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U.S. condemns Iranian pastor's conviction
Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani shown in an Iranian prison.
September 29th, 2011
06:58 AM ET

U.S. condemns Iranian pastor's conviction

By Dan Merica, CNN

Washington (CNN) - The White House Thursday condemned the conviction of an Iranian pastor, who may be executed in Tehran for refusing to recant his religious beliefs and convert from Christianity to Islam.

Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani "has done nothing more than maintain his devout faith, which is a universal right for people," a White House spokesman said in a statement. "That the Iranian authorities would try to force him to renounce that faith violates the religious values they claim to defend, crosses all bounds of decency and breaches Iran's own international obligations."

The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, an independent advisory group appointed by the president and Congress to monitor religious freedom around the world, Wednesday expressed "deep concern" for Nadarkhani, the head of a network of Christian house churches in Iran.

After four days of an appeals trial for apostasy, Nadarkhani refused to recant his beliefs, the commission said. Chairman Leonard Leo said the pastor "is being asked to recant a faith he has always had. Once again, the Iranian regime has demonstrated that it practices hypocritical barbarian practices."

While the trial is closed to the press, Leo said the commission collects information from sources in Iran and around the world.

The commission's statement also called the trial a sham and said Iran is violating the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which it is a party.

"A decision to impose the death penalty would further demonstrate the Iranian authorities' utter disregard for religious freedom, and highlight Iran's continuing violation of the universal rights of its citizens," the White House statement said. "We call upon the Iranian authorities to release Pastor Nadarkhani and demonstrate a commitment to basic, universal human rights, including freedom of religion."

Nadarkhani was first sentenced to death in November 2010, the commission said, and in order to avoid the death penalty, he is being asked to recant his beliefs and convert to Islam. Leo said an apostasy trial is rare in Iran; the last occurred in 1990.

Iran's claim stems from the pastor's Muslim parents. According to Leo, the court needed to verify if Nadarkhani had ever been a Muslim. In order to be given what Iran claims is the opportunity to recant his beliefs, Nadarkhani must have never been a Muslim before the age of 15, Leo said.

Because he was given the opportunity during the four-day trial, it is apparent that the Iranian court found he was never a Muslim and therefore Nadarkhani could have converted.

According to a source close to the situation within the Commission on International Religious Freedom, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the Supreme Leader of Iran, would have to sign off on the execution. Speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the subject's sensitivity, the source said such cases in Iran are difficult because of the lack of transparency in leaders' decision-making.

The source also said that in the past, political prisoners have had their prison time and punishment reduced by the Iranian government. Though they did not say that was guaranteed in this situation, the source indicated it was a possibility.

The American Center for Law and Justice, a right-leaning organization founded by television evangelist Pat Robertson, reported Wednesday night that Nadarkhani's death sentence had been overturned, meaning that the pastor would be receiving a lesser punishment. They sourced the claim to someone in Iran.

Those reports could not be independently verified by CNN. The Permanent Mission of the Islamic Republic of Iran in the United Nations failed to comment on the ruling.

Jordan Sekulow, executive director of the ACLJ, said the outcry from Christians in America has been loud and sustained.

"American Christians, like never before, are engaged in this," Sekulow said. "This is evidence that Christians in America over the past decade have done a better job engaging in the persecution issue."

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Christianity • Iran

soundoff (2,425 Responses)
  1. Bruce

    It's time to bring some 'FREEDOM' to Iran.

    September 29, 2011 at 6:46 pm |
    • sybaris

      Pretty easy to do from your armchair eh?

      September 29, 2011 at 6:49 pm |
  2. SERVANT OF G*D

    THROUGH JESUS ALL WILL KNOW AMEN HIS FATHER WOE TO THOSE WHO REJECT THIS MESSAGE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! JESUS IS LORD AND THE MESSIAH SET TO RETURN VERY SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOON!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! LONG LIVE LONG LIVE THY MESSIAH JESUS HOLY CHRIST AMENNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNN

    September 29, 2011 at 6:45 pm |
    • FollowIAM

      Amen, Amen!

      September 29, 2011 at 6:46 pm |
    • LittleLordHoseaComethUntoU2Say

      Fanatic

      September 29, 2011 at 6:48 pm |
    • sybaris

      Forgot your meds today?

