Baha'i News -- Baha'is embrace democracy - but shun campaigning
Baha'is embrace democracy - but shun campaigning
By Jeffrey Huffines, Contributor
EVERY FOUR years the American people engage in the ultimate act of faith for a democracy: the election of a person to
occupy the highest office in the land.
Although democracy has been embraced at least in name by a majority of countries in
the world since the end of the Cold War, partisan politics, regardless of party or country, continues to wreak havoc on the
body politic. The rhetoric of divisiveness and antagonism, together with the cynicism and apathy it produces, remains much the
Members of the Baha'i faith, the second most widespread religion in the world, with 5 million followers from more than
2,000 tribes, races, and ethnic groups, have a radical solution to the problem of partisan politics.
Baha'is as a matter of
moral principle refuse to campaign for political office or help others to do so.
As a religious community, Baha'is are not
unique in eschewing any form of political endorsement or engagement in party politics as a strictly non-partisan
What is perhaps unique is that while exercising the right to vote as a civic obligation, individual Baha'is
refuse to participate in the political theatre of party politics, with its nominations, electioneering, and campaign funding
that have long been such familiar features of democratic life.
Moreover, the culture of opposition, propaganda, adversarial
debate, and pandering associated with partisan politics brings out the worst aspects of human ambition and ego. Baha'is
believe that such practices are fundamentally divisive and, hence, contrary to their primary goal of establishing a unified,
In this respect, Baha'is throughout the world participate in democratic elections without party
affiliation. Baha'is vote on the merits of the individual, rather than because he or she belongs to one party or the other.
The prohibition against party membership is premised on the conviction that party politics, despite impressive
contributions to human progress in the past, is no longer capable of achieving the unity of purpose required for society to
meet the complex needs that its increased maturity now demands.
Baha'is shun the ambitious pursuit of power and refuse to
sacrifice principle for political expediency, in the belief that moral means must justify moral ends if praiseworthy results
are to be achieved.
This is not to say that Baha'is do not believe in public service. Quite the contrary.
social and economic development projects throughout the world and work with other organisations at every level in the
promotion of human rights, the status of women, global prosperity, and moral development.
Baha'is seek to work with others
to build a community whose concept of leadership includes trustworthiness, wisdom, and willingness to sacrifice for the common
good, with its highest expression being service to humanity.
In so doing, individual Baha'is are free to accept governmental
appointments and to hold public office as long as they are not forced to declare party allegiances or to campaign for office
Baha'u'llah, the prophet-founder of the Baha'i faith, who was exiled and imprisoned for nearly 40
years during the latter half of the 1800s by the despots who ruled the Persian and Ottoman empires, created a system of
governance unique in religious history.
He made voting the very means for choosing the leadership of the religious community
he founded. In place of clergy who have traditionally guided the faithful in most religious communities, Baha'is elect the
membership of local and national councils every year by secret ballot in an atmosphere of prayer, and without nominations or
campaigning. Those councils are responsible for the administration and spiritual guidance of the Baha'i community.
there are more than 12,500 local councils in more than 190 countries, whose national councils gather every five years in
Haifa, Israel, to elect the Baha'i international governing council, the Universal House of Justice.
Huffines is the chairman of the Local spiritual Assembly of the Baha's of Teaneck, New Jersey. He works in New York as the UN
representative for the Baha'is of the United States.
©Copyright 2000, The Jamaica Gleaner
Page last updated/revised 041902
Return to the Bahá'í Association's Main Web Page