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. chip

    Iran is barbaric regardless.

    September 30, 2011 at 11:23 am |
  2. Richard S Kaiser

    GOD's Mind

    A grain of sand, a universe upon itself
    The waters ever does etch away its’ design
    Alive with GOD is everything placed
    His first Son can be comprehensively traced.
    For thru all cosmologies we ever will bind.
    Afforded a freedom within GOD’s mind.

    September 30, 2011 at 11:23 am |
    • Buster Bloodvessel

      Stop eating that cantaloupe.

      September 30, 2011 at 2:00 pm |
  3. Christopher

    Ummmm. We killed thousands of Indians and stole their homeland for not converting. And waged bloody wars for not converting. Seems kinda hypocritical to me. But who am I to point out the flaws of others...

    September 30, 2011 at 11:22 am |
    • Credenza

      Nothings changed. The founding Fathers were a bunch of fanatical Puritans who massacred Catholics under Cromwell.

      September 30, 2011 at 11:32 am |
    • Whatintheworld

      I agree! And we didn't just kill the indians because they didn't convert. Many were killed them just 'cause they were here and they didn't appeal to us.

      September 30, 2011 at 11:38 am |
  4. Brian K

    Thanks to Georgia and Texas, we have no right telling anyone who or who they should not kill. Stop the killing here first and then maybe others would take us seriously.

    September 30, 2011 at 11:20 am |
    • DamuDame

      We dont kill people for their religion. We kill people who commit horrible crimes. Have we made mistakes..YES. I guess you think serial killers and child killers deserve mercy even when their victims did not....

      September 30, 2011 at 11:26 am |
    • William Demuth


      PLEASE. It isn't the serial killers.

      It's the poor black guy with a fifth grade education being killed for charges based on smoke and mirrors I am worrying about.

      September 30, 2011 at 11:29 am |
  5. Bible Clown

    As they say about immigration in this country, what part of the law doesn't he understand? A State Religion doesn't work unless everyone belongs.

    September 30, 2011 at 11:18 am |
  6. GBfromOhio

    So according to Iranian Clerics being a Muslim is like the Hotel California ... you can "check out" (permanently) any time you want, but you can never leave. Aside from the silliness of all religions (other than some core, non-dogmatic truths that may be derived), it is an outrage what these barbarians are doing. Cultural relativism aside ... this is a crime against humanity. RIGHT WINGERS ... DO YOU NOW UNDERSTAND WHY SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE IS SO IMPORTANT ... REGARDLESS OF WHAT RELIGION IS INVOLVED? I don't care if your Theocracy root religion is a "kinder, gentler" version, it's a matter of prncipal and potential abuse. Wish NATO or someone could go in and bust out Pastor Nadarkhani, but I'm sure he would not want to leave his flock.

    September 30, 2011 at 11:17 am |
  7. Jason K

    Let me ask the Muslims this hypothetical question. What would happen to Islam if one day Mecca and Medea were suddenly and completely wiped off the map?

    My understanding is that Muslim belief is that Allah would never allow that to happen. So if it did the faith in Islam would be completely and irrevocablely shattered.

    September 30, 2011 at 11:16 am |
    • Joel

      Sounds like a plan. lol

      September 30, 2011 at 11:18 am |
    • Zach

      Not really. Other faiths have taken worse hits and just kept chugging along, reinterpreting their holy books and whatnot.

      September 30, 2011 at 11:19 am |
    • parkmore

      How many years you are talking about it? Who are you?H2O2 and N? Try and see what will happen

      September 30, 2011 at 11:26 am |
    • parkmore

      Sorry but like you, you do not know what to do with your hands, except helping yourself

      September 30, 2011 at 11:28 am |
    • Bible Clown

      The ones still living would drop nukes on you, or overfly you with crop dusters loaded with radioactive liquids; other than that, and the deaths of innocent people who happen to live there, great plan. In 100 years there would be no Muslims, and likely no large population centers or manufacturing either, and we'd all have three eyes.

      September 30, 2011 at 11:40 am |
  8. kafir4life

    well big Mo said to his mu$lim gang "Who ever leaves his religion (I$lam) then KILL him" a verified hadith..so to all the apologists out there..here are some good mu$lims implementing sharia...which a significant bunch in Amercia is trying to convince us it is benign and "mostly in line" with out laws per Ground Zero Imam Faisal !!!

