Breaking: Judge Rules in Favor of Minority Bahá'í Sect
A federal court has ruled the Orthodox Bahá'í Faith can keep its name.
Update, Nov. 24 at 1:37pm.
The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago ruled Tuesday that an orthodox faction of the Bahá'í faith can still call themselves Bahá'ís.
The federal ruling hits close to home for Wilmette, which houses the North American Bahá'í House of Worship."We are disappointed that the Court still failed to find the respondents in contempt of the injunction," according to a statement from the U.S. Baha'i National Center in Evanston.
The decision states that a 1966 ruling that stopped a sect, referred to as the Hereditary Guardianship, from using names and symbols of the Bahá'í faith does not apply to this case. While the sect disbanded, "over time the former followers of the Hereditary Guardianship established several new religious groups and a publishing firm," according to the court's opinion written by Circuit Judge Diane Sykes.
"The case is complicated not just by the passage of time, but also because it arises in the context of a religious schism, and the individuals and groups against whom contempt sanctions are sought were not parties to the original litigation," Sykes wrote.
There are 50 orthodox Bahá'ís in the United States, with approximately one to two living in the Chicagoland area, according to Jeffrey Goldberg, secretary of the National Orthodox Bahá'í Council. As of 2000, there were 7.1 million followers around the world, according to the World Christian Encyclopedia. Founded in Iran in 1844, the Bahá'í faith came to North America roughly 50 years later. Its Wilmette-based temple opened to the public in 1933*.
"Whether or not we have the right to use the word Bahai, it seems clear to me that it's a generic term that can't be trademarked exclusively," Goldberg told Patch.
For the mainstream Bahá'í faith, the ruling goes against founder Bahá'u'lláh's Covenant which states that: "the Bahá'í community is a single, organically united body, free of schisms or factions."
"Those who do not, or cease to, observe these provisions of the Covenant cannot legitimately claim to be Bahá'ís," according to the Bahá'í International Community website.
The updated version of this article includes an official statement from the U.S. Baha'i National Center. Stay tuned for ongoing coverage of the Chicago court's ruling on wilmette.patch.com.
*Correction: The original article stated 1953 as the date in which the house of worship was opened to the public.