Orthodox Baháʼí Faith

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The Orthodox Baháʼí Faith is a small Baháʼí sect that was formed in 1960 by Mason Remey, and subsequently was the name used by Joel Marangella after he claimed to be Remey's successor. The basis of the dispute is over the identity of the Guardian, a term referring to the appointed head of the religion, a hereditary office held by Shoghi Effendi from 1921 to 1957.

Other than on the matter of leadership and organization, there are few differences between the orthodox and mainstream Baháʼís in matters of doctrine.[1] As a group who believe that Mason Remey was the second Guardian of the Baháʼí Faith, they are considered heretical Covenant-breakers by the majority of Baháʼís, who follow the leadership of the Universal House of Justice.[2] While the followers of the Orthodox Baháʼí Faith consider the mainstream Baháʼís as strayed from the original teachings of the religion.[3][4]

Membership data of the Orthodox Baháʼís is scarce. One source estimated them at no more than 100 members as of 1988.[5][6] Memorandums from an Illinois court case in 2007 state their membership in the United States at 40.[7][8] Websites claiming to represent the Orthodox community indicate followers in the United States, India, France and Iran.


Following the unexpected death of the Baháʼí Faith's first Guardian Shoghi Effendi in 1957, the 27 living Hands of the Cause, gathered and decided that he had died "without having appointed his successor," and that the Universal House of Justice would decide on the situation after its first election.[9] Charles Mason Remey, one of the Hands, declared himself the successor to Shoghi Effendi in 1960.[10] He claimed that he was “the hereditary successor” of Shoghi Effendi.[11]

Remey based his claim on his being the president of the International Baháʼí Council appointed by Shoghi Effendi in 1951. Initially the NSA of France and about 100 Baháʼís followed Remey[3] but his claim was rejected by the 26 remaining Hands, thus almost all other Baháʼís. He was shunned as a Covenant-breaker. Remey went on to declare that the Hands of the Cause were Covenant-breakers, that they lacked any authority without a Guardian, and those following them "should not be considered Baháʼís". Remey believed that the hands were never given any authority on their own; according to the will and testament of 'Abdu'l Baha, they were to be in the service of the guardian and to do his bidding: “This body of the Hands of the Cause of God is under the direction of the Guardian of the Cause of God.” (W&T, p. 13)[12]

According to Remey in his book Daily Observations, at the meeting of the Hands of the Cause on November 20, 1957, Rehmatullah Muhajir proposed "that the Will and Testament of ‘Abdu’l-Baha be pronounced BADAH [God changing his plan] and that the Guardianship be ended forever. Remey further states that all of the Persian Hands of the Cause immediately supported the proposal (along with Rúhíyyih Khánum), and that Ugo Giachery suggested they had decided this the night before in a meeting at the Mansion of Bahjí.[13][14][15]

Initially, Remey had followers in Pakistan, India, the United States, and parts of Europe. He settled in Florence, Italy, until the end of his life. From there he appointed three local spiritual assemblies in Santa Fe, New Mexico, Rawalpindi, Pakistan, and Lucknow, India, then organized the election of two National Assemblies - in the united states and Pakistan.[16]

In 1964 the Santa Fe assembly filed a lawsuit against the National Spiritual Assembly (NSA) of the Baháʼís of the United States to receive the legal title to the Baháʼí House of Worship in Illinois, and all other property owned by the NSA. The NSA counter-sued and won.[17] The Santa Fe assembly lost the right to use the term "Baháʼí" in printed material. Remey then changed the name of his sect from "Baháʼís Under the Hereditary Guardianship" to "Abha World Faith" and also referred to it as the "Orthodox Faith of Baháʼu'lláh". In 1966, Remey asked the Santa Fe assembly to dissolve, as well as the second International Baháʼí Council that he had appointed with Joel Marangella, residing in France, as president.[18]

Beginning in 1966-67, according to Leland Jensen, Remey was abandoned by almost all of his followers due to his criticism of Shoghi Effendi and other statements.[19] The followers of Mason Remey were not organized until several of them began forming their own groups based on different understandings of succession, even before his death in 1974.[20][21] The majority of them claimed that Remey was showing signs of senility.[19] The small Baháʼí sects that adhere to Remey as Guardian are now largely confined to the United States.[18]

The Encyclopædia Iranica reported the following in 1988:

Remey died in 1974, having appointed a third Guardian, but the number of adherents to the Orthodox faction remains extremely small. Although successful in Pakistan, the Remeyites seem to have attracted no followers in Iran. Other small groups have broken away from the main body from time to time, but none of these has attracted a sizeable following.[22]

Joel Marangella[edit]

The group organized by Joel Marangella became known as the "Orthodox Baháʼí Faith".

