The following letter is from the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of New Zealand, explaining why it asked for Alison’s name to be removed from the membership rolls.
19 April 2000
Transmitted by email: natsec@…
The National Spiritual Assembly
of the Baha’is of New Zealand
Dear Baha’i Friends,
The Universal House of Justice has asked us to provide you with comments about its recent decision that the name of Mrs. Alison Marshall of New Zealand be removed from the membership rolls, to assist you in responding to questions which may be directed to you concerning this matter.
Membership in the Baha’i Faith is open to all of humanity. In accordance with the principle of freedom of spiritual choice, the Baha’i Faith holds that an individual should be free to accept or reject the system of belief brought by Baha’u’llah. No one is compelled to become a Baha’i, nor is anyone prohibited from withdrawing from the Faith if he or she cannot continue to accept the Baha’i teachings. In the latter case Baha’is treat the person with the courtesy, amity and respect enjoined in the Baha’i writings as applicable to Baha’i relationships with others.
Deciding on the qualification for membership in the Baha’i Faith of one who expresses belief in Baha’u’llah is a delicate matter. The principal factors to be taken into consideration in making such a determination have been set out by Shoghi Effendi:
Full recognition of the station of the Bab, the Forerunner; of Baha’u’llah, the Author; and of ‘Abdu’l-Baha, the True Exemplar of the Baha’i religion; unreserved acceptance of, and submission to, whatsoever has been revealed by their Pen; loyal and steadfast adherence to every clause of ‘Abdu’l-Baha’s sacred Will; and close association with the spirit as well as the form of Baha’i Administration throughout the world.
It follows that determination by the Institutions of the Faith about a person’s qualifications for membership cannot be made solely on the basis of the individual’s statement of belief in Baha’u’llah. For example, in the case of a person who claims to accept the station of Baha’u’llah but does not accept the authority of the Institutions of the Administrative Order established through His Covenant, the Guardian clarified this principle, in a letter written on his behalf:
… to accept the Cause without the administration is like to accept the teachings without acknowledging the divine station of Baha’u’llah. To be a Baha’i is to accept the Cause in its entirety. To take exception to one basic principle is to deny the authority and sovereignty of Baha’u’llah, and therefore is to deny the Cause….
Recognition of membership in the community of Baha’u’llah’s followers is vested ultimately in the Universal House of Justice in accordance with Clause I of its by-laws, which states in part:
The Baha’i community shall consist of all persons recognized by the Universal House of Justice as possessing the qualifications of Baha’i faith and practice.
Under the broad authority of the Universal House of Justice, National and Local Spiritual Assemblies discharge the responsibility of ensuring that these qualifications are met, following the provisions set out in Article II of the by-laws of a National Spiritual Assembly and Article V of the by-laws of a Local Spiritual Assembly.
Over an extended period of time, Mrs. Marshall has given unmistakable indications of lack of understanding of the foundations of the Baha’i Administrative Order. Prolonged efforts by the Institutions of the Faith to assist her to rectify this deficiency took the form of educational classes conducted in the area where she lived, in addition to personal discussions with her. Such assistance was without effect.
Under normal circumstances, an erroneous understanding of the Baha’i Faith and its Teachings would be regarded as a personal spiritual challenge for the individual involved, which would hopefully be met in due course through loving nurturance, deepening and encouragement by the Baha’i Institutions or their representatives. However, in this case, Mrs. Marshall has chosen to aggressively promote her misconceptions in defiance of efforts to provide her with essential Baha’i teachings which correct them. She has made a series of statements that stand totally in contradiction to the authoritative texts of the Baha’i writings. These assertions, which she disseminated to an international audience, were of such concern to a number of Baha’is that the matter was brought to the attention of the Universal House of Justice.
Under some conditions, actions of a kind taken by Mrs. Marshall might have led to the loss of a believer’s administrative rights or even called into question his or her loyalty to the Covenant. In her case, the Universal House of Justice has concluded that she does not satisfy the requirements of Baha’i membership. Consequently it instructed the National Spiritual Assembly to remove her name from the membership rolls.
With loving Baha’i greetings,
Department of the Secretariat
cc: International Teaching Centre
Board of Counsellors in Australasia (by email)
Counsellors in Australasia (transmitted electronically)