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. Whinga OL

    Back in early 1300's a man was burned at the stake for refusing to recant his new found faith. Roman Catholic was a dominate church at that time . The church now is in Europe, West Indies, America and in Alaska. Islam is an dominate religion in Middle East. They should realize that times are changing.

    September 30, 2011 at 1:43 am |
    • Michael of Michigan

      And If I put that apple in a box, and close the lid and lock it? How will you know that the apple exists? The only way for YOU to know if it exists is to open it and see (measurement). An apple obviously cannot disappear. You know it exists without measuring it.

      September 30, 2011 at 2:00 am |
    • Michael of Michigan

      @Kevin – your statement about not being able to measure or observe God is not accurate. If you said God can't be measured YET, it would be more correct. Or if you said we are unable at this point in science and technology to observe God, then you would have been correct.

      September 30, 2011 at 2:04 am |
    • Michael of Michigan

      I suppose a blind man should not believe that stars shine at night? How could he ever prove to himself that they did? Better to trust those who can see things that he can't, no? You are that blind man, unable to prove or disprove what so many others can see.

      September 30, 2011 at 2:10 am |
    • Kevin

      @Michael of Michigan – You just gave it all away right there in your own post: QUOTE-"Or if you said we are unable at this point in science and technology to observe God, then you would have been correct." -Thank You! So...If, according to your own quote, there is currently NO PROOF of any god or gods, then why do YOU believe in god and how can you claim that I am a victim of faulty logic for NOT believing in god?

      September 30, 2011 at 2:19 am |
    • Kevin

      @Michael of Michigan – One more thing. If you have proof of god, just present it and thrill us all but please stop with the silly analogies. "If I put an apple in a box....." and "Suppose a blind man should not believe the stars shine....". Once again, it's just silly and useless. You are never going to prove anything with such weak and childish arguments...

      September 30, 2011 at 2:25 am |
    • Michael of Michigan

      A lack of 'proof' suggests both possibilities are equally probable. There is no evidence for God, but that is not logically in itself evidence against God.

      September 30, 2011 at 2:33 am |
    • Michael of Michigan

      Unless you have evidence against God that I am completely unaware of. Come now, please share with me what secrets you are holding back.

      September 30, 2011 at 2:35 am |
    • Kevin

      @Michael of Michigan – Sorry, you are once again using faulty logic to arrive at the wrong answer. Lack of proof DOES NOT imply a 50/50 probability of existence vs non-existence . Lack of proof implies that the default position is AUTOMATICALLY non-existence UNTIL PROVEN OTHERWISE. That is how science works. It is also how reality works. Once again, nice try but no cigar.

      September 30, 2011 at 2:41 am |
    • Michael of Michigan

      You look for God with your earthly eyes, you listen with your earthly ears. You must love someone in your life very deeply. Your love is so deep for this person that you hear their words with your ears, but you hear their heart with your own when they speak, and vice versa. It's that deeper form of communication that's required to speak to God. It's why he put it there in you. Like a heavenly spiritual intercom. God does not have an earthly mouth to speak your earthly ears. God has no earthly hands to reach down and clear out a traffic jam when you're late, he's not going to hand you a roll when you are on the can and suddenly realize roller is empty. Get real. God works through the hearts of us all. And a science-minded person like yourself ought to honestly experiment with this. If it honestly doesnt work, then you have the proof you are looking for.

      September 30, 2011 at 2:52 am |
  2. Q

    Personally, while I don't find much use for religion, at all, I believe in our 1st Amendment's Free Exercise Clause and its supporting Establishment Clause. This is an excellent example of why a truly functional Free Exercise requires an Establishment Clause separating Church from State/State from Church.

    Some here have suggested we shouldn't, as a nation, take an interest. As this involves a fundamental tenet of our own nation and a fundamental human right, I couldn't more strongly disagree.

    September 30, 2011 at 1:40 am |
  3. Beefburger

    "Without faith I am nothing".

    You create your own reality, how's them apples atheists?

    September 30, 2011 at 1:29 am |
    • Kevin

      I am an atheist and my reality is great. You haven't really explained how some silly, meaningless little quote that you cling to is supposed to affect my reality.

