Penn Badgley practices the Baha’i faith, which preaches universal love, equality

Penn Badgley at arrivals for Lifetime Pr...

It’s always interesting when I learn something completely new from a celebrity. Today, that happened because of… Penn Badgley? As it turns out, Penn Badgley is a follower of the Baha’i faith. I’d never heard of Baha’i faith before, and when I first read the headline, I honestly thought “what new religious cult had cropped up in LA now?” But it’s not a cult, at least as far as I can see (I’m honestly just reading the Wiki page). Baha’i began in what is now Iran, by a Persian religious leader in the 19th century named Bahá’u’lláh. He preached “universal peace and unity among all races, nations, and religions.” For real. Sounds interesting, I *will* take a pamphlet on that, thank you.

Penn Badgley — the “Gossip Girl” star now playing a homicidal stalker on “You” — has quietly become a follower of the Baha’i faith. The actor hosted an event Thursday at Howard University in DC with four young people from Iran who were discriminated against in their home country simply for their Baha’i religious beliefs.

“In Iran,” Badgley, 31, said, “education is not a given at all. For decades, in fact, the Iranian government has been systematically depriving members of the Baha’i faith their right to higher education, attempting to bar their advancement and marginalize them in Iranian society.”

The Baha’i faith — which values all religions, and teaches the equality of all people — was established in 1852 by the prophet Baha’u’llah, who was exiled from Iran and imprisoned for decades. The religion now has an estimated 7 million adherents around the world.

Badgley told me when he started studying Baha’i in 2011, he “discovered a joy, as well as a deepening in my understanding of the oneness of humankind and the inherent nobility of the human being, that I couldn’t ignore. And then, as I was striving to meet the Baha’i standard, I realized I might already be a Baha’i. So I formally enrolled in the faith as a member in 2015.”

One source said Badgley found religion after he met singer Domino Kirke, sister of actresses Lola and Jemima Kirke. The couple married in a Brooklyn courthouse last year.

[From Page Six]

Universal love and peace and respect for all religions… who would have a problem with that? Oh, right – all of the religious people who claim that their religion is the only “true” faith and theirs is the only true God. This reminds me a bit of the principles of Hinduism, but obviously, modern Hindus are more complicated than peace, love and unity for everybody. Anyway, well done for Penn, I guess. I’m glad he’s not actually in a cult?

Do adherents of Baha’i not believe in socks?

Penn Badgley at arrivals for Lifetime Pr...

Photos courtesy of WENN.

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60 Responses to “Penn Badgley practices the Baha’i faith, which preaches universal love, equality”

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  1. SamC says:

    I’ve heard of this as Rainn Wilson is a longtime practitioner. Agree, who would/should have a problem with the tenets of this faith?!

    • ggy says:

      Plenty of people who think their religion is the only right one.

    • Cloud says:

      So, not to rain on anyone’s parade here but… I heard Rainn Wilson talking about his faith on Oprah’s podcast. Subsequently listened to his Soul Pancake podcast and got really interested in the tenets and ideas of the Ba’hai. I’ve been looking for more structured spirituality and it would be nice to have a community of like minded people.
      Sadly, I found out the Ba’hai Faith does not support gay marriage and there’s been a lot of struggle for acceptance of LGBT followers of the faith. Seems a shame as they preach tolerance and peace etc but yeah, not the movement for me I’m afraid.

  2. Millenial says:

    Sounds a bit like Unitarian Univeralism. But nevertheless, good for him.

    • I says:

      The middle eastern religion predates the western one by a century and by many more followers (there are about 8 million followers world wide). Unitarian Universalism sounds a bit like Baha’ism not vice versa, you could say.

      • Millenial says:

        Super interesting, thank you! 🙂

      • cannibell says:

        It’s a lovely, inclusive faith. A lot of Ba’hai left Iran after the 1979 Revolution because of persecution. There’s a Temple in Haifa, Israel and another in Wilmette (a Chicago suburb), and when I looked up the exact Chicago location, I read that it’s one of 10 worldwide.