    September 30, 2011 at 11:15 am |
    • GBfromOhio

      You're employing a horrible line of "logic" ... lack thereof is more like it. The fact a particular religion is abused by the ruling class of a third-world country versus condeming that religion are two different things altogether. 99.9% of Muslim American citizens in this country are peaceful, as are 99.9% of Christians. Progressive Humanists like myself ... well ... that's another story for another day.

      September 30, 2011 at 11:25 am |
    • Bible Clown

      Good grief, man, every Muslim is not your enemy anymore than every Christian is out waving hate signs at dead soldiers' funerals. Don't be so fricken gullible or I'll have to come bop you with the Clown Hammer™.

      September 30, 2011 at 11:42 am |
  9. Zach

    Funny how these basic human rights have only been around in the US and most of the Western world for 200-300 years. Maybe off and on for a few millennia elsewhere.

    I've nothing against freedom of speech, religion, etc, but we should call them what they are. There are no universal human rights. Any "freedom to anything" is a privilege, and one that's always been won with blood. When you call it a right, you turn a bunch of potential freedom fighter into people who sit and whine until someone hands it to them, as they believe the world owes it to them and will then go to any length to get it to them.

    But of course that's not true. The US and other countries only support these "rights" internationally as far as it is in their best interest. If someone wants freedom of religion, they need to get it for themselves or abandon hope of ever getting it.

    September 30, 2011 at 11:14 am |
  10. Alba Miranda

    It is unthinkable the untold suffering imposed on this true saint of God

    September 30, 2011 at 11:13 am |
    • Bible Clown

      This is pretty much how you get to be a saint in the Bible; refuse to recant in favor of the ruling religion. Perhaps they will throw him in a fiery furnace, or a lions' den, and he'll come out unharmed with a angel sitting on his shoulder?

      September 30, 2011 at 11:44 am |
  11. Limeygirl

    Here in the UK, we are praying for this brave gentleman. We hope that the Iranian government will allow him to live in peace. Whatever happens, there's a place in Heaven for him

    September 30, 2011 at 11:11 am |
    • Joel

      Kind words.

      September 30, 2011 at 11:21 am |
    • Limeygirl

      It's all I have, that and prayer. If I can't save his life, I can at least pray for his soul.
      I hope he knows that Christians world wide are praying for him.

      September 30, 2011 at 11:32 am |
    • Credenza

      Bless you.

      September 30, 2011 at 11:33 am |
  12. Doublestandard observor

    America Calls Iran Barbaric for Executing a man that did no wrong, but said nothing about an innocent man being put to death in GA smh double standards in the governement.

    September 30, 2011 at 11:11 am |
    • A. Mirand

      Two completely different scenarious

      September 30, 2011 at 11:15 am |
    • Joel

      Troy Davis killed a man, and failed to prove that he was innocent. This man did nothing but teach people about a religion other than the one forced upon them from the day of birth. There is more of a difference between these two cases that your measly brain can comprehend.

      September 30, 2011 at 11:23 am |
    • Joel


      September 30, 2011 at 11:23 am |
    • Dave

      We also do not know the man in GA was innocent. We don't know he was guilty, either. We don't really know anything.

      September 30, 2011 at 11:31 am |
    • Whatintheworld

      Double standards indeed!!

      And Miranda / Joel......why don't you two thump the "good book" over your heads instead, hard enough to knock yourselves out.

      Our nation takes pride in our justice system. Yet in one year TWO blatant mistakes were made that shakes the pillars to the core. We let a baby killer walk free and executed a man who everyone knows, wasn't "proven" guilty.

      But hey, let's point fingers at the rest of the world, after all it is full of "third world" countries.

      September 30, 2011 at 11:45 am |
    • Bible Clown

      Dave has it exactly right: Davis' case was too thin. He should have gotten life in the first place. There were no grounds for appeal because there was almost no evidence at all.

      September 30, 2011 at 11:46 am |
    • Doublestandard observor

      @Joel and Dave, there was no evidence to convict Troy Davis you dont put a man to death if you know of no wrong doing just as this man he has done nothing wrong so the same can be said of Troy Davis we don't know if he did anything wrong to be executed but lets condemn Iran while America can't condemn itself

      September 30, 2011 at 12:41 pm |
  13. Dan G.