      September 30, 2011 at 1:39 am |
    • Michael of Michigan

      Those who can only believe in something that they see with their eyes, or hear with their ears are following a false sense of logic. If I show you an apple in my hand, then you must believe that there is an apple in my hand. If you watch me move my hand behind my back, by your same sense of logic, the apple no longer exists. You can't see it. It's existance can no longer be measured or observed. Obviously, it was man who invented ways to measure or observe the physical properties of matter. But that is the key right there. Love is not made of matter. Hate is not made of matter. Sadness is not made of matter. Boredom is not made of matter. They cannot be measured or observed, yet there is no one who can deny that love, hate and sadness are very very real. So perhaps there is more to existance than simply being provable, factual, measurable.

      September 30, 2011 at 1:44 am |
    • Kevin

      @Michael of Michigan – If you move the apple behind your back, it can still be observed and measured by the person behind you. As opposed to god, who cannot be observed anywhere by anyone. Nice try though....

      September 30, 2011 at 1:48 am |
    • Michael of Michigan

      Furthermore, the air we breathe did not exist until its presence was measured and observed (perceived) through various "scientific" tests. Atoms did not exist until we decided (perceived) that they existed. What is the probability that there are countless other things out there that we are unable to prove in scientific, measureable terms? YOUR perception is YOUR reality, not a Universal reality. Perception is not Truth. Just look at some classical examples of optical illusions, or a Magic Eye poster. You may quickly discover that perception is fleeting and thus cannot be Truth.

      September 30, 2011 at 1:55 am |
    • Kevin

      @Michael of Michigan – Now you are saying that air and atoms did not exist before man observed and measured them? That is just idiotic. And you have the nerve to question MY logic. You think like a child and your 'arguments' are silly and pathetic. Go back to school and try to read more than one book for a change. You are embarrassing yourself. Very sad.

      September 30, 2011 at 2:09 am |
    • What If

      Beefburger, ""Without faith I am nothing"."

      What if "God" were to be proved. You would not need "faith" anymore. You would be nothing?

      (and that's not even mentioning if the proven "God" is nothing like the one you fantasize about.)

      September 30, 2011 at 2:17 am |
    • PRISM 1234

      Those who are sincere, and honest with themselves look deep into their own hearts, and see their own poverty...They see that there is an empty void, a space inside of them that longs to be filled. They begin to seek, and when they do, God reveals Himself to them...

      So, the saying is true that those who seek God, see Him in everything. But those who in their own puffed up knowledge rely on their own natural senses, they Will NOT see Him in anything, although the witness of His Presence is all around them, and His fingerprints are evident on everything that exists. IT is the blindness of one 's heart that causes him not to understand.... But Jesus said clearly why, and these are His words:
      .....And this is the condemnation, that the LIGHT HAS COME into the world, and MEN LOVED DARKNESS RATHER THEN LIGHT, BECAUSE THEIR DEEDS WERE EVIL.
      For everyone practicing evil HATES THE LIGHT and does NOT COME to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. BUT HE WHO DOES THE TRUTH COMES TO THE LIGHT, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God
      There can't be more clear nor simpler explanation than that!

      September 30, 2011 at 2:52 pm |
  4. BoldGeorge

    Wow, I hope we can all see the contrast here. Here is a christian brother about to be executed for preaching the Word of God, for sharing the faith he has in Christ...compared to the ones who are going to execute him for his faith (or according to them, lack there of). Besides, the Bible already stated this millenias ago.
    Luke 21:12 - "But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons. You will be brought before kings and rulers for My name’s sake."

    It's only a win-win situation whether they do execute him or not. Hang in there friend, if they go through with this, before you know it you'll be home with your Father.

    This article kind of reminds me that this nation is going the way of other nations that persecute and execute Christians. Just read the other Belief Blogs in this site. I've been bashed like there's no tomorrow, for expressing my personal views and beliefs in a very inoffensive manner, though I need to remember that Christ offends most, not Mohammed, not the Dalai-Lama, not the Pope and not even the Virgin Mary, but Christ.

    September 30, 2011 at 12:53 am |
    • Mastero1

      brother, it is easy for you to say sitting behind your computer with you PJ's and cop of coffee, please humble your self. For this is thee has blessed this land with liberty that shall remain untouched, and may over poor other nation for such blessing that they shall treasure praying to thee freely and abundantly.