      • ichsi says:

        Unitarian Universalism to me always feels like someone wanted the community aspects of traditional churches but without the Resurrection mumbo-jumbo. Baha’i comes across as mire of a religion, with rules and guidelines. At least that’s the impression I got, but I’m a happy agnostic, so what do I know.

  3. Missy says:

    I had a Jehovah’s Witness come to my door yesterday. I thought at first she was an insurance salesperson or something but no. It was such an uncomfortable experience. She kept talking about earthquakes and natural disasters caused by people’s sins, talking about the apocalypse and what not. She asked how I would teach good values to my child without the bible. I said I teach her to treat everyone equal regardless of what they look like, where their from, or what their sexual orientation is. She just stared at me, than asked if my partner and I were married. I said no, we aren’t, we’ve been together for fifteen years though. Than she asked to come in and read from the bible to me, that’s when I ended it.

    • Esmom says:

      I worked with a JW and she was never preachy. She always answered my and my co-workers questions about her faith with humor and grace. I couldn’t help but feel a little sad for her as she seemed to have lived a very sheltered life, and you could tell part of her wanted to expand her world view and the other part wanted to remain loyal to her family. Age old conundrum, I guess.

      • MyBlackCat says:

        My ex is a JW and the child abuse is rampant. Kids are beaten for not sitting still in sermons. The same kids are taunted in school for their out of he norm traditions, such as no birthdays etc. IMO this is a damaging cult. I’ve had American Baha’i friends who were extremely cult Ish too.

    • Adrien says:

      I know a lot of JW’s (my family used to live near a kingdom hall) and none of them were forceful. They often left Watchtower pamphlets at our doorstep. That’s about it. I think the ones I met were trained to brush off rejection from staunch Christians and non believers.

      • Missy says:

        This lady wasn’t forceful, she was, I spoke to her and listened, and treated her with respect. I let her know as soon as I realized who she was that I had no interest in religion and she just kept going. It wouldn’t have been so uncomfortable if she hadn’t kept talking sins and the apocalypse

    • MarcelMarcel says:

      @missy In my experience JWs are forceful and/or always referring to a pamphlet when explaining their beliefs. So I can imagine being in your situation.
      If you’re ever bored try reading a JW pamphlet. I struggled it with because the Watchtower uses quotes out of context and relies on fearmongering.
      The organisation experienced a mass exodus of members in the sixties or seventies. They left Because the apocalypse never came. Either Watchtower destroyed their records of this or they just aren’t sharing it with lower tier members.
      Because this impacted people who are still alive you can find books & articles detailing first hand accounts of what happened.

      Much like Scientology & the Catholic the JWs practice a version of excommunication. I knew a teenage boy who was cut off from the Kingdom Hall & it’s members because he was partying too hard. It was heartbreaking to witness because he obviously just need acceptance & support. Seeing how he was treated convinced me that JW is a cult.

      (Super long message sorry! I just have loads of opinions on JWs that I rarely have the chance to discuss).

      • waitwhat says:

        Please don’t mention the Catholic Church and Scientology in the same breath. When people stop practicing Catholicism, the church doesn’t pressure their families into disconnecting from them. Otherwise, my Catholic family would never speak to me! As far as ex-communication goes, I have never heard of one in my 52 years. I have no idea what that would even take (certainly not partying too hard). The Catholic church isn’t perfect, but it’s not the dangerous organization that Scientology is. I know little about JW so I can’t comment.

      • María S. says:

        Two of my siblings were JW and left within the last 5 years. It is a cult. One with a huge child sex abuse scandal they’ve done a great job of keeping out of the press. I’ve witnessed firsthand the shunning of members who run afoul of their rigid rules. In one case a young couple was shunned for the better part of a year when their baby was born a little too soon after their wedding and the elders calculated that they’d had premarital sex. My experience of it, which included my paternal grandparents, is that it is a joyless religion with its fair share of hypocrisy and bigotry.

      • MarcelMarcel says:

        @waitwhat I think the Catholic Church’s cover up of child sex abuse is unforgivable. It happened across continents for at least a century. I have no issue with individual Catholics and there are a few nuns I find inspiring. The Pope hasn’t fully apologised. He continues to put the Vatican’s wealth before the welfare of children, people dying from AIDS, LGBTI+ people and women. Until he publicly atones for the sins of his Church I consider his organisation as dangerous as the CoS.

