Often people are tested when they learn that only men can be elected to the Universal House of Justice, the supreme Institution of the Baha’i Faith. The Baha’i Holy Writings promise that there is a clear and concise reason for this, and that this reason will become evident in the future. As Abdu’l-Baha wrote, “The House of Justice, however, according to the explicit text of the Law of God, is confined to men; this for a wisdom of the Lord God’s, which will erelong be made manifest as clearly as the sun at high noon.” (SWA, p. 80). For many, though, this promise is difficult to accept. Many people who investigate the Baha’i Faith want to know why this great religion of equality does not allow women in its highest institution.
First of all, we must realize that there is no ‘career path’ in the Baha’i Administrative Order. Therefore, to be elected to a local, national, or international assembly is not ‘climbing the proverbial spiritual ladder.’ Baha’is understand that people in such positions have no authority as individuals. The men who are elected to the Universal House of Justice are not the most blessed or spiritual men in the world. It is only one of many thousands of positions inside the Baha’i administrative order that must be filled. It is the decisions that are made as a group that are binding. Additionally, Baha’i women are frequently appointed and elected to all other levels of administrative responsibility throughout the Faith: locally, nationally, and internationally. If Baha’is did not believe women were equal to men, then surely women would not be elected or appointed to serve at national or international levels.
We can be sure that the reason women are not elected to the Universal House of Justice is not because the Baha’i Faith says men are superior to women. To argue this fact would deny overwhelming evidence. Consider, for example, that it is also written in the Baha’i Faith that if a parent has a boy and a girl—and can only afford to educate one of them—then that parent should educate the girl. Is this discrimination? No, the Baha’i Faith has a logical and practical reason for this teaching. As Abdu’l-Baha wrote, “Baha’u’llah declares the education of woman to be of more importance than that of man. If the mother be ignorant, even if the father have great knowledge, the child’s education will be at fault, for education begins with the milk.” (DP, p. 86). This is a teaching that may affect millions and millions of people for ages to come. The fact that just men can be on the House of Justice only affects a relatively small group of people.
Some Baha’is look to the requirements of the job and then balance that with the fact that society’s first priority is the education of the children. Since women are the ‘first educators,’ then even being a member of the Universal House of Justice may come second to raising children—the most important of all responsibilities. Therefore only men are asked to serve in this capacity in order to free women from the possibility of being forced to choose between their sacred obligations to educate their children, and serving as a House Member.