Obedience to government...?

All research or scholarship questions
Posts: 97
Joined: Mon Jun 14, 2004 11:59 pm

Obedience to government...?

Postby Dawud » Wed Jun 15, 2005 1:39 am

What precisely does "obedience to government" entail?

If the government is divided into different branches, or political parties, or regional levels, how does one decide which element of the government should receive this loyalty?

Is a Baha'i allowed to challenge a governmental ruling through the courts, if national law provides for this possibility?

Is the primary obedience to be to the government, or to national law? That is, if "the government" acts in violation of the law, must the Baha'i obey the government?

What if more than one armed entity claims to be the government (think Congo, or Nepal), and make contradictory demands. How would Baha;is there decide to whom they owed allegience?

Finally, am I right in assuming that this provision would not apply to a government's demand that a Baha'i renounce his/her religion? What is the basis for this, please?

Thank you!

Posts: 195
Joined: Wed Jun 30, 2004 10:03 am
Location: Lima - Perú

Postby Hasan » Wed Jun 15, 2005 10:29 am

Well, Dawud,I have little time and just remember this pilgrim note which answer some what you ask:

In Persia the Baha'i Faith was born, in America the beginnings of Baha'i civilization. The beginnings of the Baha'i civilization is the Baha'i Administration.

The Administration first and foremost is the declaration of Trust which is international and applies to all countries. Whatever is not therein is secondary. Non-voting in political matters is universal. The German N.S.A. should have circulated a copy the American N.S.A.'s ruling in this matter. The Baha'is must not vote when their vote will identify them with a particular political party. There are things in the Nazi program that are splendid, but when we cannot wholly support a political party, then we cannot give it our support. If the Government should force the Baha'is to vote they must obey, but if it should force them to recant they must never do so. There is a difference between something that affects the progress of the Cause and something that affects its integrity. Even to the forbidding of the N.S.A. we should obey. Would it humiliate the Cause? No. But if one individual recants it is more humiliating to the Cause than to have all the institutions of the Cause forbidden. In Russia the authorities went to the members of the S.A. and said you must give us a detailed report, secretly, of all your S.A.'s transactions. The Russian Baha'is refused, Shoghi Effendi said they did wrong, they had nothing to deny, to be afraid of, they would only be telling the truth.

The Baha'is live in 40 countries all of which are opposed to each other. If the Baha'is identify themselves with the policy of one Government, the other Governments are displeased with the Baha'is.

An incident occurred in Moscow illustrating this: The central authorities summoned an S.A. member and said: "We have heard there are many Baha'is in Tihran, also some in the Persian Foreign Office, is this so?" At that time Persia and Russia were opposed to each other. The Russian Baha'i guaranteed that no Persian Baha'is were in any way employed in political posts. This action (assurance) saved the destruction of the Temple in Ishqabad, and the assurance of our non-political stand enabled the friends in Russia to have more freedom.

If our government forbids us to teach the Cause, we must obey - but never recant. Anything that dishonours the Cause we must not obey, but anything that retards the Cause, we must obey. The only way we can reconcile the "obey our Government" and other things in the Cause is to see whether it is an administrative thing at issue or a spiritual one. We are not ashamed of what might retard the Cause, but we cannot have it humiliated.

[page 13]
If each one followed the dictates of his own conscience in war time, what would happen to the Government? The minority must submit to the majority. We as Baha'is advocate this, we must practice it. Even at the front lines there must be no half-hearted loyalty; then we would be traitors. We must go to war if required, if no other way is possible into active service, and there do our duty. If we give the right to the minority to challenge the rule of the majority, and if they, this minority should come into power, then they too must give the minority the right to challenge the majority; this would make society unstable, chaotic. Dictators appeal to the right of conscience and as soon as they come to power they deny that right to the minority who then might feel the same as they did when their party was the minority. Anyone who claims the right to follow his own conscience challenges the stability of society. Majority rule involves the stability of society. This does not mean the minority must not try, through legitimate means, to change and influence the majority; they must try to persuade the majority - let them be preachers. While the minority is carrying out the rule of the majority, they have the right to persuade the majority. When there is 1 against 8, he can try to persuade the 8. A member of a Committee can bring his point to the S.A., who can, if they deem fit, bring it up for discussion at a 19 Day Feast, or let him bring it up himself at the 19 Day Feast. Individuals can write to the S.A. and express their ideas or objections, or criticisms. When the time for election of the S.A. comes, the Community must not be swayed by the outgoing S.A.'s convictions, they, in their functions as electors, are responsible to the voice of their conscience alone. The electors are invested with the authority of independent election; the S.A. of independent decision. Baha'i elections must be three things: 1, universal: 2, free - no one must influence or be influenced by another - and 3, secret, a written ballot.