In 1961 Joel Marangella received a letter from Remey, and a note that, "...in or after 1963. You will know when to break the seal."[23] In 1964 Remey appointed members to a second International Baháʼí Council with Marangella as president, significant due to Remey's claim to Guardianship being based on the same appointment. In 1965 Remey activated the council, and in 1966 wrote letters passing the "affairs of the Faith" to the council, then later dissolving it. In 1969 Marangella made an announcement that the letter of 1961 was Remey's appointment of him as the third Guardian, and that he had been the Guardian since 1964, invalidating Remey's pronouncements from that point forward.[24]

In 1970 Marangella appointed members to a "National Bureau of the Orthodox Baháʼís in New York", which two years later was moved to New Mexico, and subsequently changed its name to "Mother Baháʼí Council of the United States" (1978) and "Provisional National Baháʼí Council" (2000), with all members appointed by Joel Marangella.[25]

Marangella gained the support of most of Remey's followers,[26] who came to be known as Orthodox Baháʼís.[27] Membership data is scarce. One source estimated them at no more than 100 members in 1988,[28] and the group claimed a United States membership of about 40 in a 2007 court case.[8] Joel Marangella died in San Diego, California on Sept 1, 2013. An unverified website claiming to represent Orthodox Baháʼís indicates followers in the United States and India, and a fourth Guardian named Nosrat’u’llah Bahremand.[29]

Ruling on Baháʼí trademarks[edit]

In 2006, the mainstream Baháʼí administration filed a lawsuit accusing the Orthodox Baháʼís of violating the order issued in 1966. The Orthodox Baháʼís denied that they were the same group.[6]

The federal 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in 2008 that the 1966 decision against Mason Remey's use of Baha'i trademarks does not apply to any of the successor groups, such as, "Franklin D. Schlatter, Joel B. Marangella, the Provisional National Baha’i Council ("PNBC"), the Second International Baha’I Council (d/b/a Baha’is Under the Provisions of the Covenant) ("SIBC"), and the Baha’i Publishers Under the Provisions of the Covenant ("BPUPC")".[30]

While the case was focused on the successor claims of Schlatter and Marangella, Jensen's BUPC was a non-party that was also named as not bound by the earlier ruling. The Chicago court judges criticised the 1966 ruling, saying that it was a wrongful means of trying to resolve a question of religious authority.


  • Marangella, Joel Bray; Orthodox Bahaʹi Faith of the United States and Canada (1977). What is the meaning of loyalty to the Covenant of Baháʼuʼlláh and who are the present-day covenant-breakers?. OCLC 852522886.
  • Extracts from the Kitáb-i-aqdas: the Most Holy Book of the revelation of Baháʹuʹlláh. United States: National Bureau of the Orthodox Bahaʹi Faith of the United States and Canada. OCLC 2089855.
  • Remey, Charles Mason (1960). Daily observations of the Baha'i faith: made to the Hands of the Faith in the Holy Land. Washington, D.C.: C.M. Remey. OCLC 233997461.


  1. ^ Martinez, Hutan Hejazi (2011). Baha'ism : history, transfiguration, doxa. [Place of publication not identified]: Proquest, Umi Dissertatio. p. 102. ISBN 1-243-86016-2. OCLC 941717864.
  2. ^ Universal House of Justice 1997.
  3. ^ a b Brachear 2009.
  4. ^ Marangella 1975.
  5. ^ THE COVENANT, Moojan Momen. Quoting Chicago Tribune, 10 June 1988, section 1, p. 9
  6. ^ a b "Baha'i court case; Robert Stockman, Janice Franco, Jeffrey Goldberg". The Honolulu Advertiser. 2009-05-30. p. 9. Retrieved 2020-11-27.
  7. ^ [1], US District Court for Northern District Court of Illinois Eastern Division, Civil Action No. 64 C 1878: NSA's Reply Memorandum to the Response of Franklin D. Schlatter, Joel B. Marangella and Provisional National Baháʼí Council, p8 para 2 line 5
  8. ^ a b [2], US District Court for Northern District Court of Illinois Eastern Division, Civil Action No. 64 C 1878: Orthodox Baháʼí Respondents' Surreply Memorandum to NSA's Reply Memorandum, p2 para 2 line 15
  9. ^ Ministry of the Custodians, pp. 28-30
  10. ^ Proclamation of Mason Remey Archived 2008-11-20 at the Wayback Machine
  11. ^ Hatcher, William S.; Martin, James Douglas (2002). The Bahá'í Faith: The Emerging Global Religion. Baha'i Publishing Trust. p. 72. ISBN 978-1-931847-06-3.
  12. ^ Johnson 2020, p. 35.
  13. ^ JOHNSON, VERNON ELVIN, PH.D. (2020). BAHA'IS IN EXILE. [S.l.]: ROSEDOG PR. ISBN 1-64530-574-0. OCLC 1231601376.
  14. ^ Bjorling, Joel (1985). The Baha'i Faith: A Historical Bibliography. Garland Pub. p. 136. ISBN 978-0-8240-8974-0.
  15. ^ Konczyk, Robert J. "Melchizedek & The Temple". Melchizedek & The Temple Revised edition: 337.
  16. ^ Johnson 2020, p. 40.
  17. ^ Baháʼís vs New Mexico Group District Court, N.D. Illinois, E. Div. No. 64 C 1878. Decided June 28, 1966
  18. ^ a b Momen 2003, §G.2.e.
  19. ^ a b Johnson 2020, p. 44.
  20. ^ Barrett 2001.
  21. ^ Warburg 2004.
  22. ^ MacEoin 1988.
  23. ^ Johnson 2020, p. 61.
  24. ^ Johnson 2020, pp. 60–65.
  25. ^ Findings of fact 2007.
  26. ^ Johnson 2020, p. 60.
  27. ^ Smith 2000, p. 292.
  28. ^ Momen 2003, G.2.e.
  29. ^ The National Baháʼí Council of the Orthodox Baháʼí Faith
  30. ^ News, Deseret (2010-12-24). "Orthodox believers can keep calling themselves Baha'i, court rules, reversing earlier ruling". Deseret News. Retrieved 2020-09-21.


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