    Once again Islam is proven to be the most intolerant, oppressive, and violent religion in the world.

    September 30, 2011 at 11:09 am |
    • cm

      This "regime" sounds just like the Nazi's...believe what we believe...do what we want...say what we want. Sooner or later lunacy always comes to an end. Unfortunately, it just takes time an innocent ppl are killed in the process.

      September 30, 2011 at 11:15 am |
    • Joel

      I'd say that Christianity, at it's worse, was merely a response to the evil that was already in the world. They were cleansing what they thought was evil. Christians changed and learned and do not do that anymore, but the Muslims still live in the dark ages. People hold Christianity's past right in front of our face every day, as a way to excuse the actions of Muslims, and I for one am sick of it.

      September 30, 2011 at 11:25 am |
  14. animesh

    Anybody who believes that this universe which is more humongous then can be imagined and would 15 billion years to traverse; was created and is controlled by the gentleman carpenter of Nazareth or heralded by the holy prophet from Arabia is totally f-r-i-gg-in crazy!
    But humanity has a lot of time on its hands boys! before we go extinct so feel free to carry on with the mythology.

    September 30, 2011 at 11:06 am |
    • Richard S Kaiser

      @ animesh et al

      animesh wrote, "Anybody who believes that this universe which is more humongous then can be imagined and would 15 billion years to traverse; was created and is controlled by the gentleman carpenter of Nazareth or heralded by the holy prophet from Arabia is totally f-r-i-gg-in crazy!"

      Our universe is but One Universe amid untold numbers of Universes. This universe we call our homeland's serenity is such a small portion of Celestial Cosmology. For "in the beginning" and before the monumental moment of Creationism GOD manifested the elements who were godly and GOD's very first godly elemental manifestation did thru time become Christ Jesus and most know the story of Christ.

      September 30, 2011 at 11:18 am |
    • animesh

      @Richard S Kaiser: Yes sir, point not taken but well respected. You have a right to your beliefs as I do to mine.

      September 30, 2011 at 11:22 am |
    • Richard S Kaiser

      @ animesh et al,,,

      To thine own word be truthful and never be awashed by the salivating mind of the otherly kind.

      September 30, 2011 at 11:27 am |
    • Buster Bloodvessel

      Richard, you say your mind is SALIVATING? You need to get that looked at.

      September 30, 2011 at 2:02 pm |
  15. Richard S Kaiser

    Such that is for the was of the once to the will of foreverness, life beyond religious servitude, wherefore art thou and with whom does the bell toll? Thus be written, there to be said and never to be done, thusly but a wasted chord being shed. Never again, never again, ever to be, never again.
    September 30, 2011 at 10:29 am

    Swindling swindlers do not barbaric barbarisms make neither does 'politicied' fortunes make upon the take. Life it self does swirl amid the fires ever being mindful of each others desires.

    Faith is a challenge forwarded to one's challenging signs. Be but a humble faith that blindingly does not tempt the tempter's laments. Try to bond with another's humble faith leaving the stagnating pools behind in your wake. Cherished faith is above all other things and faithfully submit yourselves toward a finding of peace.

    September 30, 2011 at 11:05 am |
    • animesh

      Thy holy bumbling mumbling dost givest me a profound headache but good poetry never-the-less.

      September 30, 2011 at 11:08 am |
    • Rustam

      Boy, do I wanna buy what you are selling!! LoL....I'd like to order two please.

      September 30, 2011 at 11:21 am |
    • Whatintheworld

      Hey Kaiser, english please.........! Don't need another headache.

      September 30, 2011 at 11:25 am |
    • Richard S Kaiser

      Whatintheworld wrote on Friday, September 30, 2011 at 11:25 am, "Hey Kaiser, english please.........! Don't need another headache."

      Such is a poem for some and for you becomes an aching head sore,,,, 🙁

      September 30, 2011 at 11:31 am |
    • Whatintheworld

      @ Kaiser,

      My mind salivates over words coming from the likes of Yeats, Shakespeare, Whitman.........and thankfully not over those that come from where you find your self centered, holier-than-thou unproven ideology.

      September 30, 2011 at 11:59 am |
    • Yoda

      Confusing your words are, and gladly would I shed a chord, but understand your point I do not.