      September 29, 2011 at 6:49 pm |
    • Patricksday

      To Bad YOU so called "Chrstians" are pro death and pro war, and pro greed. Make sure your own house is in order before you start pointing fingers and quoting scripture like thats your free pass. Hypocrits cant hide their record in the end when your Life is Reviewed before God. He doesnt support killing in His name, unless your from a religion in the Middle East.for some reason.

      September 29, 2011 at 6:49 pm |
    • mike hunt

      uh Patricksday, christians pro death and pro war? im pretty sure its islam thats killing this guy and islam that has declared war against the west. try again.

      September 29, 2011 at 6:54 pm |
    • dave

      Amen!!!!

      September 29, 2011 at 6:58 pm |
    • Patricksday

      Is the Death Penalty Pro Life or Pro Death? Do the Police murder people or disable people when they are Scared they might get killed? How many Doctors or Nurses can pull a gun and shoot a crazy patient because they fear for their LIfe? NONE!!!

      September 29, 2011 at 7:01 pm |
  3. Hass

    “You have your faith, and I have mine!” that's what islam mentions.....nowhere in the Quran mentions that to kill a person if they go to diff religion...the country law is evil not the religion.... islam is peace... LONG LIVE USA

    September 29, 2011 at 6:44 pm |
    • Rene

      But doesn't Iran have Islamic scholars and Imans making decisions at the highest levels of the Government and Judicial systems in Iran? Is not the Islamic Council in Iran all powerful? If it was true that the Quran does not instruct them to kill those who convert or refuse to recant then what is the basis of their Sharia law? If they have truly corrupted the law by their evil interpretation of it, why do not the scholars and masses and other Islamic countries revolt against the so called blasphemic interpretation you are describing. No, I think the Islamic scholars know exactly what the Quran says which is why they are in power.

      September 29, 2011 at 6:50 pm |
    • joe

      Oh c'mon...dont ya know, they make it up as they go along. They can twist the writings of the Koran into any spin they want. As long as in their minds it justified!!!

      September 29, 2011 at 6:52 pm |
    • Standing Up

      Yeah. Great example of the "peace" of Islam. This is nothing new; they are in a holy war against all non-Muslims, and it's a capital offense to convert (or even try to convert) a Muslim to another religion. That is not only in Iran, btw. Look at the villages slaughtered in Africa by Muslims trying to exterminate Christians. What else would you expect from a religion that has a holy war as one of its major tenets of faith? Islam is doing as Islam has always done. Only it hasn't had to contend with international criticism until relatively recently. Hopefully they will listen, but I do not count on it. Meanwhile, I applaud Pastor Youcef for standing firm to the end, peacefully, just as his Lord said we should; the same Lord that forgave those who were murdering him even as they tortured him and nailed him to the cross. May all Christians be encouraged by his example, and the Muslims who see his faith and peace (and hopefully love) and be influenced to question their religion's lack of forgiveness and grace, and turn to the Lord for salvation. Youcef knows that THIS is the real issue, regardless of whether he himself lives or dies. You cannot be a Christian in a hostile environment like that and not know that your life is forfeit at any time, and no Christian who has a clear idea of what is at stake will ever recant their beliefs.

      September 29, 2011 at 7:07 pm |
  4. Possessor of WAY more truth than you, ha ha ha

    What fools. As if SAYING he believed, when everyone knows he doesn't would be better for anyone. How delusional.

    September 29, 2011 at 6:44 pm |
  5. agathokles

    Does anyone doubt what the reaction of the Muslim world would be if a Christian nation sentenced a Muslim to death, just for being a Muslim? Look what the reaction was, when someone merely wanted to burn a few Korans.

    September 29, 2011 at 6:44 pm |
    • gay republican

      I second that

      September 29, 2011 at 6:46 pm |
    • TheThinker

      Don't forget "Muhammed in a bear suit"... "Eye weel KEEEEEEELLLLLLL Parker and Stone" <- what a terrorist would say.

      September 29, 2011 at 6:49 pm |
    • Rene

      That is why Islam is a religion of contradictions. The masses believe solely out of fear. That is how they are held down by the corrupt Imans running the show in the background. When you can be killed for any reason people tend to not take action. Just look at Syria.

      September 29, 2011 at 6:53 pm |
    • dave

      Well first, i think its two different topics here, one is the burning of the Koran, first it is a religous book like the Christian Bible, so therefore it should not be burned by ANYONE! regardless of denomination. Sec we are talking about a man that can be killed for his religious belief. which happens to be Christian, its wrong yes it is, the Koran does not preach hate! as some would like you to believe. he should not have to die for it! thats wrong and the men that are behind this will have to answer to a higher authority, if they follow through with this. they have been beheading Christians in the Philliphines for years no one seems to be doing anything about this.