      • MyBlackCat says:

        I recommend the film Indian Horse. Afterwards ask any North American First Nation @the catholic church’s systemic and violent child abuse, in the name of god- “church school” abuse. The Catholic Church is a cult of sanctioned abuse, but Scientology is just newer and weirder.

      • ggy says:


        I’m the first to criticize the catholic church, but having grown up in a 99,9% catholic country I have to say what you wrote is untrue. Excommunicating memebers is simply not a thing; no one does that. In fact, you have to jump through a lot of hoops to leave the church officially – so many that most people don’t bother with the formalities.

    • Ebi pickles says:

      We lived next door to J Ho’s and they are really nice people. Our other neighbour is Baha’i and has the symbol on her mailbox –
      All are welcome at her house. I love that.

      • MarcelMarcel says:

        Super nice people can be in cults 🤷‍♀️

        Watchtower organisation is at fault and I’m not blaming individual members.

        I’ve been to bible studies with JWs and my perspective is informed by how past & present members have been mistreated by the organisation.

  4. Franny Days says:

    The guy from Jane the Virgin practices it too! That’s how I first heard of it.

  5. Lucy says:

    I mean, I would probably name it differently, like “common sense” or “human decency” or something. But sure, fine, whatever! Penn was my favorite Gossip Boy (hehe). He’s still super cute!!

    • K2Squared says:

      Right??! It’s called being a good and kind human being. All “religion” should just boil down to this.

      • ...otaku fairy says:

        ITA with both of you. For some people though, a religion spelling out things like human decency and equality would be a much more powerful motivator than just an inner feeling of, “This person doesn’t deserve to be treated as inferior because of where they’re from, their skin color, their gender, sexuality, having a different religion, not having any religion, etc.” I’ve heard of the Baha’i faith but never really looked for any information on what it teaches before. I agree that he’s cute too.

  6. I says:

    In Iran Baha’is are terribly persecuted. They have been imprisoned for their faith, their houses demolished, their shrines desecrated, their cemeteries excavated and they’ve expelled from places of education and their jobs.

    Councils refuse to bury Baha’i adherents. There have been mass executions of Baha’i members from the turn of the 20th century, including the notorious mass execution of 10 Baha’i women in Shiraz (look up Mona Mahmudnizhad). Their main accessible shrine and headquarters are in Israel because of the persecution they’ve faced in Iran and the surrounding areas.

    There are several native Baha’i celebrities, including Omid Djalili, as well as converts like Rainn Wilson

    Please don’t treat it like a “fad”. It’s an important faith practised by many, not the newest new-age trend. If you are truly interested, though, good luck to you.

    • Caitrin says:

      My close friend in New Orleans practices.

      When I was last in Israel I went to Haifa and visited the gardens, and also Bahji.

      • I says:

        It is a beautiful place. I’ve seen pictures but have not visited, unfortunately. All the Baha’i shrines and gardens seem to be absolutely stunning wherever they are – I’ve visited a few others elsewhere.

    • Tiny Martian says:

      Thank you. My grandmother used to hold Baha’i meetings at her house in Chicago way back in the late1920’s and 30’s. She was not an adherent to any specific religion, but she admired and supported and learned from them.

  7. Esmom says:

    Just north of Chicago is a Baha’i temple, just an incredibly beautiful and prominent landmark. I’d never known much about the faith until a young co-worker who practiced it told me about it and I thought it seemed lovely, almost humanist vs dogmatic-religious. So different from the Catholicism I grew up with.

    Good for Penn for speaking out about persecution and helping educate people.

    • Lala11_7 says:

      I was JUST about to come here and write about the beautiful Baha’i House of Worship that’s in Wilmette…and can be seen if you’re going down Sheridan Road…My Mama went there quite a bit in the 70s…when I was a little girl…during that time, I remember her searching hard for a religious home…she hosted a couple of meetings with Scientologists….went to several Hare Krishnas meetings…Reverend Moon…Reverend Ike…Jehovah Witness….Hippies for Jesus…the 70s was a decade of religious whirlwinds for my Mama…it left a LASTING impact on me…because each of the groups would leave the most GLORIOUS literature and books…and I inhaled them ALL as a child!

