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. Amaal

    As we understand communion to represent the body of Christ,"BROKEN" for us to be complete, so are those that are members of the body of Christ, they are persecuted for the world to see and believe the stand they take in their belief. PRAY for the man, for there is power in prayer when in unity.

    September 29, 2011 at 8:17 pm |
  2. Joshua Ludd

    And yet... who is America to speak out against such things anymore? We are now the land of indefinite detention, rendition, and torture.

    September 29, 2011 at 8:15 pm |
    • NW1000

      You really sound like a nut.

      September 29, 2011 at 8:19 pm |
    • zaphod

      Jew Hater!

      September 29, 2011 at 8:25 pm |
  3. ezzat

    It is a well known trick in the middle east to get an immigration visa of western countries. Next headline: Nadarkhani got Asylum Visa to US. Welcome smart pastor to USA.

    September 29, 2011 at 8:15 pm |
    • binjameen

      well known? wouldn't that mean people have heard of it and can see through his nefarious plan to enter the US?

      September 29, 2011 at 8:28 pm |
  4. Dean

    Hipocrites all of you.
    If he is killed he goes to heaven!!
    Everyone wins.

    September 29, 2011 at 8:14 pm |
    • mickey1313

      there is no heaven of he11, when you die, you are dead, thus they are MURDERING HIM

      September 29, 2011 at 8:15 pm |
    • NW1000

      What is He11? He one one?

      September 29, 2011 at 8:20 pm |
    • Dean

      In his delusional mind; he will go to heaven.
      So everyone wins.
      don't be a hypocrite!!

      September 29, 2011 at 8:20 pm |
    • humberto

      Your probably right Dean and evetything else is going to Hell.

      September 29, 2011 at 8:31 pm |
  5. mabear87

    Where is Perry, supposedly a Christian, Romney, I don't know what, Bachman who is nothing. Why aren't hey speaking out as potential leaders of the free world as opposed to the oppressed world. Why isn't someone upset? This is much more important than minor issues like adjusting immigration, gay marriage which does not hurt anyone, and abortion which is an individual decision. What is wrong with these morons who call themselves evangelicals and bigot against more people than the Iranians and all Muslims. Why are'nt they speaking up if they are real Christians. Are they all phoneys? I think definitely so. Rick Perry needs to go back to school and learnhow to think for himself instead of being told what he is for. He is not a Christian in the real sense. He does not accept everyone, but denies people who are not as dumb as he is.

    September 29, 2011 at 8:13 pm |
    • Wicket

      You answered your own question. The politicians who make a big point of stating their religious beliefs are the biggest hypocrites.

      September 29, 2011 at 8:19 pm |
  6. God

    Thanks Religion!

    September 29, 2011 at 8:13 pm |
  7. Hmmm

    . Atheism offers nothing to me,
    it never has and never will,
    it doesn't make me feel good or comfort me,
    it's not there for me when I'm sick or ill,
    it won't intervene in my times of need or protect me from hate,
    it doesn't care if I fail or succeed,
    it won't wipe the tears from my eyes,
    it does nothing when I have no where to run,
    it won't give me wise words or advice,
    it has no teaches for me to learn,
    it can't show me what's bad or nice,
    it's never inspired or excited anyone,
    it won't help me fulfill all my goals,
    it won't tell me to stop when I'm having fun,
    it's never saved one single soul,
    it doesn't take credit for everything I achieve,
    it won't make me get down on bended knee,
    it doesn't demand that I have to believe,
    it won't torture me for eternity,
    it won't teach me to hate or despise others,
    it won't tell me what's right or wrong,
    it can't tell nobody not to be lovers,
    it's told no one they don't belong,
    it won't make you think life is worth living,
    it has nothing to offer me, that's true,
    but the reason Atheism offers me nothing is because I've never asked it to,
    Atheism offers nothing because it doesn't need to,
    Religion promises everything because you want it to,
    You don't need a Religion or to have faith,
    You just want it because you need to feel safe,
    I want to feel reality and nothing more,
    Atheism offers me everything
    that Religion has stolen before.

    September 29, 2011 at 8:12 pm |
    • God


      September 29, 2011 at 8:14 pm |
    • mickey1313

      Is that yours, or did you find it somewhere, eather way, I like it alot.

      September 29, 2011 at 8:18 pm |
    • Hmmm

      No, I can't make claim to it. It was written by Richard Coughlan. There is a video of it on youtube. Beautifully written.

      September 29, 2011 at 8:21 pm |
    • BilgeTonyukuk

      So you are against religion or God? You will be repenting on your deathbed just like everyone else.

      September 29, 2011 at 8:27 pm |
    • Hmmm

      Why would I repent? I'm not against God since I don't believe he exists. I'm against theocrats. I'm sorry that you feel that you need to apologize for existence. I will not.

      September 29, 2011 at 8:30 pm |
    • pod

      nice Hmmmmm. Your posts are refreshingly level headed.

      September 29, 2011 at 8:48 pm |
  8. Mike

    the thing is I don't believe this guy should be executed for not going against his beliefs. But, what i am sick of is the united states butting into another countries deccision or choice or just their own business. Who the heck are we, the american police who will tell what country what they will or will not do. We can not do anything and we start taking care of our people first. We have people that are homeless, we have illegal aliens who are taking up all the jobs, we have jobs making it mandatory to speak another language because we have too many illegal aliens (B.S.). We have an american public that wants to stop racism but yet we always ask people what there race is and we have black, hispanic, asian, native american, etc; support groups and make any white support group a racist one. We have too many problems within our own country before we start butting in to other countries way of life.

