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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. milp1234

    don't waste your time with christians..in the end jokes on them

    September 29, 2011 at 8:38 pm |
  2. Jesus Is Lord

    Jesus is the answer. He is the ONLY way to the Father in Heaven. Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, repent, obey and be saved!

    September 29, 2011 at 8:36 pm |
    • Ashrakay

      I'm glad he's the ONLY way. Should be easy enough to avoid now. I would hate to be inadvertently sucked into a heaven portal where I'd be forced to worship an overlord for all of eternity with a bunch of sycophants.

      September 29, 2011 at 8:41 pm |
    • Patricksday

      I'am sure he wouldnt be pleased with the way his "Followers" have treated Gays and Lesbians, Blacks, Mexicans or Asians or the Poor and sick in the Riches Country "in the world".

      September 29, 2011 at 8:43 pm |
  3. Pat

    Aren't Muslims getting tired of defending their religion from the so-called actions of a minority? I really am getting sick of hearing this argument, particularly when stories like this surface on a near-daily basis. Judging by the actions of fringe extremist groups to those entire theocratic governments, it would seem that the peace-loving Muslim is actually the minority.

    September 29, 2011 at 8:36 pm |
    • briman

      and the minority being the entire country of Iran and the entire muslim religion for remaining silent to this atrocity?

      September 29, 2011 at 8:41 pm |
  4. briman

    Well I am glad the govt condemned this....what a load of crap...it is 2011 people and for any country, gov't, etc...to allow this to happen is pathetic no matter what the religion...where is the united nations, etc...where are the muslim people speaking out against this on a world wide basis? oh, i forgot, we need to show compassion to their reiligion but they don't need to do donk.this man is a human being...this is a crazy world with crazy people...

    September 29, 2011 at 8:36 pm |
  5. masseeha

    Doesn't CIA kill their own associate when they deviate from their own set guidelines all around the world. So, what is the big deal if Koran says to kill a deviated Muslim. But don't believe what comes out of the white house or our media. there is always a hidden agenda behind every drama. The fact is 20-30% of Iranian population is non-muslims, including Jews and Christians and they all happily live there with all freedom. The other fact that our media doesn't want to tell us is that Iranian Jews are very much anti-Israel which is difficult to swallow for our politicians.

    September 29, 2011 at 8:35 pm |
    • TruthHurts

      Cite your sources, liar. Anyone can go on the web and make up anything they want. Climb back into your Tora Bora hell hole.

      September 29, 2011 at 8:40 pm |
    • Mary

      The CIA is an organization that one chooses to be in. Being a "prisoner" in Iran and yes I mean prisoner and not citizen does not give the regime there the right to murder individuals who think differently.

      September 29, 2011 at 8:43 pm |
  6. Yahweh

    Sorry kids. I still haven't decided who worships me best, christians, muslims or jews. You can keep going on killing each other though, I'll figure it out soon enough. It's not easy listening to the simultaneous prayers of 3 billion people you know.

    September 29, 2011 at 8:34 pm |
  7. IranDestroyed

    Yes, for all you Muslim lovers out there, for all you Islamists that would die for your religion, for all you weak lillly livered Muslims that flee your own country to live in ours and swear to its destruction, for all you hipocrites that claim to be in a religion of tolerance and peace but live by your actions of murder and unspeakable horrors, you Iranians, you Afghans , you Pakistanis, you Iragis, you misfits and abhorents of any god, this story of a simple Christian, who is now denied his life because of stupid and educaied cowards in Iran, cowards and murderers who covet children and lust hiding behind a demonic religion, let this man be your true martyr because you are not human and cannot touch him. You all are less than the dirt he walks over you are anathama to the human race and your entire country should be wiped from the face of the earth. God willing it will be so. Pray for the destruction of Iran, Pray for the death of all teh mullas that support this atrocity.

    September 29, 2011 at 8:33 pm |
    • Patricksday

      Your a scared little Coward, too be so silly and hateful!

      September 29, 2011 at 8:35 pm |
    • Ashrakay

      and... let's also just forget all of the muslims, "heretical" scientists and presumed witches that the christians have tortured and slaughtered... because that might interrupt your rant.

      September 29, 2011 at 8:38 pm |
    • Alborz

      is that what Jesus wants us to do? kill and destroy people? if your answer is yes, you don't know Him.

      September 29, 2011 at 8:44 pm |
    • Answer

      @IranDestroyed

      You can not destroy them with your puny prayers. Go and join the army. Train to be a soldier and fight.
      What this world needs is a secluded continent for all the zealots to go off onto and just have at it. May you all kill each other and please bring all your bibles with you! To top it all off, we'll send all the nuclear warheads on top of all your dead corpses.

      That will be the best solution for a quick and decisive end to all religions.

