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Esteemed members of the Universal House of Justice

This petition is a response to the recent decision of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of the United States to stop its agencies from distributing all titles marketed by Kalimat Press of Los Angeles.

We are deeply concerned about this decision, which runs counter to the universal vision and world-embracing teachings of Baha'u'llah.
The decision is part of a trend by American institutions to censor and publicly criticize Baha'is who take seriously their divine duty to investigate truth for themselves and express their considered views in responsible ways. These punitive actions erode the freedom of expression guaranteed to every Baha'i in the Bahai writings.

The mission of Kalimat Press is "to ensure the continued production of serious Bahб'н books which will enrich and diversify the range of Baha'i literature available in English". Since its founding in 1978, Kalimat Press has brought out more than 100 separate titles, which cover a wide range of Baha'i literature, including prayer books, children's books and scholarly works. Kalimat has been a leader in advancing the scholarly study of the Babi and Baha'i religions through its series "Studies in Babi and Baha'i Religions". The 21-volume series is the most prominent and influential collection of Babi and Baha'i studies in the world and features the best work in the field by Baha'i and non-Baha'i scholars.

The academic study of religion is challenging. We recognize that some tension will arise within the faith community as historians, sociologists, anthropologists and theologians examine and publish their findings and present believers with new information and ideas. However, Kalimat Press has faithfully carried out its mission in accordance with existing Baha'i requirements. All the books it has published have been approved by the National Spiritual Assembly's own review committee. In light of this, the National Spiritual Assembly's decision to call for a boycott of all Kalimat Press titles is extreme and unfair. It was also made without adequate consultation or due process.

The decision has far-reaching consequences not only for Kalimat Press but for third parties. In addition to damaging the reputation of Kalimat Press and its ability to continue publishing, it also casts a shadow over the reputation and works of all Kalimat Press authors. The National Spiritual Assembly circulated the decision widely, through its communications with its agencies and in "The American Baha'i", which is sent to every believer. It is inevitable that this action will harm the reputation of Kalimat and, as a consequence, those whose works it has published.

Most importantly, we believe that this decision will backfire with the scholars and intellectuals the Baha'i community now calls upon to speak out against the suppression of intellectual freedom in Iran. Will they be willing to accuse Iran of something the Baha'i institutions appear to do themselves? It could also detract from Iran's willingness to listen to the international community and the international community's willingness to listen to the pleas of the Baha'is. In short, it will sully the name of the Baha'i Faith for decades among those whose support it most seeks, and impact negatively on the Baha'is in Iran.

The Secretary of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of the United States, Mr. Robert Henderson, has claimed that the National Spiritual Assembly is not calling for a "boycott" nor does it wish to draw up a list of banned books. However, these outcomes are exactly what its decision has produced. Moreover, the decision fits with Webster's definition of "boycott", which is "to engage is a concerted refusal to have dealings with (as a person, store, or organization), usually to express disapproval or to force acceptance of certain conditions."

We the undersigned appeal to the Universal House of Justice to request that the National Spiritual Assembly:

1. Suspend the boycott of Kalimat Press and

2. Enter into consultation with the owners of Kalimat Press to resolve this conflict.

It is our hope that these conflicts can be resolved in the spirit of the Baha'i teachings that promote openness, dialogue, humility, service to the cause of truth, unity in diversity and, above all, justice.

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Paula FitzpatrickBy:
SustainabilityIn:
Petition target:
The Universal House of Justice

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