      September 30, 2011 at 1:01 am |
    • tallulah13

      Nice of you to think that a murder for the sake of religion is "win-win". It is only a victory for him if christianity is correct. It's too bad that the muslims have just as much evidence that their religion is correct as christians do.

      September 30, 2011 at 1:03 am |
    • Michael of Michigan

      AAnd by the way, the Crusades were unsuccessful as the goal to retake the Holy Land was never reached. Jerusalem is a divided city as is the region that is called the Holy Land.

      September 30, 2011 at 1:09 am |
    • Michael of Michigan

      I would gladly and without hesitation trade my life to bring a message of hope to others. Much in the same way as Jesus offered his life to bring us the message. Religious or secular, it is a difficult task to compile supporting evidence that Jesus was/is a poor role model for human beings. Someone please argue against me that Jesus and his teachings are a bad example of how we should live as human beings. How many people did Jesus himself injure, maim, or kill? Zero.

      September 30, 2011 at 1:22 am |
    • joebiden

      @michael of michigan yeah right, you would not give up your car and house to your neighbor nor your freedom, more or less going to Iran or Afghanistan to preach gospel. Yeah you gladly only "talk" about how you "Want" to trade your life. The only person was fully selfless and fully god was Jesus.

      September 30, 2011 at 2:17 am |
  5. PRISM 1234

    Jesus lifted up His eyes toward His disciples and said:

    “ Blessed are you who are poor,
    For yours is the kingdom of God.
    Blessed are you who hunger now,
    For you shall be filled.
    Blessed are you who weep now,
    For you shall laugh.
    Blessed are you when men hate you,
    And when they exclude you,
    And revile you, and cast out your name as evil,
    For the Son of Man’s sake.
    Rejoice in that day and leap for joy!
    For indeed your reward is great in heaven,
    For in like manner their fathers did to the prophets......

    What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written:

    “ For Your sake we are killed all day long;
    We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.”
    Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
    (Gospel of Luke Ch.6....Epistle to Romans Ch. 8)

    I think these words posted here say everything!

    September 30, 2011 at 12:46 am |
    • PRISM 1234

      LOL! 🙂
      Instead of "Ch.8", I've got a smiley!.....

      September 30, 2011 at 12:53 am |
  6. Brian

    "crosses all bounds of decency "..........................

    In 1953 the U.S. overthrew the democratically elected government of Iran and installed a dictatorship. Was that "decent?" All of our relations with Iran go back to that point in 1953.

    September 30, 2011 at 12:45 am |
    • Mastero1

      you are misinformed!

      September 30, 2011 at 12:51 am |
    • steepoylad

      So true. Anyone who questions it, try looking it up. Probably led to the radicalization of the whole Middle East. One of the lowest points in US and UK foreign policy.

      September 30, 2011 at 1:34 am |
  7. Mastero1

    Blessed are those who are prosecuted. Brother you are taking these rats by your peace and forgiveness. May god bless you and protect you, my heart and prayers goes to you and your family.

    September 30, 2011 at 12:44 am |
    • tallulah13

      Says you. Of course, you have no proof that your religion is anything more than bronze age mythology.

      September 30, 2011 at 1:05 am |
  8. SPQR

    Lets pray for this innocent man.

    September 30, 2011 at 12:36 am |
  9. Allen Hom

    Yes brother. Let us pray for the jail doors to fall off the hinges. Brother Youcef needs to be home with his family and church members.

    September 30, 2011 at 12:22 am |
    • Jenn

      You can pray all you want. It'll do nothing.
      Two hands working do more than 10,000 praying.

      September 30, 2011 at 12:33 am |
    • Chris

      Or.. maybe write a letter to the state department and urge government intervention?

      Unlikely to do anything, but still oodles more likely than wishing on a star.

      September 30, 2011 at 12:36 am |
    • Michael of Michigan

      @Reality – Your intolerance of other religions sounds eerily similar to the ignorance of those who would comdemn a man to death because of his love for God. Your hypocritical points and lack of research truly highlight your level of intelligence. There is hope for you still.