      September 29, 2011 at 9:24 pm |
    • Credenza

      @IranDestroyed – You feeling better now after your huuuuge hissy fit? You can disagree with all the people you mentioned. What you can't do is JUDGE others.
      However bad they appear, every man and woman is saveable. The mercy of God is for everyone, Whether YOU like it or not, if we have committed dreadful sins and we are truly sorry for them [ not because we're afraid of punishment but because we love God and are sorry for having offended Him – will most certainly be forgiven.

      Look up the Divine Mercy. It'll give a clearer picture than I can. Peace.

      September 30, 2011 at 12:42 am |
  8. sara

    This is his choice and not our business. He's an Iranian and knows what is expected of him in his own country. Let's pick and choose battles that apply to our own country. Please.

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

      Your country does not own your mind or your soul. Never has. Never will.

      It seems that some Americans are selective about their rights and responsibilities to their fellow men.

      Iraq thousands killed by US because ONE man didn't have WMDs and wasn't useful to you any more.
      Afghanistan countless dead because you wanted ONE man Bin Laden. And a base to spy on Iran!
      Pakistan invaded illegally to kill ONE man, Osama
      Gadhafi – ONE man – hounded out because US no longer found him useful but he was a tyrant so bump him off
      Musharaf – ONE man who had been a calming influence on the Arab world – used to be a friend, no longer useful to US. Bye!

      Now there is ONE good man. A man of strong principles [ VERY unusual in this world] who desperately needs help. Maybe saving this ONE good man would make up for all the other nasty things you've done in the name of so-called justice.

      September 30, 2011 at 12:57 am |
  9. Sean

    To all of the people that think we should not butt in or we should look at American's first:

    We, as human-beings should be protecting someone for what they want to believe in. I am dearly proud to live in a country that is willing to protect other human-beings. The fact that we are the United States and they are Iran should not have one ounce worth of reasoning in this conversation. A human-being is a human-being, and they can choose how to live. Protecting these human-right rights is very important and I am glad to be part of a country that stands up for people that cannot stand up for themselves because they are being oppressed.

    Each country has their own turmoils and I believe other countries need to start picking on the United States for some of things that we do that are inhumane (ie: G-Bay). Thanks.

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

      Iran is NOT a democracy its a "Religious" country, and those who choose to live in Iran must Live by their Laws, America doesnt have the MONEY to be policing the World over each countries Policies, especially when OUR country is in such critical state to be on Life Support. Let God deal with them in HIS time not the War Industries time.

      September 29, 2011 at 8:34 pm |
  10. BilgeTonyukuk

    God is light, sun is light, sun is God but, sun is also.......FIRE.

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

      Not believing in god, doesn't stop me from pointing out that according the bible god, created light. Which means he must actually not be light. That still sounds a lot like christian's notion of hell though.

      September 29, 2011 at 8:34 pm |
    • DX

      Go read the bible...lol

      September 29, 2011 at 8:38 pm |
    • humberto

      If Mankind is the children of God, how many sons do you think God has ?

      September 29, 2011 at 8:40 pm |
    • Ashrakay

      @humberto, and why isn't he paying child support?

      September 29, 2011 at 8:42 pm |
  11. Oldeye

    This is no news. Just a factoid. Iran will always be that way.

    September 29, 2011 at 8:29 pm |
    • DX

      Great example of a true Christian. A man amongst boys.

      September 29, 2011 at 8:35 pm |
  12. Huzefa

    Said to see such convictions. What will they acheive with forced conversion!

    September 29, 2011 at 8:28 pm |
  13. brich22

    “Religion has caused more misery to all of mankind in every stage of human history than any other single idea”

    Madalyn Murray O'Hair

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

      IT IS never THE RELIGION, it is always stupid azz peiople that manipulate the religion for political gains...................

      September 29, 2011 at 8:29 pm |
    • Doug

      Okay, you can quote what someone else says about religion. What do you say? Can you back that statement up with evidence, or are you just going to rely on someone else's reputation to make your point for you?

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

      More people have been killed under atheist dictatorships then all religions combined. Stop being so ignorant and stupid and get your facts straight chump! North Korea is an atheist dictatorship and it is one of the worst countries of torture, imprisonment and death. Also Christians are persecuted in just about all the middle eastern countries. The Muslims kill each other and then Christians as well.

      September 29, 2011 at 8:33 pm |
  14. lpyr533

    christians are weak they can't handle the reality of life

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

      Having a chance to avoid death by recanting one's beliefs is somehow a sign of weakness? Please explain.

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

      You are weak you stupid ignorant bigoted moron!

      September 29, 2011 at 8:34 pm |
    • Henry

      what? and so are you, its not about religion that we should put point on its respect and love for all humanity

      September 29, 2011 at 8:35 pm |
    • JB

      You have no idea what you are talking about, so just shut-up!

