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. Chris

    Religious people: Name something that your god(s) have actually done. Ever.

    Something real, not from your books. And none of that "god is responsible for everything crap".

    You've got a grand total of zero examples.

    Believing in something with no evidence is not only stupid, but dangerous.

    September 29, 2011 at 11:10 pm |
    • Ted Ward

      Believing in nothing with no evidence is pretty stupid, too. Just sayin'...

      September 29, 2011 at 11:19 pm |
    • gay republican (PUTTING AMERICA FIRST)


      September 29, 2011 at 11:20 pm |

      you are crying because you are chopping onions

      that isnt jesus

      i promise

      September 29, 2011 at 11:24 pm |
    • GAW

      Good questions....but you you're leaning me to believe that many of the New Atheist types can only resort to intimidation to try to persuade others. You sound like an angry street preacher. Thanks but no thanks.

      September 29, 2011 at 11:28 pm |
    • Chris

      No Ted, believing in nothing that does not have evidence is absolutely correct. If I told you I had a dragon living in my garage, would you not reserve judgement until you had seen this supposed dragon?

      To answer what I think you meant with your double negative: I believe in many things. Things which are supported by fact and evidence. There is a lot of amazing stuff in the real world, if you care to poke your head out of the ol' book for a bit.
      Check out the "double slit experiment".

      Lets be intrigued by real mysteries, not the mysteries of bronze age fiction.

      September 29, 2011 at 11:31 pm |
    • Chris

      GAW: I'm sorry if I came across as intimidating, but seeing the wholly undeserved sense of self satisfaction many people here exhibit is frustrating at best. Our peers are unimaginably gullible, believe in talking snakes and all sorts of rubbish solely because they were raised to, and for the most part lack the moral fiber to question their security blanket beliefs. Anyone who cannot consider for a moment that they might be wrong about something is dangerous.

      I recognize the possibility – remote as it may be – that I am wrong.

      But not a single shred of evidence exists for the existence of a god. Yet so many people believe. Liken it to holocaust denial. Aren't you upset when you see someone say it never happened, despite all evidence to the contrary?

      September 29, 2011 at 11:48 pm |
    • Fred1

      @ Ted Ward: Oh; but, I do have evidence, no proof, but lots and lots of evidence. For example, god is suppose to answer prayers and at least sometimes heal the sick. How come no amputee has ever regrown a limb no matter how many people were praying for him?

      October 3, 2011 at 7:35 pm |
  2. Pastor Mike Palevo

    This ought to be a breath of fresh air to CNN, because they hate Christianity worse than Iran! And they show it! So, CNN ought to be very happy that an anti liberal, anti perversion, anti communist media is getting his just reward! That's my opinion as a Christian Pastor!

    September 29, 2011 at 11:06 pm |

      nothing wrong with hating christianity

      pastor mike

      have you ever read the quotes from jesus

      where he said hed return before his followers died

      there are multiple quotes in your bible

      i doubt much you preach that at church

      September 29, 2011 at 11:26 pm |
    • CosmicC

      I have absolutely no clue what you're talking about.

      September 29, 2011 at 11:38 pm |
    • Fred1

      Just another example of why I hold Christian pesters in such low esteem

      October 3, 2011 at 7:37 pm |
  3. Spiffy

    Imagine what would happen if a Christian nation was killing a Muslim because this person followed the teachings of the Koran.

    September 29, 2011 at 10:42 pm |
    • The Dude

      That happens all the time. Soldiers that served in Iraq have blown the whistle on such acts...and these are just the few we hear about.

      September 29, 2011 at 10:54 pm |
    • kshivy85

      Yeah, it was called The Crusades.....

      September 29, 2011 at 10:56 pm |
    • Alborz

      The actions of the Crusades taken against Muslims over 1000 years ago, makes these guys look like Saints.

      September 29, 2011 at 11:05 pm |
    • Chris

      Fortunately religion appears to be (apart from a dumb and loud minority) dying a slow but certain death in the western world. America is lagging behind versus Britain, Germany, Sweden etc. but the trend is still there. Our "Jesus freaks" would be as bad if not worse than any given towelhead if it weren't for the bill of rights.