      September 30, 2011 at 12:41 am |
  10. Obama

    "To be Absent in the Body" God bless you my brother in Christ., you and I both know the scripture speaks of day's just like this. Never Ever let go of your faith.....

    September 30, 2011 at 12:17 am |
  11. Truth Teller

    I think this is the real disfunctional state of all of your ignorant thinking. I think that your so screwed up because uneducated people are arguing about some thing, you dont understand nor have the facts to dispute. It is a historircal recored fact that the jewish historian josephes inb the atiqaties bof josephes, that there was a man named who did great exploites and mericals and powerful teachings.and every thing that the bible said about the jewish people being taken from their land and going into captivity to russia then will be returned back to their land to never be up rooted again. the seven day war were they where out nubered and beat much stronger and lager military country. The bible also so predicts that before the real world leader appearce (the anitichrist) the world would be unstable and he will be the one who gets isreal and the palistinens to sign a peace agreement and they are working on that right, but only he can get it done. it will last seven years. I am just laying out the truth this is biblical the bile has never been discredeted. Its the only tru book that accurantly fullfils past, present and future predictions. Jesus is my lord. Enough of trivial arguments all will known at the end of our lives. We came into the world alone you will leave that way, its unexapable. We will find out the truth is it your truth our mine.

    September 30, 2011 at 12:17 am |
    • mike

      josephus wasn't even born until after jesus was supposedly crucified, so not only are you insane, but misinformed as well

      September 30, 2011 at 12:28 am |
    • Guest

      Please use proper grammar.

      September 30, 2011 at 1:22 am |
    • Fred1

      “the bile has never been discredited”

      "If I testify about myself, my testimony is not valid."
      "Even if I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is valid."

      1. God is satisfied with his works
      Gen 1:31
      God is dissatisfied with his works.
      Gen 6:6
      2. God dwells in chosen temples
      2 Chron 7:12,16
      God dwells not in temples
      Acts 7:48
      3. God dwells in light
      Tim 6:16
      God dwells in darkness
      1 Kings 8:12/ Ps 18:11/ Ps 97:2
      4. God is seen and heard
      Ex 33:23/ Ex 33:11/ Gen 3:9,10/ Gen 32:30/ Is 6:1/
      Ex 24:9-11
      God is invisible and cannot be heard
      John 1:18/ John 5:37/ Ex 33:20/ 1 Tim 6:16

      October 3, 2011 at 6:10 pm |
  12. RossTrex

    Pastor Youcef – May God Bless you my brother.

    September 30, 2011 at 12:11 am |
  13. What about...

    What about Troy Davis? The racist down in Georgia wouldn't hold off on his execution when it was great evidence to suggest he was innocent. Why didn't the federal government condemn that?

    September 30, 2011 at 12:04 am |
  14. Frank Rizzo

    Really who gives a rats @ss, the POTUS should be more concern about the affairs of this Nation never mind whats going in Iran. If the arab guy wants to be a martyr so be it. The US has more serious issues then worrying about this religious idiot's internal problems.

    September 30, 2011 at 12:03 am |
    • Bob

      You must truly be a very bitter man...

      September 30, 2011 at 1:06 am |
    • tallulah13

      Why do you think that? This man knew that his belief wasn't acceptable. He chose his fate. The US does have better things to worry about because frankly, your religion? Is only important to those who believe as you do.

      September 30, 2011 at 1:11 am |
  15. Reality

    And the bloody terror that is Islam continues !!!!------–>

    Some other examples:

    The Muslim Conquest of India – 11th to 18th century

    ■"The likely death toll is somewhere between 2 million and 80 million. The geometric mean of those two limits is 12.7 million. "

    and the 19 million killed in the Mideast Slave Trade 7C-19C by Muslims.

    and more recently

    1a) 179 killed in Mumbai/Bombay, 290 injured

    1b) Assassination of Benazir Bhutto and Theo Van Gogh

    2) 9/11, 3000 mostly US citizens, 1000’s injured

    3) The 24/7 Sunni-Shiite centuries-old blood feud currently being carried out in Iraq, US troops killed in action, 3,480 and 928 in non combat roles. 102,522 – 112,049 Iraqi civilians killed as of 9/16/2011/, mostly due to suicide bombers, land mines and bombs of various types, http://www.iraqbodycount.org/ and http://www.defenselink.mil/news/casualty.pdf

    4) Kenya- In Nairobi, about 212 people were killed and an estimated 4000 injured; in Dar es Salaam, the attack killed at least 11 and wounded 85.[2]

    5) Bali-in 2002-killing 202 people, 164 of whom were foreign nationals, and 38 Indonesian citizens. A further 209 people were injured.

