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Appealing a Decision 

Everyone has the right to appeal:

If a believer feels that a serious injustice is being committed he has the right to appeal to the Universal House of Justice:

This (appeal) process is explained in Article XVIII of the Constitution of the Universal House of Justice.  (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 63)

Mr. . . .  explained that it was felt that there is a seeming contradiction between the right of appeal to the Universal House of Justice and the right of a National Spiritual Assembly to make `final’ decisions on certain matters as stated in the National Bahá’í Constitution.  The House of Justice instructs us to explain that wherever `final’ jurisdiction is given to the Local or National Spiritual Assembly in its constitution there is a balancing provision.  For example: “Article IV of the Local Assembly By-Laws states:  ‘while retaining the sacred right of final decision in all matters pertaining to the Bahá’í community, the Spiritual Assembly shall ever seek the advice and consultation of all members of the community, keep the community informed of all its affairs, and invite full and free discussion on the part of the community in all matters affecting the Faith.’  Yet, Article III of those same Local By-Laws states:  ‘The Spiritual Assembly, however, shall recognize the authority and right of the National Spiritual Assembly to declare at any time what activities and affairs of the Bahá’í community of . . . are national in scope and hence subject to the jurisdiction of the National Assembly.’  And in Article II is stated:  “. . . the Spiritual Assembly shall act in conformity with the functions of a Local Spiritual Assembly as defined in the By-Laws adopted by the National Spiritual Assembly . . .”  With respect to those articles that accord final jurisdiction to the National Spiritual Assembly, there is the overriding provision of Article IX of the National By-Laws:  ‘Where the National Spiritual Assembly has been given in these By-Laws exclusive and final jurisdiction, and paramount executive authority, in all matters pertaining to the activities and affairs of the Bahá’í Cause in . . . , it is understood that any decision made or action taken upon such matters shall be subject in every instance to ultimate review and approval by the Universal House of Justice.’   It is clear, therefore, that the word ‘final’ is not used in an absolute sense.  It is, rather, an indication of the principle enunciated by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá that the believers should whole-heartedly and loyally support their Assemblies and abide by their decisions, even if they see them to be in error.  At the same time, the Assemblies have the duty to lovingly and frankly consult with those who are under their jurisdiction and, if a believer (or Local Assembly) feels that a serious injustice is being committed or the interests of the Faith are being adversely affected, he has the right of appeal.  When an appeal is made, the Assembly whose decision is being questioned should lovingly collaborate in the process and join with the appellant in submitting all relevant information to the higher body for decision.  (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, pp. 65-66) 

Your request for referral to the Universal House of Justice cannot be refused, nor should the referral be unduly delayed:

At the same time, if an appeal is turned down by the National Spiritual Assembly, the appellant’s request for referral to the Universal House of Justice cannot be refused, nor should the referral be unduly delayed.  (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 63)

This appeal is not a bother:

Be sure that your letter was not a bother to us.  (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 201)

If you feel that any communication is unclear, or if you have reason to feel that the information supplied to the Universal House of Justice was incomplete or erroneous, or if you note that conditions have changed since the question was posed, you may always write again and raise the issue for clarification.  (The Universal House of Justice to a Regional Spiritual Assembly dated 26 May 1993)

Before appealing, we must wholeheartedly obey the orders of the National Assembly:

When the local Assembly has given its decision in the matter, you then have the right of appeal, if you wish, to the National Spiritual Assembly for further consideration of your case. But before taking such an action it is your duty as a loyal and steadfast believer to whole-heartedly and unreservedly accept the National Spiritual Assembly’s request to enter into joint conference with your Local Assembly. You should have confidence that in obeying the orders of your National Assembly you will not only succeed in solving your own personal problems with the friends, but will in addition set a noble example before them.  (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 62)

The Bahá’ís are fully entitled to address criticisms to their Assemblies; they can freely air their views about policies or individual members of elected bodies to the Assembly, Local or National, but then they must wholeheartedly accept the advice or decision of the Assembly, according to the principles already laid down for such matters in Bahá’í administration).  (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 81)

If you appeal, you remain without your rights while the appeal is being assessed:

If a believer advises you of an appeal to the Universal House of Justice against your decision to withdraw his voting rights, he remains without these rights while the merit of his appeal is being assessed by the House of Justice.  (Universal House of Justice, Removal of Administrative Rights, 1993)

You can also consult with the Counsellors:

When you have doubts and concerns about your own plans, confide in the Counsellors; when something they do causes you worry, talk to them in the proper spirit of Bahá’í consultation. Remember that they, like yourselves, are burdened with the work of the Cause and are beset with many concerns in its service, and they need your sympathetic understanding of the challenges they face. Open your hearts and your minds to them; regard them as your confidants, your loving friends. And be ever ready to extend to them your hand in support.  (The Universal House of Justice, 1994 May 19, response to US NSA)

No one has the right to harass the Assembly in the hope or belief that it will change its decision:

Sometimes a believer will refuse to accept the decision of an Assembly and will repeatedly raise the same issue, consuming an inordinate amount of the Assembly’s time. Although every believer has the right to appeal a decision of the Assembly, none have the right to harass the Assembly in the hope or belief that it will change its decision to suit the individual’s viewpoint. (USA- NSA, Guidelines for Local Spiritual Assemblies, Chapter 14, p. 21)

Restoration of Voting Rights

When a believer is deprived of his administrative rights, he is entitled to clear information on the requirements to be fulfilled in order that his rights may be restored:

When a believer is deprived of his administrative rights, he is entitled to clear information on the requirements to be fulfilled in order that his rights may be restored . . . (Universal House of Justice, Removal of Administrative Rights, 1993)

If rights are removed mistakenly, we can apply for them to be restored:

It can happen, for example, that voting rights are removed mistakenly and the incorrect action of the Assembly is the basis for the believer’s application for their restoration.  (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 59)

Voting Rights can be restored after the passage of a prescribed period of time, if the believer:

  • applies for restoration of voting rights
  • makes an effort to mend his ways
  • rectifies his mistakes
  • performs certain remedial actions
  • alters an attitude or pattern of behaviour which is considered unworthy or harmful
  • sincerely seeks forgiveness
  • is repentant [feels remorse]
  • manifests a spirit of cooperation with the Assembly
  • an evident desire to scrupulously adhere to the teachings

Should… apply for restoration of his voting rights, and should your Assembly feel that he is truly repentant, you should offer assistance . . . (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 58)

The depravation of a person’s voting rights should only be restored when absolutely necessary, and a National Spiritual Assembly should always feel reluctant to impose this very heavy sanction which is a sever punishment. Of course sometimes, to protect the Cause, it must be done, but he feels that if the believer so deprived makes and effort to mend his ways, rectifies his mistakes, or sincerely seeks forgiveness, every effort should be made to help him and enable him to re-establish himself in the Community as a member in good standing.  (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 61)

. . . these may include the passage of a prescribed period of time, the performance of certain remedial actions, or the alteration of an attitude or pattern of behaviour which is considered unworthy or harmful. A condition for the restoration of voting rights is that the believer be repentant, as evidenced by his statement to that effect or by his demeanour and conduct. A believer should not feel compelled to admit his past errors in order to be regarded as repentant; you can infer repentance from his behaviour, his manifest spirit of cooperation with the Assembly, and his evident desire to scrupulously adhere to the teachings.   (Universal House of Justice, Removal of Administrative Rights, 1993)

Definition of Repentance

Compliance with the requirements of Bahá’í law are sufficient evidence of repentance:

If the voting rights have been removed justifiably it is generally sufficient for the believer to take the necessary actions to have them restored; his application for restoration and compliance with the requirements of Bahá’í law are sufficient evidence of repentance.  (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 59)

Rebellious attitudes or contempt for the Baha’i law are not:

However, if the Assembly sees that the believer does not understand the reason for the deprivation and has a rebellious attitude it should endeavour to make the matter clear to him. If his attitude is one of contempt for the Bahá’í law and his actions have been in serious violation of its requirements, the Assembly may even be justified in extending the period of deprivation beyond the time of the rectification of the situation—but such cases, by their nature, are very rare.   (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 59)

Should he display a rebellious or resentful attitude, or be contemptuous of Bahá’í law and the consequence of violation of its provisions, you would be justified in denying his the right to re-enter the Bahá’í community. (Universal House of Justice, Removal of Administrative Rights, 1993)

If you move to another country, it’s up to the NSA in that country, in consultation with the previous one, to decide the matter and take action:

When believers who have been deprived of their voting rights have moved into the area of jurisdiction of another National Spiritual Assembly they are under the jurisdiction of that Assembly. When they apply for the restoration of their voting rights that Assembly should correspond with the National Assembly which applied the sanction in order to obtain the full particulars of the case and also any views the Assembly may have on the matter of restoration. It is then for the National Assembly in whose jurisdiction the believers are living to decide the matter and take action accordingly.  (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 59)

One a person’s rights have been restored, they are (of course) able to  be a member any institution and serve the Faith like any other Baha’i.  They are (of course) treated no differently than any other member of the community.

How has this helped with your understanding of administrative sanctions?  Post your comments below!