      September 29, 2011 at 8:35 pm |
    • Lwolpert

      Reality and religion are two different things

      September 29, 2011 at 8:35 pm |
    • teddy

      You are an arrogant loser.

      September 29, 2011 at 8:40 pm |
    • kd

      it actually takes more courage, strength, and commitment to be a true Christian than to go with the flow.

      September 29, 2011 at 8:41 pm |
    • helensky

      some real christ-like responses! thanks for proving a point christians

      September 29, 2011 at 8:48 pm |
  15. Patricksday

    He has chosen to come out of the "Christian Closet" in a backwards Islamic country, now let him be the Jesus he claims to follow, and not cost the US taxpayers the check for the War Industry and Halliburton for an endless war. Let him walk his Talk and be an example for all the HYPOCRITS proclaiming to follow Jesus Christ the Prince of Peace.

    September 29, 2011 at 8:25 pm |
  16. mm1024

    This guy is a hottie, let him live.

    September 29, 2011 at 8:24 pm |
    • kellis

      I second that!! 🙂

      September 29, 2011 at 8:31 pm |
  17. Keith

    This man faces execution by islam and yet you morons want a mosque in TN and Park 51? Idiots.

    September 29, 2011 at 8:24 pm |
    • trex

      kieth,.if you live in and are an American,...then you MUST realize this country was founded on FREEDOM OF RELIGION...........

      September 29, 2011 at 8:27 pm |
    • DARTH VADER

      HERMAN CAIN WANTS TO BAN MOSQUES IN THIS COUNTRY

      WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE?

      September 29, 2011 at 8:29 pm |
    • Patricksday

      We have "Christians" executing people in this country too, its called the Death Penalty, and denying people health care.

      September 29, 2011 at 8:31 pm |
    • teddy

      To Patricksday:
      Listen jerk, the death penalty is for sadist murderers who have taken a life of an innocent person. Nothing to do with Christians.

      September 29, 2011 at 8:42 pm |
    • Ashrakay

      @teddy, assuming everyone who has received the death penalty was actually guilty, you may have a point. However, there are plenty of facts in the way of DNA evidence to show that many innocents have been killed in the process. Also, not all people who murder are sadistic. There are violent crimes, sure, but there are many other kinds too. Why don't you let that brain of yours out of the little box you keep it in, so it can get some exercise.

      September 29, 2011 at 8:51 pm |
  18. Markus

    I guess if this man want to escape he can use his nose to peck out of prison wall like the wood-pecker bird lol!

    September 29, 2011 at 8:23 pm |
    • Mary

      Your an idiot! That's what you have to comment about when this mans life ia at stake...his nose? Grow up!!

      September 29, 2011 at 8:37 pm |
    • Markus

      Jesus will not help him, he is wiser to trust in his beak to save him lol

      September 29, 2011 at 8:45 pm |
    • kd

      This man would care for you and pray for you if he had the chance and THAT is all you can say? A superficial, smug comment about his NOSE?

      September 29, 2011 at 8:48 pm |
    • Credenza

      If this man dies for his faith, the reward of Heaven will outweigh anything he leaves behind a thousandfold. He is a wonderful example to Christians everywhere.

      September 30, 2011 at 11:41 am |
  19. markeast55

    What's the big deal, isn't martyrdom a golden ticket to heaven, and you guys already know for a fact heaven is the greatest place ever, so i dont understand his reluctance??

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

      The reluctance comes naturally, no one WANTS to die a horrible death. The "golden ticket" to heaven is believing on God's son Jesus. Christians are not perfect people that is for certain. A lot of us have a long way to go in our growing process. A lot of us are not good examples of Christianity to non- Christians. This man knows that there is much work to be done. His people are trapped in a world of horrible lies and cruelty. Look at the peace on his face, the LIFE in his eyes compared to others in his country. To live is Christ, to die is gain.

      September 29, 2011 at 9:01 pm |
  20. michael

    Muslims are not killing this man! A government with radical views is who is killing him. Shame on any person of any belief system to blame the entire muslim religion for the acts of radicals. Those of you who are should read the Quran...before you go muslim bashing...I say this being of neither religion but have read both books...inform your self before passing judgment on a religion.

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

      It is NEVER the FAITH...............it is ALWAYS the people who try and manipulate the faith for their political views that stink up this world. The next world,................go ahead and try..................I got a friend in high places............

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

      Read the Koran? I dont owe islam anything and I am not going to clutter my mind....
      Americans have better things to do than read it.......

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

      I don't think anyone is condemning Islam here. We are condemning the acts of a hypocritical and unjust administration within Iran!

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

      Thank you Michael, someone who understands who's problem it is, it's not the Muslims fault just because the government wants to kill him :\

      September 29, 2011 at 8:36 pm |
    • Mark Yelka

      All religions based on a god notion are delusional.

      September 29, 2011 at 8:36 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.