      September 29, 2011 at 11:13 pm |
    • CosmicC

      The crusades started about a 1000 years ago and ran until about 700 years ago. If you think this minor issue is anywhere near as bad as what the crusaders did, I think you're only point of reference is probably some movies that glorified what they did. The crusaders not only massacred muslims and jews, they kill any christians who dressed wrong, were of the wrong sect, or just got in their way.

      September 29, 2011 at 11:48 pm |
  4. Abdul Ameer

    For the White House to call upon Iran to guarantee universal human rights and freedom of religion is to ask a leopard to change its spots. Iran's real name is "The Islamic Republic of Iran", and not just "Iran". There is a world of difference between the two. The Islamic Republic of Iran means that the country and its rulers are devoted, first and foremost, to the doctrines of Islam. Those Islamic doctrines reject religious freedom, and they reject human rights as we understand the term. It was Iran that was one of the prime movers in having all the Moslem countries reject the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Instead, ALL Moslem countries subscribe to the Cairo Declaration of Human Rights in Islam which clearly states that ALL HUMAN RIGHTS MUST BE IN ACCORD WITH ISLAMIC SACRED SHARIAH LAW. And, Sharia law requires the death penalty for apostates from Islam to another religion. This is based on a famous piece of Islamic sacred scripture, a saying by Muhammad: "Anyone who changes his Islamic religion - kill him!" That is perfectly plain and clear, and all religious Moslems are required to support that. That is why the Islamic Republic of Iran can never grant freedom of religion. They would have to violate their own religion to do it.

    September 29, 2011 at 10:39 pm |


      this is exactly why religion needs to be banned

      they want to kill someone over it

      because thats what islam is about

      wouldnt want to violate their beloved religion would they

      September 29, 2011 at 10:46 pm |
    • doodlydond

      my question ? do you support the execution or not ? if you support , then what about those many who who converted from christanity to islam ? why that is only one way procedure ? you say this as justice? i am neither chriatian nor muslim , but this embolden to hate the muslim from core of my heart ...

      September 29, 2011 at 10:55 pm |
    • o.k.

      Alright Brown Note–go ahead and ban religion. All laws are eventually broken, so what happens when someone decides to practice a religion notwithstanding your ban? What penalty would you exact? A fine? Imprisonment? Death Penalty? Even if a slap on the wrist, your motivation is as evil as Iran's: We don't like what you do so you have to pay (money, freedom, life?)

      September 29, 2011 at 11:06 pm |
    • akaGS

      Thank you. I learned something new today

      September 29, 2011 at 11:14 pm |
    • Chris

      @Brown Note: Religion should not be banned.

      it should however, be marginalized to the same degree as homeopathy, horoscopes, and tarot cards.

      "Oh no... Not that Jesus thing again. You know it's all bunk, don't you?"

      September 29, 2011 at 11:19 pm |
    • GAW

      @ THE BROWN NOTE Ban Religion??? So how do you plan to go about doing that?? If you do mange to do it what will you do with the violators? How bout the private beliefs of individuals? Prison, execution? Yes religion (Truth claims not an issue in my statement) has had, now has and will have its good and bad moments. Quit striving for your quasi-utopia that may have to implement totalitarianism in order to achieve it's goals. Welcome to the human race with all its imperfections.

      September 29, 2011 at 11:23 pm |
    • BG

      I asked the little shart the same thing last week and got a " not really, I'm just sayin'..." response.

      At least he stopped typing in caps.

      Baby steps, Brownie.. baby steps.

      September 29, 2011 at 11:31 pm |

      why does everyone think banning automatically means the penalty is death

      you think my view is extreme

      but you take it to the extreme

      if people want to practice religion fine

      but keep it behind closed doors in your homes

      and leave it at that

      dont try spreading your religious eurotrash around

      maybe fining people for doorknocking would be a good start

      then once in a while people could actually sleep in on the weekends

      without some redneck in a sun dress having intimate relations with my doorbell for 15 minutes

      running for president and talking about how its gods will or some garbage

      banned from running for political office

      take it completely out of the spotlight and shove it back down the throats of the believers where it belongs

      September 29, 2011 at 11:31 pm |
    • BG

      Now, if only his posts stopped looking like bad poetry.. that'd be an achievement !

      September 29, 2011 at 11:32 pm |
    • Chris

      Religion would be tough to ban, there seems to be an innate human drive to want to believe that our puny insignificant lives are important, and that there is a magic guy with a neckbeard who is "looking out for us".

