Thursday, April 24, 2008

Breaking Baha'i News Stories

Besides the one on Iran below, there are two other news stories making the rounds of Baha'i cyberspace:

The Baha'i News Service has just announced the retirement of Harmut Grossman and Glenford Mitchell from the Universal House of Justice. Mitchell, of course, has been on the UHJ for many years and is due for retirement, but Grossman was elected just a few years ago -- although, at age 74 it seems reasonable for him to retire as well, even if he's served only a single term. It seems to me that there has been more turnover on the House than there once was, which is a good thing. What's not so good, and has been much discussed on various forums, is that all the new House members have come from the ITC, making appointment to that body a virtual nomination to the House. Here's to hoping that the next election is a deviation from that trend. In the only case where I was given the opportunity to observe the upper institutions closely, it seemed to me that the appointed ITC -- which has "protection" as part of its explicit job -- was far more harsh and condemning than the House itself, which was trying to stay more neutral, even distant, and in the end it did the right thing for the particular person involved. The appointed wing is scary: Although technically without power, it wields a tremendous influence that has had a negative impact on some people's lives -- the ramifications of which are still being felt. Anyway, I hope the NSAs elect someone from their ranks this time.

The second story is that the
US NSA court case against two Remeyite groups has failed.. Apparently, the NSA was arguing that these groups were in contempt of a 1966 court decision against Remey's original group disallowing them from using Baha'i copyrighted symbols. The court found that these successor groups are materially different from the original one set up by Mason Remey. Of course, there's nothing stopping the NSA from suing each of these groups individually, as far as I can tell -- and I suspect that's what will happen. But if their complaint is based upon web pages, they're going to have to not only sue the leadership of these groups, but every individual member who is using these symbols. This all could be in court a long time.

I have very little sympathy with these splinter groups -- one is fundamentalist and the other just plain nuts. Nevertheless, I'm uncomfortable with the notion that religous symbols are copyrighted; it seems very sectarian. Nobody owns the cross or the crescent, after all. And I don't think there is a significant danger that anyone who is halfway paying attention is going to confuse these groups with the mainstream Baha'i Faith, so all this litigation seems like a lot of time and effort for very little gain.


Anonymous said...

Hi Karen,

The link to the second story is very slightly broken. (And, since computers are involved, that means it's completely broken.) The URL is missing an "l" at the end -

Anonymous said...

Hi again,

You write:
"And I don't think there is a significant danger that anyone who is halfway paying attention is going to confuse these groups with the mainstream Baha'i Faith"

I agree, although several times a year I get enquiries from people who confuse "Baha'is Online" with something more official. The last request I got was from a person in Central America who wanted to know how her application for pilgrimage was progressing.

I just do the responsible thing in these circumstances, and I'm sure the splinter groups would do the same. There's no need to take anyone to court for minor niggles.