Several news sources are reporting that an Interfaith group, including the Baha’is, staged an anti-homosexuality march in Uganda yesterday in response to an increase in pro gay rights activism in that country. While the protesters were united in their hope that the law would not be changed such that it would discourage family values, there were a variety of views on homosexuality being expressed by them and the banners they carried.
I feel it is worth saying a few words on the Baha’i attitude toward homosexuality here. In the Baha’i Faith sexual acts between two people of the same sex are not permitted. Sex is only permitted within marriage and marriage is viewed primarily as the institution for bringing children into the world, becoming a Baha’i when you are not married involves a commitment to abstain from sexual activity, just as it requires a commitment to abide by other laws too.
As with all religions, the Baha’i Faith presents love as a very powerful force, and for the love between any two people to be strong is to be seen as a positive thing, much moreso than popular culture generally dictates. It is only the sexual expression of that love which is forbidden outside of marriage.
A Baha’i would typically treat a homosexual and a heterosexual with the same dignity and respect, a homosexual is not seen as an evil person. The Baha’i teachings are for every individual Baha’i to apply to their own lives, and every Baha’i will have some short comings in this respect. Baha’is do not judge people simply because there is one obvious aspect of their life which is not in keeping with the teachings of Baha’u’llah, whether they have accepted Baha’u’llah or not. Within the Baha’i community if an individual is seen to be actively engaging in homosexual activity, as with any Baha’i law that is broken, they are likely to be discouraged or have certain administrative privileges removed. An addiction to, or inability to restrain from, homosexual activity is seen in the Baha’i teachings as a condition which can be treated.
The fundamental laws and teachings of the Baha’i Faith were set in stone by Baha’u’llah. There are some matters that were left for the Universal House of Justice (International governing body) to decide in accordance with the needs of the age, but they cannot change the basic laws of the Baha’i Faith to meet with popular opinion. Any individual who becomes a Baha’i will investigate the laws and teachings of Baha’u’llah, be inspired by the Holy Writings and recognise that the religion is from a Divine source, it is inevitable that somewhere in the laws and teachings there will be something that is incompatible with an individuals personal beliefs to that date, but to accept Baha’u’llah as a Messenger from God is to accept that His teachings are correct and our ideas are flawed, to suggest that Baha’u’llah may be wrong on one issue is to deny His divinity and thus reject the Baha’i Faith. It is common for an individual to have problems or issues accepting a view-point which is contrary to everything they have believed throughout their life, it is not unreasonable that such issues may never be fully reconciled or understood, so long as a Baha’i understands the Baha’i perspective as the Truth and their own perspective as restricted by the limitations of human understanding then there is no harm in such differences.
Religion is not about finding a code of living that everybody agrees with, it is about discovering the path for our spiritual development as individuals and as a society. Religion has never been popular for changing standards, but many religious standards that were unpopular in the past are accepted as proper today. For example (though somewhat disconnected from the overall subject matter) in the mid-nineteenth century the explicit Baha’i message that men and women should have equal rights was seen by many as outrageous, within a century it was globally prevalent and society is better for it.
There is a fairly good Wikipedia article on the Baha’i Faith and homosexuality which can be found here.