Baha'i Movement targets dissenters

The Baha'i movement is experiencing growing conflicts and dissent over its members involvement in computer forums, reports Gnosis, (Winter), a magazine on esoteric spirituality. While regarded as a liberal and nondogmatic religion, the worldwide Baha'i community has enforced "rigid controls for discourse on internal matters, with all publications controlled or censored by the administration; even mild dissent is regarded as treasonous," writes K. Paul Johnson. The Baha'is gained most of their members in the U.S. in the early 1970s, although membership levels have been stagnant since. Some of the young converts of the 1970s became scholars of Persian, Middle Eastern history and related fields. In 1994, a discussion group on the Internet was started by these scholars which often questioned or addressed controversial teachings.

Dissent was voiced over women's exclusion from the Baha'i governing body, the Universal House of Justice, and the teaching that Baha'is are destined to take over all functions of local and national government and create an international government. The position that any Baha'i writing about the movement has to submit such writings for review to Baha'i leaders also drew a good deal of criticism from the discussion group (which numbered about 100 members), which is called Talisman. After almost two years of existence, Talisman became the focus of a series of investigations by authorities at the Baha'i World Center in Haifa, Israel and also by leaders in the U.S. Baha'i leaders have called the scholars and their sympathizers "dissidents," with more conservative members charging that they are "covenant breakers," which means advocating an alternative source of authority in the religion. Baha'is are ordered to avoid all contact with covenant breakers. Although Talisman disbanded last May, an ex-Baha'i has recently opened a new Talisman group.

Gnosis Magazine, Winter 1997

Baha'i Leaders Vexed by On-Line Critics

K. Paul Johnson

The Baha'i faith is the newest world religion, claiming more than 5 million followers around the globe.  Its founder, Baha'u'llah (1817-92), was an Iranian nobleman who proclaimed the unity of humanity and the unity of all religions.

Generally regarded as a peaceful, liberal, and forward-looking movement, Baha'i proclaims itself to be devoted to "independent investigation of Truth." But it has become the only major religious group to launch an inquisition against prominent members for their opinions expressed on an Internet discussion group.

In the early 1970's, Baha'i membership in the United States quadrupled to nearly 100,000 after an influx of idealistic baby-boomers and rural Southern blacks.  But despite a strong emphasis on numerical growth, Baha'i membership levels in the United States have been nearly stagnant for the last twenty years.  Some of the young converts of the 1970s became scholars in Persian, Arabic, Middle Eastern history and related fields.  This generation of Baha'i scholars, now in middle age, has become a source of irritation to the faith's leadership.

In October 1994 the electronic mail list Talisman was created by Indiana University professor John Walbridge for scholarly discussion of Baha'i history, doctrines, and current affairs.  Walbridge is a specialist in Islamic philosophy, and his wife Linda, an active participant in the list, is an anthropologist specializing in contemporary Islam in the United States; she also teaches at Indiana University.

Talisman's initial core group of participants with scholarly and literary backgrounds included Juan R. I. Cole, then-director of the Center for Middle Eastern and North African Studies at the University of Michigan and now professor of history there.  Two participants were publishers:  Anthony Lee of Kalimat Press, a Baha'i publishing house; and Steven Scholl of White Cloud Press, publisher of the annual "Common Era: Best New Writings in Religion" and other interfaith-oriented titles.

Beginning with a dozen or so subscribers, Talisman grew in the first year to more than a hundred, most of whom were not academians.  After eighteen months of existence, Talisman became the focus of a series of investigations ordered by authorities at the Baha'i World Center in Haifa, Israel.

Liberal scholars on Talisman scrutinized several aspects of current Baha'i theology and administration, including the exclusion of women from the Baha'i governing body, the Universal House of Justice, even though Baha'i claims to teach the equality of the sexes.  Academians familiar with source documents debated whether or not Baha'u'llah had intended this exclusion, and advanced textual arguments in favor of reconsideration.

Another frequent bone of contention was the policy of literature review, which requires that any Baha'i who writes about the faith for any publisher submit the work for prior censorship by a "review committee" composed of the Baha'i National Spiritual Assembly in the country of publication.  Scholars were particularly emphatic about wanting to abolish this policy - which had been deemed "temporary" when introduced early in this century - on the grounds that it compromises scholarly independence and integrity.

Perhaps the most interesting debates were about the future of Baha'i institutions, which most rank-and-file members believe are destined to take over all functions of local and national government and to create a new international government in a Baha'i-dominated world.  The scholars disputed this totalitarian vision, citing evidence that Baha'u'llah envisioned no such future.  There was also extensive discussion of the Baha'i electoral process, which allows no nominations or public discussion of candidates.  Almost no incumbents on the American National Spiritual Assembly have been unseated in elections during the last 30 years.  Term limits were proposed as one possible way to open up the system to new blood.