      I predict religion will exist if not forever, for a long long time at least. But only for the "proles" if you catch my drift.

      It's too powerful a tool to do away with. How better to get the unwashed masses to behave than to tell them that a wizard will reward them for being good and punish them for being bad?

      Religion is fast becoming (and arguably already is) the domain of the uneducated, lower-class, and otherwise underprivileged. Look at the whole middle east: dirt floors, limited electricity and running water... but religion? Oh my, yes.

      September 29, 2011 at 11:40 pm |


      i read an article recently about religion being a product of evolution

      the brain is wired to want to believe in something

      the religion of choice is culturally dependent on geographically location for the most part

      save for a few converts to other religions

      which is why you always hear about hipsters becoming buddhists

      because its not mainstream

      see religion follows fashion trends and what mtv says is cool too

      September 29, 2011 at 11:45 pm |
  5. Dr.K.

    These comments are bittersweet, illustrating the two sides of any religious belief. The same beliefs that make people ache with compassion for this man fuel the rationalizations that cause the suffering. As one poster stated, "I would do almost anything for my belief." That's exactly what's behind the intolerance displayed by the Iranians.

    September 29, 2011 at 10:38 pm |
    • Abdul Ameer

      Not the same at all because the respective beliefs are so different. It is impossible to defend Christian beliefs by killing non-Christians. In Islam, a Moslem is guaranteed to go straight to Paradise if he kills and is killed in the cause of Allah.

      September 29, 2011 at 10:41 pm |

      since allah doesnt exist they need to stop

      September 29, 2011 at 10:47 pm |
    • Dr.K.

      Can't say I agree, Abdul. They're not so different at all.

      September 29, 2011 at 11:10 pm |
    • Chris

      @Abdul Amir: To quote mother goose herself:

      "If thy brother, the son of thy mother, or thy son, or thy daughter, or the wife of thy bosom, or thy friend, which is as thine own soul, entice thee secretly, saying, Let us go and serve other gods, which thou hast not known, thou, nor thy fathers;"

      "Thou shalt not consent unto him, nor hearken unto him; neither shall thine eye pity him, neither shalt thou spare, neither shalt thou conceal him: But thou shalt surely kill him; thine hand shall be first upon him to put him to death, and afterwards the hand of all the people." (Deuteronomy 13:6-9)

      You were saying about not being able to compare Christ-tards with Mohammed-tards?

      September 29, 2011 at 11:23 pm |

      thank god for the bible chris

      its full of love

      killing is love

      September 29, 2011 at 11:33 pm |
  6. George

    I wonder what Palestine would do?

    September 29, 2011 at 10:37 pm |
    • Chris

      Probably decide not to exist.


      September 29, 2011 at 11:35 pm |
  7. Sassafras

    Jesus is love and hope to all people – regardless of their faith, nationality, skin color, etc. His tolerance surpasses every human condition. My prayers go out for all of those that feel hate and judgement are acceptable in any form. And I pray that this man's life is spared, and he is free to live as HE chooses and FREE from tyranny and oppression as all human beings deserve to live.

    September 29, 2011 at 10:27 pm |
    • Randoms

      Not all people my friend. I am faithless to no superior being and to be honest, don't fear dying and the tortured places you think people go who don't believe. You die – you rot. Don't ever include ALL in your beliefs.

      September 29, 2011 at 10:33 pm |
    • Spiffy

      Or... instead of praying and basically wishing for something to happen you could go out and actually do it.

      September 29, 2011 at 10:39 pm |
    • Fred1

      "If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple."
      –(Luke 14:26)

      October 3, 2011 at 7:53 pm |
  8. Dee

    Night everyone 🙂 Take very good care and know that the power of Jesus Christ our Saviour is within us all. Open your heart and let Him in 🙂

    September 29, 2011 at 10:23 pm |
    • gay republican (PUTTING AMERICA FIRST)

      Praise God and Jesus Christ our savior, ALL OURS SAVIOR

      September 29, 2011 at 10:42 pm |
    • Ashrakay

      All praise Flying Spaghetti Monster, in whose SECRET sauce are are DRENCHED!