      September 29, 2011 at 7:03 pm |
  6. Bruce

    So, they argue to build a mosque near the 9/11 site, but if a single Christian is in their vicinity, he is put to DEATH.

    What a bunch of scared fo0ols. They will collapse like nasie Germany, and the Soviet Union.

    September 29, 2011 at 6:44 pm |
    • Ironic Ida

      Nazi

      September 29, 2011 at 7:44 pm |
  7. Gianna

    Naturally, putting someone to death for believing in a different faith is unforgivable and anti-humanistic. But, what is almost more saddening, situations (and the articles highlighting extreme examples, naturally excluding the other entirely peaceful side of Islam) like these will only polarize the West against the Islam in an unending cyclic battle that has degraded to petty insults and complete hatred for one another (these comments are perfect proof, i.e. calling the other "barbaric" or "incompetent", or my favorite, say "death to be you"). I absolutely do not agree with the condemnation of this poor priest and I recognize his bravery for standing for what he believes in. But please, do not breed your hatred, this will only lead away from peace and acceptance. Breaking news tend to only highlight the worse in people on both sides of any spectrum.

    September 29, 2011 at 6:44 pm |
    • TheThinker

      The west will not be polarized against Islam, but in theocracies such as Iran which blaspheme it's true message.

      I mean, everyone is chill with Egypt and Algeria, cause they ain't hatin'

      September 29, 2011 at 6:52 pm |
  8. DiscoStick

    Jesus will whip Allah's as@ over this!

    September 29, 2011 at 6:43 pm |
    • Answer

      I can imagine two fairies fighting over this on top of your head. Is that it?

      September 29, 2011 at 6:45 pm |
    • Patricksday

      Jesus died on a cross, he didnt say a mubling word to those who betrayed him, let this man hang on his own cross and be about what he claims to folllow.

      September 29, 2011 at 6:46 pm |
  9. SwilliamP

    We must pray for this man. However the likelihood of the United States government swaying Iran is small given our record in the Middle East. The US government is highly hypocritical also in elevating this case and being almost silent about mass persecution in China. Some Animals are more equal than others it would appear...

    September 29, 2011 at 6:43 pm |
    • Dan

      What are you talking about? Obama just last year met with the Dali Lama much over vociferous Chinese objections as did Bush before him. The US has been extremely vocal about human rights in China. The US has also been vocal about the treatment of Muslims in Eastern China. What do you want the US to do? Go to war with China?

      September 29, 2011 at 6:46 pm |
  10. No Tea For Me

    As if Christianity is any different than Islam. Who cares?

    September 29, 2011 at 6:43 pm |
    • Bruce

      Lazy thinking... it is certainly different.

      September 29, 2011 at 6:45 pm |
    • LittleLordHoseaComethUntoU2Say

      EdZackery!

      September 29, 2011 at 6:45 pm |
    • mike hunt

      Well, its a little bit different. for example, christians dont kill people for not being christian. At lease not in the last 500 years.

      September 29, 2011 at 6:48 pm |
    • No Tea For Me

      They're asking a grown man to choose between two arcane belief systems, either of which impose a set of controls not of your own design. So, again, what is the difference?

      September 29, 2011 at 6:51 pm |
    • mike hunt

      christianity teaches free will. how is that a control not of your own design? christianity just says when you make your free choice, you should make a rightous moral one.

      September 29, 2011 at 6:56 pm |
  11. Hmmm

    Ah religion,

    Can't live with it, Can't get rid of it.

    September 29, 2011 at 6:42 pm |
    • LittleLordHoseaComethUntoU2Say

      one at the time.

      September 29, 2011 at 6:44 pm |
  12. Linda Caywood

    This country is evil. That's all I can say.

    September 29, 2011 at 6:41 pm |
    • LittleLordHoseaComethUntoU2Say

      I agree America is evil.

      September 29, 2011 at 6:43 pm |
  13. Patricksday

    The hot blooded Male yahoo's will vote to destroy a country over one "Christian" who has a chance to be like Jesus and hang on his own cross, not hating those who know not what they do. This country is more "evolved" they only murder you if your Black, Gay, Mexican or Muslim. Their Ignorance keeps them in FEAR, they lack Courage so they just start shooting.