    6) Bali in 2005- Twenty people were killed, and 129 people were injured by three bombers who killed themselves in the attacks.

    7) Spain in 2004- killing 191 people and wounding 2,050.

    8. UK in 2005- The bombings killed 52 commuters and the four radical Islamic suicide bombers, injured 700.

    9) The execution of an eloping couple in Afghanistan on 04/15/2009 by the Taliban.

    10) – Afghanistan: US troops 1,385 killed in action, 273 killed in non-combat situations as of 09/15/2011. Over 40,000 Afghan civilians killed due to the dark-age, koranic-driven Taliban acts of horror

    11) The killing of 13 citizen soldiers at Ft. Hood by a follower of the koran.

    12) 38 Russian citizens killed on March 29, 2010 by Muslim women suicide bombers.

    13) The May 28, 2010 attack on a Islamic religious minority in Pakistan, which have left 98 dead,

    14) Lockerbie is known internationally as the site where, on 21 December 1988, the wreckage of Pan Am Flight 103 crashed as a result of a terrorist bomb. In the United Kingdom the event is referred to as the Lockerbie disaster, the Lockerbie bombing, or simply Lockerbie. Eleven townspeople were killed in Sherwood Crescent, where the plane's wings and fuel tanks plummeted in a fiery explosion, destroying several houses and leaving a huge crater, with debris causing damage to a number of buildings nearby. The 270 fatalities (259 on the plane, 11 in Lockerbie) were citizens of 21 nations.

    15 The daily suicide and/or roadside and/or mosque bombings in the terror world of Islam.

    16) Bombs sent from Yemen by followers of the koran which fortunately were discovered before the bombs were detonated.

    17) The killing of 58 Christians in a Catholic church in one of the latest acts of horror and terror in Iraq.

    18) Moscow airport suicide bombing: 35 dead, 130 injured. January 25, 2011.

    19) A Pakistani minister, who had said he was getting death threats because of his stance against the country's controversial blasphemy law, was shot and killed Wednesday, 3/2/2011

    20) two American troops killed in Germany by a recently radicalized Muslim, 3/3/2011

    21) the kidnapping and apparent killing of a follower of Zoraster in the dark world of Islamic Pakistan.

    22) Shariatpur, Bangladesh (CNN 3/30/2011) – Hena Akhter's last words to her mother proclaimed her innocence. But it was too late to save the 14-year-old girl. Her fellow villagers in Bangladesh's Shariatpur district had already passed harsh judgment on her. Guilty, they said, of having an affair with a married man. The imam from the local mosque ordered the fatwa, or religious ruling, and the punishment: 101 lashes delivered swiftly, deliberately in public. Hena dropped after 70 and died a week later.

    September 29, 2011 at 11:45 pm |
    • Michael of Michigan

      How many people were killed by Christians throughout history? You must have skipped over the chapters about the Crusades in your history book, smart guy. You almost had a point. Religion does not kill people, people who twist religious beliefs to serve their own ends kill people.

      September 30, 2011 at 12:33 am |
    • Jonathan Easlick

      Really? The crusades, you mean the ones that saved Western society? You mean the ones where the Byzantine Empire was constantly attacked over and over again by the Turks? Would history book are you reasoning bud, because the crusades saved Europe from Islamification. Why don't you go back and read about the first three crusades instead of spouting our your anti-religious hate.

      September 30, 2011 at 12:47 am |
    • Michael of Michigan

      If you ever crawl out of that cave you live in, you would know that Islam and Christianity both promote tolerance and mercy. I doubt you have ever seen a Qu'ran or ever read the Bible front to back. And the Crusaders mercilessly slaughtered thousands upon thousands of those who stood in their way of regional domination, all by order of the Christian popes. All men have the potential to twist religion to serve their own purposes. And some of them have throughout history at the cost of countless human lives. What you were responding to was not anti-religious. It was anti-man.

