My documentation

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Posted by Jonah ( on August 17, 2003 at 02:34:37:

In Reply to: Re: UHJ's response to "Women on the House" paper, 1988 posted by Jim on August 16, 2003 at 14:54:41:

I corresponded with Sen McGlinn, who used to be in the New Zealand community and at one time considered publishing this paper in his Baha'i studies journal, and Robert Stockman, director of the Research Office at the US Baha'i National Center, about this paper a couple times. Neither could provide me with documentation banning publication of this paper, and it appears that neither of them thought it had been "banned". Rather, both were of the clear understanding that the House strongly preferred that this paper not be distributed, or at least not by a Baha'i publisher.

So I don't believe that the paper was ever "banned." It has just not been distributed or published, other than at Juan Cole's two websites. I have never been asked not to distribute it, but chose not to of my own accord. For the record, I have never been asked not to distribute anything, though there are things that I have voluntarily removed.

Here's the (limited) correspondence I had with Sen and Rob on this issue (emails copied here with permission):

From: Sen McGlinn
To: Jonah Winters
Date: Mon, 21 Feb 2000 10:00:43 +0100
Subject: Re: Service of Women

... so far as I know the whole control of distribution does not apply to electronic things. The particular letter regarding distribution of this paper was addressed to me as publisher: as I recall a first letter had said something like they didn't want it distributed by Baha'i publishing, and I thought from the wording that they were under the impression that I was publishing the conference papers (New Zealand, not Australia!) on behalf of the Baha'i studies association or the NSA. I clarified that and was told it was not to be distributed in any way. As I recall, it is a long time ago, and internet didn't even exist then.

I agree with your evaluation of the service of women paper. Its arguments still look convincing 15 years on. Its weakness is only that it does not deal with the letters of Shoghi Effendi. That was handled separately in a paper of mine, the Guardianship and the House of Justice, which never mentioned the issue of women, but did show that the letters of the Guardian must not be construed as Baha'i Law, if we are to be faithful to the covenant. From the point of view of scholarship it would have been preferable to integrate the two papers into a single argument, but politically that would have raised problems...

I looked through my files but only turned up one letter, dated 27 Dec 1988, to me. It refers to a UHJ letter of 31 May 1988 to the NSA of NZ which "discussed in some detail the law of the Faith restricting membership of the UHJ to men, and stated that this law is embedded in the Text and has been merely restated by the divinely appointed interpreters. it is therefore neither amenable to change nor subject to speculation about some possible future condition." In the light of this clarification, the NSA could not be expected to approve the publication, under Baha'i auspices, of material which contradicts a clear statement from the UHJ."

I haven't got a copy of the May 1988 letter handy. It may already be available somewhere. If necessary I can dig in other folders and see if I have a copy


To: Sen McGlinn, Robert Stockman
From: Jonah Winters
Date: July 14 2001
Subject: Re: Service of Women

Hi, Rob (cc: Sen),

Do you know if the House or any NSA ever made mention of proscribing in any way the "Service of Women" paper? They do refute it in a letter I have at , but don't "ban" it. The paper is already online at, and Juan has his own version of it at (I haven't read either).

As examples of "proscription" I'd give Allison Marshall's review of "Baha'i World" or "Modest Proposal." While neither has been banned per se, the House's opinion on each is clear enough that I've not included either in my Baha'i Library. I'm wondering if this paper falls into that category of things not to include due for reasons of wisdom; if not, I'll mirror it in my site.

Thanks, -Jonah

From: Stockman, Robert
To: Jonah Winters
Subject: RE: Service of Women
Date: Tue, 24 Jul 2001

I don't know that it ever failed literature review, but that was before my time. I doubt the House was asked about it, though they might have. Of course, nothing on the web needs review anyway.

But my advice is, don't mirror it or post it on bahai-library. The House has said that it is patently incorrect and erroneous. It is not your obligation to spread misinformation. That's different from giving equal time to a possibly correct or acceptable opinion.

-- Rob

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