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. StarBorneMaiden

    Thank god i live in america.

    September 30, 2011 at 2:46 pm |
  2. Mark

    I think many are missing the true point here. The fact that in Iran they are so intolerant of anything different than what they believe. This fear spills into so many aspects of that society, and others in the Muslim world, that this is the true issue. How do you correct a society brainwashed into thinking the west is a spawn of satan? Yeah, I don't know the right answer to that one either.

    September 30, 2011 at 2:40 pm |
  3. Barry G.

    What what what:

    I'm not sure what strikes me most, your unfounded arrogance or your assumption that I and the other readers are ignorant of history.

    The events that led up to and followed the fall of Rome, along with the complex economic and political issues that played a role in this, are well known.

    Do you think that you’re the only one who knows about the conversion of Constantine, the role of the Vandals, Visigoths, Barbarians, the development of the Western (Latin) and Eastern (Greek) Christian communities, the schisms, the monastic movements, etc.,

    My point stands, despite your arrogance and unjust assumptions about others.

    September 30, 2011 at 2:29 pm |
  4. Barry G.

    If anyone can get word to him, tell Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani that we're thinking about and praying for him; and, tell him we're very proud of him.

    Keep the faith!

    September 30, 2011 at 2:08 pm |
  5. Richard S Kaiser

    Cling ever softly to her bosomed youth’s appearance and find shelters in her adolescences holdings. Her flesh is torn open by the desires of the many yet still does Gaia give it her all.

    Sheltered from the sun’s pouring out rays, Gaia’s people do hide so and within such do wane. We in the aboveness upon her celestial plain of onslaughts are never apportioned of wise, about her submissive yearnings and way. Gaia, the GODDESS of our Life and liveliness does kindly take on and cherish in memories brought on by our songs.

    Love and to be swoon by otherly things, we of celestial continence are held in Gaia’s ever folded wings. Ever will she give to otherly heavenly spaces, the vomit and filth beguiled by her graces. Teach therefore your children’s faithfulness in yourself and in otherly loving kinds and cherish all peace that entrails unwinds..

    September 30, 2011 at 1:10 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Autistic Prose?

      You must slay the Frauleins!

      September 30, 2011 at 1:24 pm |
    • Yoda

      Nonsensically does your prose contort, and from your words no meaning can be extracted. Glib you are, and verbose, but meaning attach to your words I cannot. Prozac must you take, until your thoughts confused are not.

      September 30, 2011 at 2:07 pm |
    • Nonsequiturd

      I see your point about, "adolescences holdings," but I honestly feel there is nothing better than a hammock and a beer.

      September 30, 2011 at 2:55 pm |
  6. tonelok

    "I know America doesn't care about following the law in regards to immigration, but other countries do."
    I'm assuming you meant to say Mexico instead of American there right? : ]

    September 30, 2011 at 12:49 pm |
  7. humtake

    Why spend the resources caring about the Middle East. The only reason they have any power is because we give them power. We already know they do not want to evolve passed the Crusades and they want to rule by religion. We have no right to go in there and tell them how to run their country unless they are committing some sort of genocide or mass crime. Right now, the people know the laws. You follow the laws. Honestly, the real problem with the Middle East is that America has become a country with a judicial system that doesn't punish people for breaking the law, so we try to enforce that same type of system on them.

    Get over it. If you really want to help them, start sending money to their religious coffers and they can use it to move away from Iran. It is allowed, there is just a process you have to follow. I know America doesn't care about following the law in regards to immigration, but other countries do. Anyone can leave Iran if they have the money and follow the process. So, send them money and tell them to follow the process and they can be free too. Until then, don't argue about their laws. Our laws aren't perfect, either. We just moved out of the Middle Ages and realized religion is not a good way to govern people. They haven't gotten that smart yet, but you can't just disregard their laws because they may not have enough brain cells to know what we already know.

    September 30, 2011 at 12:45 pm |
  8. tonelok

    @Rainer Braendlein
    It was called the 'dark ages' because the world went into a state of dismay after the collapse of Rome. Technology, science, philosophy all grinded to a hault. The world plunged into a realm where religious hysteria ruled all of Europe. Some of Christianity's worst atrocities were commited here. It honestly doesn't suprise me that someone who witnessed things like the crusades would think he could do better...

    September 30, 2011 at 12:41 pm |
  9. Richard S Kaiser

    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.

    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

    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 12:37 pm |
    • William Demuth


      I feel I am reasonably literate, yet I have absolutely no bloody idea what you are talking about!

      Perhaps less attempts at flowery pose, combined with an actual point might make these posting be of greater value

      September 30, 2011 at 12:42 pm |
    • Richard S Kaiser

      @ William Demuth et al,,,,,

      Poetry Will,,,, poetry,,, but alas I guess you have not read a poem in quite awhile?

      September 30, 2011 at 12:46 pm |
    • Richard S Kaiser

      @ Willie,,,,

      Better yet 'Shakesperian lit',,,,,,,,,,,,,, but in English 'vernacularisms',,,,,,,,,,,,, 🙂

      September 30, 2011 at 12:50 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Welll, lets just say you ain't Kipling

      ls be'ind the bar they laughed an' giggled fit to die, I outs into the street again an' to myself sez I:

      O it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, go away"; But it's "Thank you, Mister Atkins", when the band begins to play, The band begins to play, my boys, the band begins to play, O it's "Thank you, Mister Atkins", when the band begins to play.