      September 29, 2011 at 10:46 pm |

      oh yeah

      i see the power of jesus christ

      in the iranian government

      jesus sure is powerful

      September 29, 2011 at 10:49 pm |
    • gay republican (PUTTING AMERICA FIRST)

      Jesus is powerful, mankind chooses the sin and hate, such as u very extreme libs on here, u hate hate hate and then HAVE THE NERVE TO SAY US TEA PARTY PEOPLE HATE AND ARE RACIST, NO WE ARE NOT RACIST AND NO WE DONT HATE BUT U GUYS ARE JUST PLAIN EVIL WITH UR ANTI CHRISTIAN, ANTI WHITE, ANTI REPUBLICAN LIES

      September 29, 2011 at 11:14 pm |
    • CosmicC

      Gay Rep – sounds like you HATE liberals.

      September 29, 2011 at 11:28 pm |

      well no

      im not a liberal

      in fact i think the democratic party is full of garbage and the republican party is trash too

      they both suck harder than a black hole

      so take that liberal bashing back to your church

      because youre wrong about why most of us cant stand religion and your fairy gods

      September 29, 2011 at 11:35 pm |
  9. Dee

    I feel Jesus' hand upon me every day and I would do almost anything for my belief. My life is complete. Am I a religious zealot? Absolutely not. But but but...the power of belief is far beyond anything I have ever known. It's a peaceful easy feeling.

    September 29, 2011 at 10:21 pm |


      it is nothing more than a feeling

      but just so we are clear

      thats all it is

      because god doesnt exist

      and jesus lied about coming back

      read your bible if you want the proof

      he was a liar and a harlot

      September 29, 2011 at 10:50 pm |
  10. Mike

    "If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor." – Desmond Tutu

    Some of the comments are shocking, we are taking religious freedom for granted here while others are willing to die for what they believe in. It' doesn't matter if you if you are an atheist, buddhist, jewish or hindu, WE MUST STOP RADICAL ISLAM and its barbaric ways...IRAN is playing with fire if they kill this man.

    September 29, 2011 at 10:15 pm |
    • Patricksday

      Yes we speak out against injustices in the World, but we dont Go to War over an Iranian man who understand the laws against Christians and Gays and Lesbians, you take your life in your own Hands when you come out of the Closet in a Religious Country that still lives in the Stone Age. Lockheed Martin and Halliburton will need to find other work.

      September 29, 2011 at 10:29 pm |

      if religion was banned altogether

      then we wouldnt have this problem

      September 29, 2011 at 10:52 pm |
    • doodlydond

      i am hindu and i am with you ... in our mythology there used to be one demon called BHASMASUR" , he was given blessing by GOD that if he puts his pam on someone's head , it will break likewatermelon . And after acheiving the blessing , you know what he did at very first hand ??? he tried to test by putting the palm on GOD's own head ... that is IRAN and his version of ISLAM....

      September 29, 2011 at 11:01 pm |
  11. marketmoses

    l'm liking the persians (maygogs) more everyday. not for what theredoing to christains but for winning the propaganda war.

    September 29, 2011 at 10:14 pm |
  12. Frank

    Yep ........to them there is only one true god....Kill the Christian for following the same God. Makes perfect sense in a peace loving Muslim world. After all killing yourself too is a sin in there eyes too. Just like the Catholics think it's a sin. But hey if you go kill for us in the name of god you get 72 virgins when you get to heaven. Guess they forgot to tell you that your going to hell thing. Yep very screwed up nation Iran....Nation of fools...they are.

    September 29, 2011 at 10:11 pm |
  13. Doug

    It looks like Pinnokeo has come back from the dead. doug.

    September 29, 2011 at 10:10 pm |
  14. The Dude


    September 29, 2011 at 10:02 pm |
    • AtheistSteve

      Ha ha ha ha ha...It's funny 'cause it's true.

      September 29, 2011 at 10:33 pm |
    • tom easley

      Just how certain are you that God doesn't exist and that Jesus isn't who he claimed to be? You might consider some honest research in this area, you might be surprised. A good place to start (besides the Bible) is an author by the name of Lee Stroble (former staunch atheist).

      September 29, 2011 at 10:39 pm |
    • The Dude

      I am not certain God does not exist. I am certain that Christianity is a complete fabrication by the greedy and misogynistic peoples of an ignorant time in human history..

      September 29, 2011 at 10:52 pm |
    • CosmicC

      There's pretty strong evidence that Jesus never claimed divinity. Those parts of the bible were inserted later.