      September 30, 2011 at 1:01 am |
    • Michael of Michigan

      And by the way, the Crusades were unsuccessful as the goal to retake the Holy Land was never reached. Jerusalem is a divided city as is the region that is called the Holy Land.

      September 30, 2011 at 1:05 am |
    • Guest

      "You mean the ones where the Byzantine Empire was constantly attacked over and over again by the Turks?"
      Somebody else knows what Byzantium was!!!! YAY!!!
      I agree, the crusades were both an epic fail and a bad idea... but don't blame the church for the actions of the crusaders. Because the Pope offered forgiveness of sins for all those who joined, all kinds of people showed up

      September 30, 2011 at 1:31 am |
    • Reality

      The Twenty (or so) Worst Things People Have Done to Each Other:
      From: M. White, http://necrometrics.com/warstatz.htm#u (required reading)

      The Muslim Conquest of India

      "The likely death toll is somewhere between 2 million and 80 million. The geometric mean of those two limits is 12.7 million. "

      Rank …..Death Toll ..Cause …..Centuries……..Religions/Groups involved*

      1. 63 million Second World War 20C (Christians et al and Communists/atheists vs. Christians et al, Nazi-Pagan and "Shintoists")

      2. 40 million Mao Zedong (mostly famine) 20C (Communism)

      3. 40 million Genghis Khan 13C (Shamanism or Tengriism)

      4. 27 million British India (mostly famine) 19C (Anglican)

      5. 25 million Fall of the Ming Dynasty 17C (Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, Chinese folk religion)

      6. 20 million Taiping Rebellion 19C ( Confucianism, Buddhism and Chinese folk religion vs. a form of Christianity)

      7. 20 million Joseph Stalin 20C (Communism)

      8. 19 million Mideast Slave Trade 7C-19C (Islam)

      9. 17 million Timur Lenk 14C-15C

      10. 16 million Atlantic Slave Trade 15C-19C (Christianity)

      11. 15 million First World War 20C (Christians vs. Christians)

      12. 15 million Conquest of the Americas 15C-19C (Christians vs. Pagans)

      13. 13 million Muslim Conquest of India 11C-18C

      14. 10 million An Lushan Revolt 8C

      15. 10 million Xin Dynasty 1C

      16. 9 million Russian Civil War 20C (Christians vs Communists)

      17. 8 million Fall of Rome 5C (Pagans vs. Pagans)

      18. 8 million Congo Free State 19C-20C (Christians)

      19. 7½ million Thirty Years War 17C (Christians vs Christians)

      20. 7½ million Fall of the Yuan Dynasty 14C

      *:" Is religion responsible for more violent deaths than any other cause?

      A: No, of course not – unless you define religion so broadly as to be meaningless. Just take the four deadliest events of the 20th Century – Two World Wars, Red China and the Soviet Union – no religious motivation there, unless you consider every belief system to be a religion."

      Q: So, what you're saying is that religion has never killed anyone.

      A: Arrgh... You all-or-nothing people drive me crazy. There are many doc-umented examples where members of one religion try to exterminate the members of another religion. Causation is always complex, but if the only difference between two warring groups is religion, then that certainly sounds like a religious conflict to me. Is it the number one cause of mass homicide in human history? No. Of the 22 worst episodes of mass killing, maybe four were primarily religious. Is that a lot? Well, it's more than the number of wars fought over soccer, or s-ex (The Trojan and Sabine Wars don't even make the list.), but less than the number fought over land, money, glory or prestige.

      In my Index, I list 41 religious conflicts compared with 27 oppressions under "Communism", 24 under Colonialism, 2 under "Railroads" and 2 under "Scapegoats". Make of that what you will."

      September 30, 2011 at 8:13 am |
  16. CosmicC

    How far removed is this from the town in Alabama that will let you out of jail if you go to church every Sunday for a year. That means anyone who believes in some faith other than the local churches is faced with the same choice as this guy.

    September 29, 2011 at 11:34 pm |
    • John C.

      No. Nothing really at all like that. Not even close.