The political stand of the Baha'is (nonparticipation in politics) was given by the Master first to the Persian Baha'is. At that time it would have been premature for the West. How could it be possible for a world-wide community to allow its members to participate in political affairs in other countries, often antagonistic to each other? Shoghi Effendi explained this to the Governor and he quite agreed, saying it would "split the Cause from top to bottom."

The Baha'is have every right to tell their Government, "We do not agree with all your principles," but this does not prevent our obeying our Government, it does not justify our disobeying them. We are loyal to them although we disagree with them. In other words, all other forms of government are deficient. Communism is militant atheism.

In administrative matters we must obey the Government, in spiritual matters we need not obey. If the Government says dont meet such a person, we must obey. It does not mean we have antagonism towards him, but if the Government requires us to denounce him, speak evil of him, this is violating a spiritual principle. The law may say we discourage you from doing such and such a thing - we need not obey - we must obey what is prohibited. We are weighing the two; discouragement by Government and a spiritual principle.

[page 14]
But as soon as you prohibit it, we obey, (if it does not dishonor the Faith in any way.) We will never obey in violating a spiritual principle, even if the law commands it. If the Government lays down a law that the Bahais must denounce a Jew, we will never do it, but if the Government says we must avoid him, we obey. We must not rely on the Interpretation of others. We must get the text of the law. Who has laid it down? A responsible person? It often happens in Persia that a law is laid down by a self-appointed authority, subordinate officials, etc. This is a corruption - we must be sure of the text of a law. "I must say that the Bahais have not got sufficient courage - but this does not mean they should be unwise." Look up the law, be sure it is a law. Let them be imprisoned. In spiritual matters we prefer to suffer martyrdom rather than obey our Government. That is why we have had twenty thousand martyrs in Persia. Obedience to the Government in spiritual matters dishonors the Cause, is a stain on the Cause. Let them be put to death - it will create excellent publicity for the Cause provided they are right. It would be a manifestation [humiliation?] for the Cause if they were in the wrong.

We should be ashamed if one individual sacrifices a vital spiritual principle in order to obey his Government, but there is no disgrace when the whole community obeys the government regarding Administrative principles if they close our meetings, forbid our correspondence, etc., we are weakened but not humiliated.

Individuals are free to vote in elections so far as they feel they can do so without riding with any party. His belief is that it is not possible to vote in America without involving identification with a political party, however, he leaves it to the individual to conscientiously decide[.] Party politics, party policies, it is clear we must keep out of. The individual must conscientiously decide if by voting they are not siding with a party, and if this can be done, they are free to vote. The general principle is that we must ride with no party. A Bahai can never be a Republican or a Democrat, because when we call ourselves a Republican or a Democrat, it means we sacrifice to the party platform, if there is one item only that does not coincide with the Cause, that precludes our supporting it. We believe in World State Authority, that is one thing that precludes a Bahai from supporting any party, because all Governments believe in their national sovereignty. So long as they do not identify themselves with the party in Germany by voting, they may exercise participation in the vote. Participation in the vote in political affairs is different from voting as a man, if we can vote for an individual and not identify ourselves with the party in so doing we may vote. If they vote for Hitler (in reference to the Bahais and the National vote of 1936 in Germany) it means they find him the least objectionable candidate. Although we are not departing from a Bahai principle by voting (in manner he specified) it is better not to vote, it is safer not to vote, because it might lead to complications. If a believer cannot make up his mind regarding voting and party complications, he can refer to his local S.A. We are above parties and not against parties. Sooner or later there will be a labor Party in the United States. We cannot belong to that either.

Return to “Discussion”