      September 29, 2011 at 11:30 pm |
  15. john smith

    I pray for you my brother in Christ that Jesus will liberate you.
    You and all of your family, and your nation in Jesus name.

    September 29, 2011 at 10:02 pm |
    • Ashrakay

      Wouldn't it be better if the people responsible for holding him let him go on their own? In my lifetime, I have yet to witness jesus stepping in to stop any atrocity or natural disaster. I wouldn't expect him to make any cameos in this episode.

      September 29, 2011 at 10:08 pm |
    • brp

      Ashrakay, if Jesus has stepped in would we know about it?

      September 29, 2011 at 10:15 pm |


      jesus sure is a liberator

      he worked lots of magic in j a p a n

      September 29, 2011 at 10:55 pm |
  16. carm

    It's sad that this happens, but Jesus told his followers that this would happen to some of them. If they kill him, they will have his blood on their hands, and will have to answer to the true God, Jehovah, and his son Jesus Christ, on judgement day.

    September 29, 2011 at 9:57 pm |

      no one is answering for everything

      jesus also said hed come back before his followers died

      still believe in that liar i bet

      September 29, 2011 at 10:56 pm |
  17. buzz12

    More proof that about half the world still lives in the year 1300 AD.

    September 29, 2011 at 9:57 pm |
    • Ashrakay

      45% of Americans believe the bible is 100% true. I'd guess it's more than half the world.

      September 29, 2011 at 10:10 pm |

      americans make up for a small percentage

      300 plus million americans vs 7 billion people worldwide

      i hardly think roughly 150 million americans makes up for half the world genius

      September 29, 2011 at 10:57 pm |
    • BG

      Lots of future CPA's in here...


      September 29, 2011 at 11:09 pm |
    • Ashrakay

      @THE BROWN NOTE, Did is say that it did? Are you saying that I believe the America is the only country in the world or something? Maybe don't jump to conclusions that are supported by fact, genius.

      September 29, 2011 at 11:17 pm |

      ash read your own comment

      you said 45% of americans and then you said you guess thats more than half the world

      it wasnt an assumption

      i read what you said word for word and replied specifically to that

      ever consider taking a math class

      nah jesus died for your sins so you dont have to learn anything

      September 29, 2011 at 11:38 pm |
  18. The Dude

    So this fool will let himself be killed for an imaginary invisible sky Jew?

    I say this is Darwinism, move on.

    September 29, 2011 at 9:55 pm |
    • Sassafrass

      I feel very sad for you. God is love and hope to all people – regardless of their faith, nationality, skin color, etc. His tolerance surpasses every human condition. My prayers go out for all of those that feel hate and judgement are acceptable.

      September 29, 2011 at 10:22 pm |
    • The Dude

      Christianity in anything but love and hope.

      It is self righteousness, Intolerance and Ignorance wrapped in a blanket of fear and indoctrination.

      September 29, 2011 at 10:29 pm |

      no jesus is going to come flying down on a magic unicorn and save the day

      like he always does

      September 29, 2011 at 10:59 pm |
  19. John D

    Why do countries feel the need to condemn other countries actions? Like the other country cares, or is going to stop doing whatever it is your upset about because you sent them a stern letter saying "What you're doing is bad"?!? Give me a break.

    September 29, 2011 at 9:50 pm |
  20. Jimmie D

    Its time to go to war

    September 29, 2011 at 9:42 pm |
    • humberto

      For what ?

      September 29, 2011 at 9:46 pm |
    • Spiffy

      Obviously when an injustice occurs to anyone anywhere we must go to war over it. In the process losing more lives then would have been lost to begin with. DUH!

      September 29, 2011 at 9:51 pm |
    • Answer

      If you're serious about it, then do it properly as a society. Ask your government for a national vote on a war!
      It's better that way so that the world would not have to see your whining when you bet against you own economy and screw yourselves and the rest of the other nations that get drawn into it.

      September 29, 2011 at 9:52 pm |
    • Wes

      Go ahead. We could use one less idiot.

      September 29, 2011 at 9:57 pm |
    • humberto


      Your probably right.

      September 29, 2011 at 10:25 pm |
    • The Dude

      For a half wit like Jimmy, killing is ok as long as you are killing for Jesus.

      September 29, 2011 at 10:31 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.