      • Esmom says:

        I love that your mom included you in her quest…unlike my parents who expected me to just believe everything the Catholic church was teaching…just because. I never had a strong sense of conviction from them, which made it worse for me. It made me anxious my whole childhood.

        That’s so cool that your mom attended the Baha’i temple. My own parents live near there now and see it as more of an architectural marvel, automatically dismissing any of its teachings. Sigh.

        I tried to provide a religious foundation for my own kids early on but after trying a couple different denominations we stopped because I felt too much like a hypocrite, as my own beliefs now tend to run more atheist/humanist.

      • MyBlackCat says:

        I can relate to a 1970s parent’s religious quest. We are lucky our mothers didn’t fully immerse in a cult- I’ve heard horror stories about all levels of abuse from sexual, financial emotional. Especially during the untethered hippy era. I now mostly do yoga, tho I drift away if it becomes anything smirking or control or groupSpeak.

    • Lala11_7 says:

      @Esmom: What all of that exposure did for me…was turned me away from organized religion…to focusing on spirituality…my moral compass is part of my DNA…I guess if someone asked what religion I believe in…I believe and live the teachings of Jesus the Christ…whose legacy is reflected in most of the religions around the world…I don’t need a Church to do that….

      • Esmom says:

        Lala11, I hear you. I find organized religion highly problematic and it’s disappointing that so many people still follow so mindlessly. I know people who have admitted they are “forcing” religious education on their kids not because they believe but because they were also forced to attend church or Sunday school or whatever. Or because they want to rely on someone else to teach their kids right and wrong. Knowingly perpetuating such a dumb cycle seems so wrong and lazy to me.

        You don’t need religion to be a decent human being. And you don’t need a church to feel spiritually uplifted. Being out in nature is a million times more powerful, spiritually, than any church has ever been for me.

  8. Olive says:

    I was raised in a Baha’i household. The teachings are beautiful and grounding. I am greatful for the foundation and world view.

    *Incidentally (and unrelated to faith) I also hate socks. They are so confining!

  9. leyla says:

    Looked up the tenets of the religion if anyone is interested:
    A daily fixed prayer (short, medium or long form).
    Fasting during daylight for 19 days around the time of Nowruz.
    19% of income, after paying debts and the amount needed to live, to be donated to charity or philanthropist causes.
    Cremation and embalming are forbidden – only burial allowed.
    Gossip and backbiting is forbidden.
    Sexual intercourse is only allowed between husband and wife, therefore homosexuality is not allowed. Non Baha’is can do as they wish and have no shame directed at them for their sexuality; it’s only forbidden amongst practising Baha’is.
    Selling/consuming alcohol is forbidden.
    No partisan politics.
    Begging is strictly forbidden.

    • cannibell says:

      Also, parental permission to marry. I have a friend who waited five years for that permission, because it was the 1970s; she was white and he was black.

    • Esmom says:

      Oh wow, well my co-worker definitely was a “cafeteria Baha’i,” lol. Still a nice, charitable, good person of integrity. We could use more of those.

    • Doodle says:

      Oh man, just when I thought I had found a faith I could practice…

      • India Rose says:

        Do check out Unitarian Universalism. No dogma or creed, but shared values. (uua . org)

        I went to seminary as a struggling, liberal Protestant and left as a UU, where readings are from all major religious traditions & secular poetry, LGBTQ families are welcomed (celebrated!) and social justice is practiced.

        First denomination to ordain women and gay/lesbian ministers in the U.S., fought against slavery, took part in civil rights movement, now often active in BLM and anti-oppression work. Progressive and welcoming. Not trying to convert anyone, but just to say not all formal religions = conservative fundamentalists who say “we have the only right way”.

