships 15.32


Laws Between the Individual and God 15.33

Read the Sacred Writings Daily 15.33
Prayer 15.33
Fasting 15.33
Exemptions from Fasting 15.34
Smoking in Relation to the Fast 15.35
Huqúqu'lláh 15.35
Attitude Toward Payment of Huqúqu'lláh 15.36
Payment of Huqúqu'lláh Is Obligatory 15.36


Suggested Readings 15.37



16) MARRIAGE 16.1


The Institution of Marriage 16.1

Engagement 16.1

Purpose of Engagement 16.1
95-Day Period of Engagement 16.2
(Currently Applicable Only to Persian Believers) 16.2
Applicable to Persian Believers Wherever They Reside 16.2
Role of Local Spiritual Assembly in Enforcing the Law 16.3
Breaking of Engagement 16.3


Responsibilities of the Local Spiritual Assembly 16.3

Role in Upholding the Law 16.4
Counseling and Guidance 16.4
Ensuring that Bahá'í and Civil Marriage Requirements Are Fulfilled 16.5
Witnesses 16.5
Reporting Cases of Violation to the National Spiritual Assembly 16.5
A Checklist for Bahá'í Marriage 16.6


Obtaining Consent 16.7

Purpose of Consent 16.7
Consent Requirements 16.7
Role of the Local Spiritual Assembly 16.8
Manner of Giving Consent 16.8
Consent Is Given for the Marriage Itself 16.9
Consent Required in Case of Remarriage 16.9
Consent Required if a Bahá'í Marries a non-Bahá'í 16.10
Consent Must be Unrestricted, Unconditioned 16.10
Contacting Parents 16.10
Parents Residing Outside the Continental United States 16.10
Parents Can Change Their Mind 16.10
When Dangerous to Contact 16.11
Whereabouts Unknown 16.11
Identity Unknown or Uncertain 16.12
Abandonment 16.12
Ties Severed by Adoption 16.13
Consent of Foster Parents 16.13
Consent of Adopted Parents 16.14
When Consent Is Withheld 16.14
Refusal to Give Consent 16.14
Consent Withheld Because of Prejudice 16.15
Refusal to Approve or Disapprove 16.15
Circumstances Under Which Parental Consent Is Not Required 16.16
Mental Incapacity 16.17
Disownment/Removal of Parental Rights 16.17


The Marriage Ceremony 16.18

Requirments of Bahá'í Law 16.18
New Believers Who Are Already Married 16.18
Marriage of Two Bahá'ís 16.18
Marriage of Bahá'í to a Non-Bahá'í 16.19
When Two Ceremonies Are Held 16.19
Marriage of Two Non-Bahá'ís 16.20
Reaffirmation of Marriage Vows 16.20
When Civil Ceremony Is Required 16.21
Nature of the Ceremony 16.21
Marriage Vow 16.22
The Reception: Serving Alcoholic Beverages 16.22
Consummation of the Marriage 16.22


Violations of Bahá'í Marriage Law 16.23

When Unnecessary to Correct Violation 16.23
Ignorance of the Law 16.23
Correcting Conscious Violations 16.23
Having a Belated Ceremony 16.24
Obtaining a Civil Divorce 16.24
Removal of Administrative Rights 16.24
Conscious Violation of Marriage Law 16.24
If Parents Condone or Encourage Disregard of the Law 16.25
Evading Bahá'í Law 16.26
Restoration of Administrative Rights 16.26
When Remarriage Is Possible 16.26
General Guidelines 16.26
Expressing Repentance 16.27
Having a Bahá'í Ceremony 16.27
Obtaining a Civil Divorce 16.28
Bahá'ís Marrying Contrary to Bahá'í Law: Attendance at Ceremony 16.29


Suggested Readings 16.30



17) DIVORCE 17.1


Divorce Discouraged 17.1

Conditions Under Which Divorce Might Be Considered 17.2


Requirements for Bahá'í Divorce 17.3

The Year of Waiting 17.3
Purpose 17.3
Use of the Terms "Year of Waiting" and "Year of Patience" 17.3
With Non-Bahá'í Partner 17.3
Required Whether or Not Bahá'í When Married 17.3
Consent of Only One Party Required 17.4
Physical Separation Required 17.4
Conditions Under Which Year of Waiting Is Not Required 17.4
Ignorance of the Law 17.4
Divorce Proceeding Begun Before Enrollment as a Bahá'í 17.4
Bahá'ís Without Administrative Rights 17.4
Improperly Contracted Marriage 17.5
Legal Annulment 17.5


