The Universal House of Justice
The National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of Canada
We have your letter of 14 January 1970 asking questions about the decision-making process of Spiritual Assemblies.
It is important to realize that the spirit of Bahá’í consultation is very different from that current in the decision-making processes of non-Bahá’í bodies.
The ideal of Bahá’í consultation is to arrive at a unanimous decision. When this is not possible a vote must be taken. In the words of the beloved Guardian: “… when they are called upon to arrive at a certain decision, they should, after dispassionate, anxious, and cordial consultation, turn to God in prayer, and with earnestness and conviction and courage record their vote and abide by the voice of the majority, which we are told by our Master to be the voice of truth, never to be challenged, and always to be wholeheartedly enforced.”
As soon as a decision is reached it becomes the decision of the whole Assembly, not merely of those members who happened to be among the majority.
When it is proposed to put a matter to the vote, a member of the Assembly may feel that there are additional facts or views which must be sought before he can make up his mind and intelligently vote on the proposition. He should express this feeling to the Assembly, and it is for the Assembly to decide whether or not further consultation is needed before voting.
Whenever it is decided to vote on a proposition all that is required is to ascertain how many of the members are in favor of it; if this is a majority of those present, the motion is carried; if it is a minority, the motion is defeated. Thus the whole question of “abstaining” does not arise in Bahá’í voting. A member who does not vote in favor of a proposition is, in effect, voting against it, even if at that moment he himself feels that he has been unable to make up his mind on the matter.