      September 30, 2011 at 2:04 pm |
  16. RH12

    This has nothing to do with Islam or Christianity it is all about IRAN need to impose it's barbaric laws. Every single person who is a none Shiaa will be prosecuted and killed in Iran. Sunni Muslims are killed, tortured, they were even forbidden from carrying on Eid (Holiday) prayers last month and that was applied to every single Sunni Mosque in Iran. The one thing Iran is after is to re establish the Perisian Empire. They are the same barbaric monsters who had been killing American soliders in Iraq, and torturting and killing Syrian who are protesting against Iran's best Ally Bashar Assad.

    September 30, 2011 at 11:03 am |
    • nilsjames

      Iran is barbaric yet we also execute people regularly?

      September 30, 2011 at 11:08 am |
    • Lisa

      And those barbaric laws are based on religion...case closed.

      You want to worship your gawd in a country with another gawd, then you're going to have to face the music...that's a lot of harp playing in this guy's case.

      September 30, 2011 at 11:10 am |
  17. Barry G.

    Iran will learn what Ancient Rome learned, that you can’t stop the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

    Jesus is the son of God, and he came and was crucified for the sins of the world; and, there are no amounts of edicts, torture and murder that can stop this.

    Just ask Nero, Galerius, and the others.

    Iran’s reign of terror will end soon, just as it did for Ancient Rome, which persecuted the Christians for the first three hundred years of the Common Era.

    Iran, your days are numbered.

    September 30, 2011 at 11:03 am |
    • Lisa

      Yet our Christian nation just executed a man in Georgia the other day. We're not so innocent either.

      September 30, 2011 at 11:12 am |
    • Joel

      @Lisa – please explain to me how the USA is a Christian nation? Ever heard of seperation of Church & State? The founding fathers weren't Christians, by the Majority. I'm confused where you're getting this idea from? Also, that man was convicted of murder. If you are trying to even compare the murderous deeds of that man to this Christian Pastor's harmless deeds, you are obviously a dumb sh** in need of a swift kick to the face.

      September 30, 2011 at 11:21 am |
    • What what what

      Where my "Crock o'Shyte" Meter when I need it. The Roman Empire collapsed partly as a result of Pagan invaders. After it was already split in 2. Then the Eastern Roman Empire fell (ruled by the Christians) shortly after. Jesus had nothing to do with it. The Pope was powerless and infact Rome didnt fall until after it was converted to Christianity. Oops...there goes your argument out the Holy Roman window.

      September 30, 2011 at 11:23 am |
    • What what what

      Then bring on the Dark ages- 800 years of ignorance and fear tied to the myth of and oppression by religion.

      September 30, 2011 at 11:29 am |
    • Whatintheworld

      @ Barry!!

      Please stop with your nonsense.

      @ Joel....

      Lisa, is correct, how in the world is our nation not a Christian nation? What is your enlightening definition of a Christian nation? Separation of Church and State was something the ancestors came to this land with, but that concept is dead. Our nation is the most Christian nation in the world, yet those self-proclaimed "Christians" reek of hypocrisy.

      Killing Troy Davis is ok though, right!

      September 30, 2011 at 11:31 am |
    • Fred1

      Interestingly the Roman empire only started to really decay after they adopted christianity

      September 30, 2011 at 3:27 pm |
  18. John Ross

    Sadly that is where diplomacy has failed to even be part of anything meaningful in domestic and foreign policy. A nation is quick to condemn and even combat another, but to negotiate a deal where the Pastor in this case, is released to another country with the promise of never returning to Iran is the best case scenario. It is half hearted attempts by some to appear as though there is commitment and sincerity and you have to question the real or true motive.

    September 30, 2011 at 10:55 am |
  19. Sam

    SCAtheist, we get it. You don't believe in God, and neither do I. Now please stop acting like such an obnoxious tw*t...you're making us all look bad. Let people believe what they want.

    September 30, 2011 at 10:54 am |
    • Joel

      Some "athiests" are more or less "anti-theists". I.E. If you can't accept something, tear it down and destroy it in your mind, then spread that hatred to the world in order to prove your intellectual superiority over the "idiots" who believe in God.

      September 30, 2011 at 11:17 am |
  20. animesh

    As someone said:'Religion is the opiate of the masses'.
    These guys are heavy users of the cheroot on both sides.

    September 30, 2011 at 10:53 am |
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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.