      September 29, 2011 at 11:59 pm |
    • Abby

      Cosmic is either loony left or mooslim to even compare this story to something in the US.
      Cosmic should go hiking to Iran.

      September 30, 2011 at 12:09 am |
    • Bob Smith

      No, CosmicC is right.

      It is exactly the SAME kind of religious extremism as the case in Alabama. THE SAME.

      A "judge" orders "punishment" instead of "conversion" or "attending religious services" only because the "judge" is a religious extremist willing to violate the human rights and civil rights regardless of what anyone else thinks.

      Religious extremists gladly violate every law in the name of their religion. It is exactly the same here. Haters gonna hate and use religion if they've got it.

      September 30, 2011 at 12:53 am |
    • Michael of Michigan

      Perhaps a more inclusive and more constructive approach would be for those convicted to have the option of attending "religious services" of their own choosing rather than having to attend Christian church services on Sundays.

      September 30, 2011 at 1:13 am |
  17. tact.stl

    Cyrus the Great new better than this. Modern Iranian government is a blemish, though small, on the very ancient and honorable lineage of the Persian people.

    A copy paste from Cyrus's profile at wikipedia:

    On December 10, 2003, in her acceptance of the Nobel Peace Prize, Shirin Ebadi evoked Cyrus, saying:
    “I am an Iranian, a descendant of Cyrus the Great. This emperor proclaimed at the pinnacle of power 2,500 years ago that he 'would not reign over the people if they did not wish it.' He promised not to force any person to change his religion and faith and guaranteed freedom for all. The Charter of Cyrus the Great should be studied in the history of human rights.[93]

    They have some reading to do, in the meantime lets just hope history repeats itself and we have another revolution sooner rather than later in Iran. Allowing the younger, secular, and educated youth to seize control and take Iran into the 22nd century, rather than hang around in the 10th in a sense.

    September 29, 2011 at 11:34 pm |
    • Credenza

      Since America ,arranged, the first revolution which land the world with the Ayatollahs and Ahmdinejad, it'll be uop to them to try again, I suppose. Better luck next time.

      The way the Arab Spring is going, we're going to have a lot more mini-Irans to cope with. Well done USA!!!

      September 29, 2011 at 11:59 pm |
  18. Rob-MO

    These comments are interesting. America was founded, among other things, because of persecution of churches who were not following state mandated procedures and beliefs. People came to this country for religious freedom.

    Seventy one years after the Declaration of Independence was signed, the Mormons were driven out of Nauvoo, Illinois, which at the time was as large as Chicago, because their beliefs were not consistent with mainstream religions in America.
    More than 75,000 men, women and children crossed the plains in the largest mass movement of people in American History, (until the railroad was finished in 1856) and 6,000 died along the trail. Many said that was the end of the Mormons. There
    are 14 million of us worldwide, including some in Muslim countries.

    When England returned Hong Kong to China, our temple was able to continue to operate as well as all our chapels in the
    Colony. Missionary work continues today just like it did when the Brits had it.

    America is a chosen land and will never be taken over by Muslims or any other single religion.

    Indonesia has the highest number of Muslims than any country in the world. (80% of the population is Muslim). They have complete freedom of religion and our church has congregations all over the country and missionaries working throughout the country as well.

    My youngest brother is a pilot in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and they too allow other religions to practice in their country.
    They do not allow crosses on churches and members of any non-Muslim faith cannot discuss their religion with a Muslim in
    the country. My brother attends a non-denominational Christian Church and they have never had any problems the eight years
    they have lived there.

    These Muslim beliefs are something out of the Dark Ages!!

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

      Mormonism will slowly fade from society as will contemporary Christianity and Islam because of the obvious problems with the founders of these religions especially their angelic/satanic hallucinations and related prophecies. "Pretty and ugly wingie/horn blowing thingies" simply do/did not exist.

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

      @Reality – You have a never ending supply of opinions; statements [which don't amount to much] and hypotheses. What you don't have is any facts or evidence of what you believe/or don't.

      As for 'hallucinations and imaginary friends' – which are a bit 'old hat' right now, Your delusions more than outdo our hallucinations. You see, we KNOW who we're talking to and what we're talking about and we know God hears every word. Who'se listening to you?????????

