July 16. On this date in 1961, the Hands of the Cause of God in the Holy Land addressed a letter to all National Spiritual Assemblies concerning the "punishment of deprivation of voting rights."
To All National Spiritual Assemblies July 16,1961
As you know, the beloved Guardian for a number of years before his ascension permitted the various National Assemblies to apply the extreme punishment of deprivation of voting rights in cases where believers continued to disobey an important decision of a National Assembly, or in cases where the conduct of an individual continuously and flagrantly violated Bahá'í standards to a point where the good name of the Faith was placed in jeopardy. At various times the beloved Guardian sent communications to National Assemblies instructing them and guiding them in the application of this authority, which he felt should be invoked only as a last resort, and after repeated warnings to the individual concerned. In the belief that they will be helpful to all National Assemblies in carrying out the spirit as well as the letter of the beloved Guardian's instructions on this important subject, and because they contain such a clear exposition of the status of Bahá'ís deprived of their voting rights, we are sharing with you the following paragraphs from a communication sent by him to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States on May 18, 1948:
The Guardian considers there are three conditions, so to speak, in regard to Bahá'í status or lack of it: a member of the Bahá'í Faith, in good standing, possessed of all his administrative rights; a member of the Faith who is being severely punished-either because of flagrant disobedience of some very important injunction of the National Assembly, or because of conduct extremely detrimental to the good name of the Faith, which he has not rectified-through having his voting and administrative rights suspended; and a person who is excommunicated by the Guardian because of disloyalty and enmity to the Faith. "Deprivation of voting rights" and "deprivation of membership in the Bahá'í Community" are really the same thing.
No contribution should be accepted from a person deprived of his voting rights. He is not eligible for election to Bahá'í bodies, cannot attend the administrative gatherings such as elections or Nineteen Day Feasts. However he can attend Bahá'í meetings as he is not excommunicated.Please note carefully the Guardian's words indicating that he did not wish to have this material published in Bahá'í News, and his further instruction that no statement whatsoever should be made by the National Assembly in connection with this question. In other words, his wish was that each case be considered individually in the light of the general principles which he gave to the National Assembly for its guidance. With warm Bahá'í love, In the service of the beloved Guardian,
In connection with the above two paragraphs the Guardian does not want them published in Bahá'í News or any statement whatsoever issued in connection with this matter. Your Assembly can take action as occasion demands. As he has already stated, he considers that National Assemblies must strongly guard against this marked tendency of laying down new rules and regulations all the time, which he considers unnecessary and injurious. In the end it will dampen the zeal and quench the spontaneity of the believers, and give the impression that the Bahá'í Faith is crystallizing into set forms. Principles there must be, but they must be applied with wisdom to each case that arises, not every case covered, before it arises, by a codified set of rules. This is the whole spirit of Bahá'u'lláh's system: rigid conformity to great essential laws, elasticity, and even a certain necessary element of diversity, in secondary matters.
The deprivation of a person's voting rights should only be re-sorted to when absolutely necessary, and a National Spiritual Assembly should always feel reluctant to impose this very heavy sanction which is a severe punishment. Of course sometimes, to protect the Cause, it must be done, but he feels that if the believer so deprived makes an effort to mend his ways, rectifies his mistake, 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.
HANDS OF THE CAUSE IN THE HOLY LAND