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COLLECTIONLetters from National Spiritual Assemblies
TITLEMembership in the National Organization for Women
AUTHOR 1 National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of the United States
ABSTRACTA statement on behalf of the NSA about which criteria Bahá'ís should consider when deciding what organizations to participate in, and whether they are politically active.
NOTES The recipient of this letter, John B. Cornell, introduces this letter as follows: "On the forum called Bahá'í Men, someone asked whether Bahá'ís should join the National Organization for Women. I asked our NSA and received this reply." Contributed by and posted with permission of Cornell.
CONTENT Dear Bahá'í Friend:

The National Spiritual Assembly received your email of June 9 about membership by Bahá'ís in the National Organization for Women.

The National Spiritual Assembly does not keep a list of "approved organizations" but has provided a number of criteria that individual Bahá'ís may use to decide whether and in what manner to support a given organization. The local Assembly handbook, Developing Distinctive Bahá'í Communities, p. 12.15 states:

"The National Assembly encourages the friends to associate with like-minded organizations. Individual Bahá'ís are free to decide whether or how much they should participate in the activities of other groups. But in the process they need to ensure that their participation does not compromise the teachings of the Faith.

"The following questions must be asked: Are the aims of the organization compatible with Bahá'í laws and principles? Is membership open to persons of all racial and religious backgrounds? Is it free from partisan politics and political controversies? To answer these questions it would be necessary to review carefully an organization's activities and charter."

Individual Bahá'ís may consult with their local Assemblies if they have questions about applying these criteria to a particular organization.

With regard specifically to the National Organization for Women, one of its primary mandates is to oppose the Christian Right in the political arena. It organizes support for candidates running for political office at the state and national level. These activities are forbidden to Bahá'ís, and therefore Bahá'ís should not join the organization. However, some of its aims are consonant with Bahá'í teachings, and Bahá'ís may be able to support some of its initiatives or collaborate with it on certain projects.

An example of this sort of collaboration is the relationship with Amnesty International. The Universal House of Justice has stated that Bahá'ís should not join Amnesty International because of the political nature of some of its activities and because it categorically opposes the death penalty. However, Bahá'í institutions have worked closely with Amnesty International on projects of common concern. For example, the National Assembly and Amnesty International, USA, are the co-chairs of the national campaign for US ratification of the UN Convention on Women.

    With warmest Bahá'í regards,
    The Office of the Secretary for External Affairs
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