Responsibilities of the Local Spiritual Assembly 17.5

Initial Meeting 17.5
Obligation to Consider Application 17.6
Should Not Intervene Unless Compelling Reasons 17.6
Duty to Investigate and Try to Reconcile Couple 17.7
Setting the Date for the Beginning of the Year of Waiting 17.7
Role of Assembly During the Year of Waiting 17.9
In Case of Suspected Child Abuse or Domestic Violence 17.10
Jurisdiction 17.11


Responsibilities of the Couple 17.12

Obligation to Consult with an Assembly 17.12
Should Actively Seek Reconciliation 17.12
Financial Support 17.12
Unfaithfulness 17.13
Dating During the Year of Waiting 17.14
Not Appropriate to Look for New Marriage Partner 17.15
Should Not Announce New Marriage Plans 17.15
When the Year of Waiting Can Be Voided 17.15
Reconciliation 17.15
Sexual Relations Between Spouses 17.15
Sharing a Common Residence 17.15.One Party Cannot Terminate Year 17.16
If Spouse Remarries 17.16


Relation of the Civil Divorce to the Bahá'í Divorce 17.16

Giving Legal Sanction to the Divorce 17.16
Initiation of Civil Divorce Proceedings During the Year of Waiting 17.16
If a Non-Bahá'í Partner Obtains a Civil Divorce 17.17
If Reconciliation Takes Place Before Civil Divorce and After the End of the Year of Waiting 17.17
Divorce Agreement, Child Support, Custody 17.18
Obligation of the Couple to Obey Civil Divorce Decree 17.21
Assembly Should Encourage Couple to Fulfill Divorce Decree 17.21
Remarriage 17.22


Granting the Bahá'í Divorce 17.22

Withholding the Divorce 17.22
Extending the Year of Waiting 17.23
Delaying or Interfering with the Civil Divorce 17.23
Date on which a Bahá'í Divorce Should Be Granted 17.23
Reporting to the National Spiritual Assembly 17.23
Annulment 17.24


Suggested Readings 17.25



18) BURIAL LAW, WILLS, LIFE AFTER DEATH 18.1


Burial Law 18.1

Responsibilities of the Local Spiritual Assembly 18.1
Financial Assistance 18.2
If Relatives of the Deceased Are Not Bahá'í 18.2
Requirements Currently Binding on Western Believers 18.3
Funeral Service 18.3
No Cremation 18.4
Embalming the Body 18.6
Burial Within One Hour's Distance 18.6
Requirements Not Yet Binding on Western Believers 18.7
Preparation of the Body 18.7
Burial Rings 18.8
Coffins 18.8
Other Related Topics 18.9
Bahá'í Cemeteries 18.9
Gravestone Symbols 18.9
Position of Body in Grave 18.10
Donation of Body to Medical Science 18.10
Suicide 18.10
Euthanasia 18.11
Bahá'ís in Military Service 18.11
In Case of Death at Sea 18.12
Memorial Gatherings 18.12
Gifts and Good Deeds in Memory of the Deceased 18.13


Wills 18.13

The Need for a Will 18.13
Will Preparation 18.13
Responsibilities of the Local Spiritual Assembly 18.14


Life after Death 18.15

The Spiritual World Beyond and Our Relation to It 18.15
"Soul Mates" 18.16


Suggested Readings 18.16



19) MISCELLANEOUS SUBJECTS 19.1


Birth Control 19.1

After Conception 19.2
Sterilization 19.2
Abortion 19.3
Surrogate Mothers, Artificial Insemination 19.3
Genetic Engineering 19.4


Gossip and Backbiting 19.4

Debts 19.4

Smoking at Bahá'í Meetings 19.4

Pilgrimage 19.5

Handling Business Disputes 19.5

Establishing a Business Venture 19.6

Military Service 19.6

General Principles 19.6
Pacifists, Conscientious Objectors 19.7
Non-Combatant Status 19.7
Draft Registration 19.9


Suggested Readings 19.9



20) INDEX 20.1





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ChapterSection
1 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25
2 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26
3 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46
4 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21
5 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27
6 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24
7 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50, 51, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57, 58, 59, 60, 61, 62, 63, 64, 65, 66
8 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18
9 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36,
10 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47
11 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28
12 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29
13 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27
14 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20
15 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40
16 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30
17 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25
18 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16
19 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9
201, 2


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