Although the questions and criticisms expressed by the scholars in Talisman were generally respectful of Baha'i authorities, many of the newer members of the list became irate that such matters were discussed at all.  The worldwide Baha'i community has rigid controls for discourse on internal matters, with all publications controlled or censored by the administration; even mild dissent is regarded as treasonous.

Complaints may be made through the process of "consultation" with various levels of administrators, but may not be expressed outside that context and especially never in public.  Thus Talisman offered participants the first chance to discuss flaws in the Baha'i community outside administrative channels, and many were shocked by the debate that ensued.  Soon it became common for more conservative Baha'is to insinuate that the scholars and their sympathizers were "Covenant-breakers," which is the greatest of sins in Baha'i theology. The "Covenant" is the line of succession from Baha'u'llah to the Universal House of Justice, the world governing body, which was first elected in 1963.  To break the Covenant is to attack the center of authority within the faith and to advocate an alternative source of authority; such disputes have arisen with each change in leadership.  Baha'is are ordered to avoid all contact with Covenant-breakers.

None of the Talisman scholars challenged the legitimacy of the governing body, nor did they show sympathy for past "Covenant-breakers," a few thousand of whom continue in various small sects.  Nevertheless the Talisman discussions were viewed with alarm by authorities at national Baha'i headquarters in Wilmette, Illinois, and in Haifa.  This generated an investigation by Stephen Birkland, a member of the Continental Board of Counselors for North America, acting under direction of the Haifa authorities.

Birkland personally interrogated Langness, Lee, Cole, and John Walbridge.  Scholl agreed to meet with Birkland only on condition that the meeting be recorded for accuracy, a condition that was deemed unacceptable. Cole and Walbridge refused a second meeting requested by Birkland.  David Langness had his rights to voting and attendance at major functions removed by the American National Spiritual Assembly, which never specified the charges against him but implied that it was punishing him for a posting he made on Talisman.

Cole, upon being told he was being investigated for "statements contrary to the Covenant," resigned his membership, as did Linda Walbridge after similar remarks.  Birkland had chosen to confront Cole and the Walbridges in late-night telephone calls.  The ultimate fate of Langness, who appealed his punishment to the Universal House of Justice, and John Walbridge, who has not resigned, remains to be determined. When contacted by e-mail, Birkland declined to comment on the controversy.

Defending its actions, the Universal House of Justice wrote to a family member of one of the accused; the letter later appeared on the front page of the journal "The American Baha'i."  It argues that Talisman was the continuation of a conspiracy born in the mid-1980s involving a liberal Baha'i journal, "Dialogue," which closed after Baha'i authorities accused it of being subversive.

The letter goes on to describe the Talisman scholars as a "dissident group of Baha'is who are attempting to arouse widespread dissatisfaction in the community and thereby to bring about changes in the structure and principles of Baha'i administration, making it accord more closely with their personal notions."  It accuses them of "publicly and privily assailing the institutions of the Cause" and "generalizing specific accusations of injustice to such an extent as to accuse the entire system of corruption, not only in practice, but also in form and theory."

John Walbridge closed Talisman in May of 1996.  Juan Cole, now an ex-Baha'i, opened a new Talisman list the following month.  Its e-mail address is

K. Paul Johnson was an active participant in Talisman from its beginnings through its demise. He was a Baha'i from 1969 to 1974.  His article on Edgar Cayce appears in this issue.

Abdul Baha was a Hypocrite.

Baha’i Scandals

Posted on

1. The Violation of Abdu’l-Baha – Baha’u’llah in the The Kitáb-i-Ahd, or Book of the Covenant (his Will and Testament) appointed Abdu’l-Baha as his successor, but also stated that Abdu’l-Baha’s younger brother Mirza Muhammad Ali should be below him in rank and also be his immediate successor. Abdu’l-Baha disobeyed this commandment by depriving Muhammad Ali of any rank and replacing him as successor with his grandson, Shoghi Effendi, in his own Will and Testament.

2. The Madness of Shoghi Effendi – Abdu’l-Baha, in the same Will and Testament that appointed Shoghi Effendi as Guardian of the Cause of God, stated that the Guardian must appoint either his firstborn or another branch (male descendant of Baha’u’llah) as his successor in his own lifetime. Shoghi Effendi not only had no children, but he expelled from the Baha’i community every single one of Abdu’l-Baha’s own descendants, making it impossible for him to keep his grandfather’s commandments. He also died in 1957 without leaving a Will and Testament of his own as required by Baha’i law, throwing the Faith into a crisis.