    September 29, 2011 at 6:41 pm |
    • sigmundfreud

      Patricksday:

      Would you mind translating your comment into English?

      September 29, 2011 at 6:42 pm |
    • Patricksday

      Go back to sleep dear

      September 29, 2011 at 6:43 pm |
    • gay republican

      Patrick more radical liberal crap, AMERICANS PLEASE VOTE REPUB AND THROW OUT THE RADICAL LEFT, THEY ARE RACIST UNGODLY EVIL ANTI CHRISTIAN TRASH

      September 29, 2011 at 6:45 pm |
  14. Michael

    Oh religion (sigh).

    September 29, 2011 at 6:40 pm |
    • mike hunt

      oh liberalism. (sigh)

      September 29, 2011 at 6:49 pm |
  15. Nail

    I have read some comments on here, and wow, some of you are damn weird your selves, not just Islam... But I will say this, Islam = Lucifer, and US is some what = God.... I think that's enough said really if you take a look at it really hard...

    September 29, 2011 at 6:40 pm |
  16. atheist

    Maybe he should recant ALL religion. I'm sure he's prayed to invisible sky god since his arrest/detention. How's that workin' out for ya?

    September 29, 2011 at 6:40 pm |
    • thedude517

      ever notice how atheists are 100% right all the time; always. i love how they're so unique in their own special way (just like all other atheists)
      however people of faith are fools because we do what everyone else does.

      September 29, 2011 at 6:52 pm |
  17. dave

    You know what kills me, is that our government(USA) condemns the Iranian government for this, but can you please tell me where was our government when they allowed TROY DAVIS TO BE MURDER!!!! No one listen to the Pope, former President Carter, they did not step in to say halt this is not right! not one freaking word!!! its ashame the way the world is. i dont want to see anyone die for his/her religious belief. when will it all stop

    September 29, 2011 at 6:40 pm |
    • HA215

      Look beyond the headlines and you'll learn Troy Davis was the killer there was plenty of physical evidence and he had many a fair trial. Here's your sign.

      September 29, 2011 at 6:42 pm |
    • Mark

      Umm, apples and orangutans.

      September 29, 2011 at 6:46 pm |
    • DiscoStick

      but it's wrong to kill a white man!

      September 29, 2011 at 6:50 pm |
    • AO1JMM

      Troy Davis murdered a COP and deserved the punishment given to him.

      September 29, 2011 at 7:01 pm |
    • dave

      yes i have looked at all the evidence and seen at first, all finger pointed to the man and then when the witnesses recanted their stories, would that make you think twice and three times before taking a life. what is wrong with america, i dont give a dam about the color of anyone skin! white, black, Spanish etc i don't care we should abolish the death penalty its WRONG!
      lets stop looking at skin color and look at what is right and what is wrong!

      September 29, 2011 at 7:11 pm |
  18. guest1

    gotta love them mudslums and their religion of peace !!

    September 29, 2011 at 6:38 pm |
    • LittleLordHoseaComethUntoU2Say

      Well at least the christian has a free ticket to heaven much like the Muslim, all should be well then eh?

      September 29, 2011 at 6:42 pm |
    • sybaris

      Like your buddy Bush who killed hundreds of thousand of Iraqi's cause his god told him to?

      September 29, 2011 at 6:47 pm |
  19. sybaris

    I wonder if there would be condemnation if he were of any other religion.

    September 29, 2011 at 6:38 pm |
    • gay republican

      A much bigger one by ur liberal buddies

      September 29, 2011 at 6:40 pm |
    • dbrock010

      Like Jewish?

      September 29, 2011 at 6:43 pm |
    • Dan

      Of course there would. Why would you think differently? The US has condemned the treatment of Buddhists in Tibet, Jews in Russia, Hindus in Pakistan...

      September 29, 2011 at 6:43 pm |
  20. madboots

    Would we condone violence against the Christians who did the same crap way back in the day? Civilized countries need to blacklist these countries from trade until education catches up a few hundred years there. If people want to proselytize (or go hiking) over there, that is between them and their God.

    September 29, 2011 at 6:38 pm |
    • sybaris

      Did you condone Bush starting a war and killing hundreds of thousands because he says his god told him to?

      September 29, 2011 at 6:45 pm |
    • mike hunt

      the point is, christians did it "way back in the day", along with everyone else. Christans have evolved and moved to a more "christian" understanding of their relegion.

      September 29, 2011 at 6:51 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.