    September 29, 2011 at 8:12 pm |
    • James

      Because unfortunately there is evil in the world that must be stopped. While we shouldn't butt into another country's affairs just for the sake of butting in, we should stand up for certain universal rights for all people whether american or whoever. If you see genecide taking place somewhere...countries should step in and stop it...if you see religious persecution such as this occuring...you should step in and stop it. Any country of deceny should always stand up and fight when certain universal rights are being denied no matter who the person is.

      September 29, 2011 at 8:21 pm |
  9. lacoaster

    The peaceful Islam... Blah. I am not in favor of any religions, but this is at the top of the crappiest stupidity.

    September 29, 2011 at 8:11 pm |
  10. BoredSecurityGaurd

    Who cares really? The guy is stupid for practicing his religon in a country that he knows that this could happen in. He is even more stupid for getting caught. But here goes the Obama administration putting its nose into foreign affairs when the US is got its own problems....SMH!

    September 29, 2011 at 8:11 pm |
    • Mike

      again who cares....let's worry about our own american people!!!! Iran is it's own country...they can do whatever...let us worry about americans first.

      September 29, 2011 at 8:13 pm |
  11. me

    The U.S. has no right to condem any country for human rights abuse. They do it themselves!!!

    September 29, 2011 at 8:10 pm |
  12. david

    But I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you." (Matthew 5:44).
    Our God shall fight for us!" ... "Vengeance is Mine; I will repay, saith the Lord!" (Nehemiah 4 ; Rom.12:19).

    September 29, 2011 at 8:09 pm |
    • Ashrakay

      Yes, I think most of us agree the bible is full of nonsense and outright blood-thirsty promoting behavior.

      September 29, 2011 at 8:16 pm |
    • Eby

      Well said David. God Bless you

      September 29, 2011 at 8:22 pm |
    • Eby

      And @Ashrakay, I do not which Bible you are talking about, Every single thing Bible state is valid and no-nonsence "For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God" It promotes unconditional love even towards the enemies. Anyways may God Bless youl

      September 29, 2011 at 8:25 pm |
    • Ashrakay

      @Eby, which bible are you reading? Deuteronomy 17:5, Deuteronomy 17:12... Here's some good killing children stuff too... "All who curse their father or mother must be put to death. They are guilty of a capital offense." Leviticus 20:9... "A priest's daughter who loses her honor by committing fornication and thereby dishonors her father also, shall be burned to death." Leviticus 21:9

      I guess it's easy to gloss over these things and go with what feels good to you though.

      September 29, 2011 at 8:32 pm |
    • pod

      Your exposing the doctrine which influences people to hate and kill – it starts out kinda flowery though.

      September 29, 2011 at 8:52 pm |
    • Answer

      All their bibles are hate based. They just do not want to admit it!

      Denying the facts within your own bible and covering it up will not make them go away. The only way you idiots can get away from your religion is to burn your bibles and ditch your crappy religion.

      September 29, 2011 at 9:19 pm |
  13. pat evans

    Trouble is, this kind of thing happens all the time in the Islamic World! You idiots, just somehow, stumbled on to this...and actually published it!

    September 29, 2011 at 8:09 pm |
  14. johnutah

    For every moron here who blames Islam, here is some information. Dont blame Islam, blame the idiot Iranians for this issue.
    Use your logic and intellect. O wait they don't teach logic in schools here in the US. Wow, I wonder why.

    September 29, 2011 at 8:08 pm |
    • Ashrakay

      I don't blame islam. I blame people who are too ignorant or intellectually lazy to let go of fantastical super heroes in the sky. When you swallow something like religion, you can swallow pretty much anything without thought or question.

      September 29, 2011 at 8:19 pm |
    • zaphod

      Bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran

      September 29, 2011 at 8:28 pm |
  15. david

    Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, 2 Timothy 3:12
    Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. 1 Peter 4:12-14, 16
    Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also. John 15:20

    September 29, 2011 at 8:08 pm |
  16. Priori

    Is it not true that the Koran calls for the execution of anyone who converts out of Islam? The United States may be able to re-define words like "marriage" for political purposes, but suffer no illusions... it's not as easy to change the rules definitions of what's in someone else's sacred text.

    September 29, 2011 at 8:07 pm |
  17. reason

    Confused. I thought liberals and muslims were aligned in their animosity towards Christians?

    September 29, 2011 at 8:06 pm |
  18. NW1000

    God bless this man as he stands for the true faith against evil.

    September 29, 2011 at 8:06 pm |
  19. david

    If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. John 15:18-20

    September 29, 2011 at 8:06 pm |
    • Hmmm

      Well, you have convinced me. Praise Jebus!

      September 29, 2011 at 8:07 pm |
    • Ashrakay

      "Self-love, my liege, is not so vile a sin, As self-neglecting." – William Shakespeare, Henry V, Act II

      September 29, 2011 at 8:22 pm |
  20. david

    Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. Matthew 5:10-12

    September 29, 2011 at 8:05 pm |
    • Mark Yelka

      Words to become a terrorist by, indeed.

      September 29, 2011 at 8:10 pm |
    • Ashrakay

      "Blessed are the dead that the rain rains on." – Some other early 17th century nonsense

      September 29, 2011 at 8:26 pm |
    • Paul

      Thank you David. @ Mark Yelka: "Love your enemies" = become a terrorist and murder them out of spite?

      September 29, 2011 at 8:32 pm |
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About this blog

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.