3. Failed prophecy cover up – An early edition of Baha’u’llah and the New Era by J. E. Esselmont stated a prophecy by Abdu’l-Baha that by 1957 “Universal Peace will be firmly established, a Universal language promoted. Misunderstandings will pass away. The Bahá’í Cause will be promulgated in all parts and the oneness of mankind established.” But what really happened that year was Shoghi Effendi’s death. The prophecy was deleted from later editions of the book.

4. Attack on Kalimat Press – In 2005 and 2006,The National Spiritual Assemblies of the Baha’is of the United States and the United Kingdom issued orders to Baha’i communities under their command to stop selling books published by Kalimat Press, a small Baha’i owned book publishing company, for publishing a few books that they happened to disapprove of. As a result, the company was crippled in its operations.

5. Dr. Hossein Danesh, sex offender – A member of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of Canada, Danesh was stripped of his psychiatric license in the 1990s after being accused by several of his patients of sexual abuse. Instead of being expelled from the Baha’i community, he was sent to the Baha’i Landegg “university” in Switzerland, a private school which failed in 2005. Returning to Canada, he was hired by the NSA of Canada as a marriage and family therapist for fellow Baha’is.

6. Italian Baha’i financial scandal – Franco Ceccherini, a longtime member of the Italian National Spiritual Assembly, was found in 2007 to have stolen over 360,000 euros over 14 years while serving as the Assembly’s treasurer. This was discovered only when the Italian government audited the Baha’i community and then charged it 275,000 euros in back taxes, crippling financially the entire Italian Baha’i community.

7. Stephen Birkland, Baha’i secret police detective – In the 1990s, as a member of the Continental Board of Counselors for North America, Birkland led an investigation of Baha’is running an internet forum known as “Talisman” where members could openly question and debate issues regarding the management of the Baha’i communities. Birkland’s abusive tactics drove several Baha’is, including Juan Cole and John & Linda Walbridge, to resign rather than be condemned as covenant-breakers for taking part in Talisman, which was then shut down. Birkand was later rewarded for his zeal by being appointed to the International Teaching Center in 2008 and eventually he was elected to the Universal House of Justice in 2010.

Note : There are many more that Dale missed out. Please check this blog for more info:

Grandson of Baha'u'llah doubts the authenticity of Will & Testament of Abdul Baha !

By Shua'u'llah Behai (The grandson of Baha'u'llah)

When this will was published, I hoped that eventually it will be considered invalid, for the following reasons:

First, it is in violation of the commands of Baha’u’llah, and the laws laid down by him.

Second, it is contradictory to ‘Abdu’l-Baha’s own teachings, and Baha’i principles which he so nobly advocated.

Third, it is the destroyer of the foundation of liberty of thought, faith, belief, speech, and the press.

But my hopes were shattered and my expectations were in vain, when one of the Baha’i communities, namely “The National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the United States and Canada,” attributed such a prominence to this will, by incorporating the same into the bylaws of their organization, and compelling the members to become loyal and steadfast adherents to every clause of this will. Thus, reproducing the “catechism” of the old Roman Church:

•    Baha’i Trinity [i.e. a trinity of divinely inspired chiefs of the faith: the Bab, Baha’u’llah, and ‘Abdu’l-Baha].
•    Baha’i Elders [i.e. the Hands of the Cause].
•    Guardians of the Cause, little popes, perpetual representatives of God on earth.
•    Excommunications.
•    Absolutions.
•    etc. etc. etc.

I firmly believe that Abdu’l-Baha was too wise to leave such a will, and I am in doubt of its authenticity.

Extracted from :

A Lost History of the Baha'i Faith, Page 137 & 138

Baha'u'llah's love for Animals !!!

Persian Baha'i Wedding Highlight - This is an examplary Baha'i wedding in Vancouver, Canada.

Wine, Cigarettes, Belly Dance and more !!!

A Lost History of the Baha'i Faith: The Progressive Tradition of Baha’u’llah’s Forgotten Family (Download)

Readers are advised to please purchase the book from Amazon. Those who cannot afford to purchase can please download from the link below.

Download for Free - Click the LINK

A history of the family of Mirza Husayn Ali Baha'u'llah (d. 1892) told from their own perspective. These are those Baha'i family of Baha'u'llah whom Abbas Effendi 'Abdu'l-Baha made Covenant Breakers and ostracized from the greater Baha'i sect. This book is the first of its kind and an important historical document.
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