Baha’i Scandals

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 started 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 Kingdon 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.

A Lost History of the Baha’i Faith

Note:  This is a guest entry by Eric Stetson.


Dale Husband, a fellow Unitarian Universalist and former Baha’i, invited me to write a short summary of a book I edited which has recently been published, A Lost History of the Baha’i Faith: The Progressive Tradition of Baha’u’llah’s Forgotten Family.

lost-history-bahai-faith-coverThis book tells the story of the Baha’i faith through the writings of some of the children and grandchildren of its founder, and others who knew Baha’u’llah personally. They called themselves “Unitarian Baha’is” and stood for a broad-minded faith based on reason and individual freedom of conscience. Because of their liberal views and skepticism of absolute religious authority, they were excommunicated and shunned as the Baha’i faith developed into an organized religion. In fact, all but three descendants of Baha’u’llah – totaling dozens of people – were excommunicated by their own relatives who led the religion after its founder’s death.

The Baha’i faith was founded in the mid 1800s by a Persian nobleman in exile who claimed to be a new messenger of God. Baha’u’llah taught that all nations, races, and religions should come together to build a global civilization of peace and justice for all. Although Baha’i began as a pluralistic, reform-oriented offshoot of Islam, it quickly relapsed into a form of fundamentalism based on claims of infallibility by its leaders.

The Baha’i organization expects its members to believe that Baha’u’llah’s successors were perfect and infallible and that their interpretations and decisions can never be changed. A Lost History of the Baha’i Faith offers a different perspective on what Baha’i could have become – an Islamic-inspired faith with similar progressive values as Unitarian Universalism – if the Baha’i prophet’s own descendants had not been ostracized and expelled as heretics.

This book reveals how even liberal religious movements can be hijacked by dogmatic thinking. A cautionary tale for people of conscience of any faith.


Damn you, Stephen Birkland!

Read this about a certain Baha’i leader:

Mr. Stephen Birkland is currently serving as a member of the Universal House of Justice, the supreme governing body of the Bahá’í Faith. Before his election to the House of Justice, he was a member of the International Teaching Center.[1] Prior to his service at the World Center, Mr. Birkland served as an Auxiliary Board member beginning in 1976 and a Counsellor from 1993. He also served on the board of Trustees for Huqúqu’lláh in the United States for 10 years.[2]
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Four Ways to Create a Religion of Hypocrites

1. State that religion no longer needs clergy……and replace them with leaders that are as authoritarian as the clergy ever was.
2. Claim that men and women should be equal……but then deny women membership in the all-powerful leadership council of the religion.
3. Condemn as heretics those who believe in your religion but dare to challenge the claims of your religion’s current leadership, while at the same time claiming to welcome as friends the followers of other religions.
4. Claim there is harmony between science and religion, but also claim that anything your leaders say is absolutely true, even if on topics science is expected to address.
Any one of these makes a religion not worth following, but what do you do if you find a religion that has all four such contradictions?

Logic fail in a comment

Someone made a comment below one of my oldest blog entries here and it ended up in my spam folder. I not only pulled it out of that folder and approved it, I wish to respond directly to it here to make sure that it gets maximum exposure, because I found it to be sheer nonsense! The original parts of the statement will be in red italics and my responses will be in green bold.

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The Universal House of the International Teaching Center of Justice

The Seat of the Universal House of Justice and...

Image by Adib Roy via Flickr

This ironic title above refers to the incestuous relationship that has recently been established between two major bodies of the Baha’i Administrative Order (BAO) : The Universal House of Justice (UHJ) and the International Teaching Center (ITC).  The former is the supreme governing body of the BAO, while the latter’s membership is appointed by the UHJ. The bureaucratic nature of this system is illustrated by the “alphabet soup” I used here, much like that of American governmental institutions. Note also that the buildings of the Baha’i World Center look a lot like the governmental buildings in Washington, D. C. Would you call this spiritual?

When the UHJ was first established in 1963, its membership included former members of the International Baha’i Council (these had been appointed by Shoghi Effendi) and members of various National Spiritual Assemblies.  Later, the UHJ established the ITC, intended to take the place of the dwindling Hands of the Cause of God. Over several decades, however, more and more members of the UHJ have tended to come from the ITC, until today, ALL the UHJ members were elected from the ITC’s membership, which was appointed by the UHJ previously. This is known as a “feedback loop”. The result is a system that is by nature extremely conservative and not open to new ideas that could allow it to adapt to changing circumstances.

This is truly no better than the Roman Catholic Church, in which the Popes are elected by the College of Cardinals, and these Cardinals are themselves appointed by the previous Popes!