    • ...otaku fairy says:

      Bummer. When I saw this I was wondering if gender and sexuality would be excluded from the equality. Oh well.
      It’s still worth taking a look at. Just the fact that it does address certain forms of inequality and allows people outside of the religion to do as they please still makes it more progressive than a lot of religious groups.

  10. Kitten says:

    His wife in Domino Kirke, Jemima Kirke’s sister, who is of Iraqi-Jewish heritage and I wonder if she practices the same religion. It sounds like the kind of religion that even non-believers like me could get down with.

    I like Penn. He seems like a decent dude.

  11. ValiantlyVarnished says:

    I have a friend who is Baha’i. I had never heard of the religion until I met her but there are actually quite a few famous people who identify as Baha’i. As a Muslim myself are things that I don’t necessarily agree with – for instance they have membership cards – which I just find bizarre. And they can be a but misogynist about women and women’s roles, but that can be said about a lot of people in religions – including Islam and Christianity.

    • Dee says:

      The cards are because of persecution – you don’t get asked for them really in the West but there were Baha’i meetings ‘infiltrated’ by others and used to report members and imprison them and kill them.

  12. ThatGirl says:

    There is a gorgeous Baha’i temple in Delhi called the Lotus Temple. It was an amazingly calm and serene place in a crazy, busy city.

  13. JaneEyreApparent says:

    I am Baha’i. I don’t agree 100% with some of the tenets, but it’s something I can work with. I also don’t like socks.

    • MarcelMarcel says:

      I can imagine the tenets could teach one a lot. I also don’t like socks.

      My belief is more a weird mix of existentialism, Buddhism and magic realism. But I enjoy reading about faiths like Baha’i. I grew up in an evangelical church which was really dogmatic and I prefer faiths that can give more space for acceptance. (Like how some Baptists choose to channel the revolutionary spirit of Jesus).

  14. hkk says:

    I’ve had good experiences going to Baha’i services with my young child. They knew I was another religion and that was no problem. I helped out with the kids programs and I love the virtue based parenting teachings. Polish your patience gem!

  15. Amelie says:

    I think I completely missed the fact he was married! Haha. I think the last time I heard anything about who he was dating was when he was with Zoe Kravitz (so awhile ago).

  16. Ang says:

    There is a church in northern Virginia that I pass a lot for this faith. I always wondered what exactly it was; thinking it might be similar to Hinduism. I may have to check it out.

  17. Grey says:

    Im from a small midwestern town and I’ve known about Bahai since I was a teen in the 90s. Do people have no intellectual curiosity anymore?

  18. Oandlomim says:

    I looked into it after 9/11. It sounded wonderful. Then I learned that women are not allowed to be a part of the upper hierarchy of Baha’i. I communicated with a female member and asked her why that was and she could only say, that’s just how it is. Disappointing.

    • Dixiebells says:

      It’s also implicitly anti-gay. Maybe not as explicit as some other religions. But it definitely is. I’m surprised it’s getting so much positive attention on this thread to be honest.

  19. Laura says:

    Although I am Team Jesus, I refuse to join any organized religion. I just try to follow the old saying of “Don’t be an Asshole”, which seems to cover most areas of life/living 😊

    • CairinaCat says:

      I have a sister, named Laura
      And we are team Jesus but not organized religion.
      We both feel that all Jesus teachings can be boiled down to “Don’t be a di*k” similar I’m sure to your “don’t be an asseh*le” 😀

  20. JadedBrit says:

    The small problem is, @Kaiser, that “gossip [is] prohibited and denounced.” No more CB!!!!

  21. Anare says:

    I first heard about the Baha’i faith in the 1970’s from listening to Seals & Crofts who were Baha’i. Their lyrics were so beautiful and some were taken from Baha’i scriptures so that is how I learned about it. A few years ago I took my daughter and her friend to Evanston Illinois on a college visit to check out Northwestern and we had some spare time so we visited the stunning Baha’i temple in Evanston. It was so awe inspiring and peaceful. I love reading Baha’i scripture quotes. Filled with light and kindness. Very cool faith. FWIW I’m not involved in any organized religion and rarely attend religious services. Pretty much just Xmas, weddings and funerals. Just don’t want anyone to think I’m pushing some religion.