      September 30, 2011 at 12:08 am |

      god hears every word huh

      then let your god hear this

      if it exists then appear in front of me

      wait am i supposed to say it out loud or can it read comments on cnn

      so far no god

      me 1 god 0

      as always

      September 30, 2011 at 12:14 am |
    • Michael of Michigan

      Brown, do you really think God is a physical being? Only if that were true could he appear before your eyes. Why don't you ask God a question not with your mouth, but with your heart. Then listen for His reply, but not with your ears. Listen with your heart. Ever tried that? If not, then perhaps it is worth a try, if only to prove me wrong.

      September 30, 2011 at 12:47 am |
  19. Johnny

    heres a question for thought. If heaven is so special and brings happiness cause your closer to god, why doesn't anyone want to die to get there?

    September 29, 2011 at 11:20 pm |
    • Standing Up

      Personally, I can't wait to go. However, I also believe it's up to God to decide when I get to go.

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

      Cause it's not in our hearts to want to die. It's in our hearts to want to live.

      September 29, 2011 at 11:25 pm |
    • fred

      A true believer receives the Holy Spirit upon confession of faith in Christ for the forginess of sin. Eternity with God has already begun at that point. There is a joy here as we become more Christlike over time untill we finally get to go home forever.

      September 29, 2011 at 11:25 pm |
    • gay republican (PUTTING AMERICA FIRST)

      Because we are human and scared, but Jesus can take away all our fears plus after salvation we stay here to tell people how beautiful and forgiving God is through Christ

      September 29, 2011 at 11:26 pm |
    • gay republican (PUTTING AMERICA FIRST)

      Straight people dont own JESUS, NO MORE THAN GAY PEOPLE DO, HE DIED FOR US ALL

      September 29, 2011 at 11:33 pm |
    • Tony

      With all do respect fred. Its obvious that you believe in Christ. So I would asume that you also find the words of the Bible true. Psalms 115:16 says that the heavens belong to god, but the Earth belongs the Man. So do we really go to heaven? Or where do we go?

      September 29, 2011 at 11:37 pm |
    • Kienne

      The question is, why does a person HAVE to die to get there? Heaven is a state of mind, not just a place for dead people. Why must a man suffer for his belief in a higher power? Once you start executing people for their choice in God's you strip them away from themselves. You take away their right to live. No One has that right. No One. God bless you Pastor, I know my God and He is with you in that cell. He has not abandoned you. Now more than ever He is with you. As are my prayers.

      September 29, 2011 at 11:41 pm |


      if its all up to god then you dont have free will

      September 29, 2011 at 11:49 pm |
    • Tom

      Hmm people make choices everyday, some are wrong and some are right. We do have free will

      September 29, 2011 at 11:54 pm |

      but if this god knows everything youre going to do

      then you arent making any choices

      you are acting upon a predetermined will of this being

      therefore there is no free will if this god thing existed

      September 30, 2011 at 12:13 am |
    • Michael of Michigan

      One word. Selfishness.

      September 30, 2011 at 12:48 am |
    • Michael of Michigan

      Free will is not the freedom to make any decision you want. Free will is the freedom to choose either God, or to choose to serve your own selfish needs. How many times a day do we make this decision? How many times a day do we choose ourselves? So God really doesn't know what you're going to choose. God only hopes you will make the best choice of the two options. But it's totally up to you. Free Will.

      September 30, 2011 at 12:51 am |
    • fred

      From start the finish the Bible shows a picture of a remnant being carried through to the promised land. We are given a picture of what the remnant looks like (easy to see cause we are human also) and what heaven / Kingdom of God looks like (hard to define). The visual of heaven was expressed in terms of things that were of great value and beauty in their day. We know there will be a new heaven and a new earth that the Bible says cannot well be expressed in words. What we know for sure is that in this new place only the things of God are stored there. These are the fruits of the Spirit; love, joy, peace, hope etc. Further we are only present there in Christ. So we are either in Christ or Christlike at that time. The Bible gives a clear picture of what that is.

      September 30, 2011 at 1:04 am |
  20. Ted Ward

    Pray for this brave and good man!

    September 29, 2011 at 11:16 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.