      I went into a theatre as sober as could be,
      They gave a drunk civilian room, but 'adn't none for me;
      They sent me to the gallery or round the music-'alls,
      But when it comes to fightin', Lord! they'll shove me in the stalls!

      For it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, wait outside"; But it's "Special train for Atkins" when the trooper's on the tide, The troopship's on the tide, my boys, the troopship's on the tide, O it's "Special train for Atkins" when the trooper's on the tide.

      Yes, makin' mock o' uniforms that guard you while you sleep Is cheaper than them uniforms, an' they're starvation cheap;

      September 30, 2011 at 12:53 pm |
    • Whatintheworld

      @ William Demuth....

      Thank you!!! Glad that I'm not the only one who thinks this "Kaiser Kid" is as looney as they come. Flowery sentences amount to nothing when they keep going in circles.

      September 30, 2011 at 1:06 pm |
    • JohnR

      "with whom does the bell toll" Yep. There's Richard in a nutshell. Pretense meets pratfall, again and again.

      September 30, 2011 at 1:11 pm |
    • Yoda

      Contrarian and negatory are you, and seemingly comatose is your mind, and a swindling swindler would only deceive himself; therefore I must forward to your challenging signs a tweeted weiner for you to bond with, and may you awake in a stagnant pool of chords.

      September 30, 2011 at 2:12 pm |
  10. Reason

    All the suden, I can see a lot of people against dead capital! Remarcable the similarities of killing a human being that has just broken the laws, the laws of a goverment, you like it or not, that has been in power by first a social revolution, then (more or less) elections. Oh well, in Iran they have clear fact he broke these laws, here we kill even if there is a reasonable doubt about it, just to follow proedure! I wonder... where human life is worth the less?

    September 30, 2011 at 12:35 pm |
  11. Rainer Braendlein

    Christian countries can get violated by criminal tyrants. The Christian Germany was seduced by the anti-Christian ruler Hitler.

    The case of Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani is one more proof for the backwardness of Islam. Backwardness belongs to the core tenets of Islam. The Muslims still accept a book, which was drafted by a false prophet, called Muhammad, in the beginning of the dark age (around 600 a. D.).

    Why do we call the Middle Ages also dark age?

    Answer: Life was very unpleasant during the dark age, because of the impact of papal rule (the pope presumed to be even the highest worldly ruler during the dark age) and the impact of Islam.

    Like Islam papacy was invented around 600 a. D.. Papacy and Islam came into being at nearly the same point of time. That is very interesting.

    It is possible that papacy and Islam have the same cause: Like the actually Christian Germany was ruled by the anti-Christian tyrant Adolf Hitler for some years, the actually Christian Eastern Roman Empire Byzantium was ruled by the wicked tyrant Phocas (Phocas is one of the worst tyrants of history beside Hitler; he was an ancient Hitler) for some years. It is possible that "Christian" Roman soldiers commited crimes in Palestine and Syria under Phocas' rule. Maybe Muhammad got a bad impression of Christianity and decided to invent a better religion (he had the idea that the faith of Abraham had been the genuine faith and Christianity and Judaism had corrupted Abraham's faith).

    Moreover the wicked Phocas made the Roman See the highest See on earth, which was a crime, because God wants all sees to be equal. By Phocas action the Roman Catholic Church lost her invisible head, Jesus, and got a visible head, the pope.

    Having lost her divine head, the RCC had to corrupt totally (increase of heresies). Around 1000 a. D. the popes reached out even for worldly rule and managed to become higher than the Emperor of the (new) Holy Roman Empire (Germany or Europe).

    Thus, papacy and Islam were caused by a criminal tryrant (political offender), called Phocas. Phocas was an devil incarnate (just read the chroniclers of his time).

    Hence, you can say that papacy and Islam were invented by the devil.

    It is high time to overcome ultimately the dark age: Let us abolish papacy and the Islam and welcome true Christianity.

    September 30, 2011 at 12:30 pm |
  12. goodegyptian

    Iran WILL NOT execute this man because it's all about MONEY! They are just waiting for RANSOM! It's how they make money, American citizens are VERY valuable to Iran.

    September 30, 2011 at 12:27 pm |
  13. tonelok

    Read about a thing called "The Spanish inquisition' before you trash violent muslims from your high horse. If you are christian, jewish, muslim your religion has roots in discrimination, persicution, and isolation of other faiths.
    It is not the religion that is violent, but the people that twist its word to mean violence. Every western religion has done this, Islam is simply the youngest of them.

    September 30, 2011 at 12:26 pm |
  14. Michael

    For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. –Jesus Christ

    September 30, 2011 at 12:25 pm |
    • Tom Cruise

      "I like your Christ. However, I do not like your Christians. They are so unlike your Christ." – Mohandas K. Gandhi.

      September 30, 2011 at 12:28 pm |
    • William Demuth

      It's CLOBBERING TIME : Ben Grimm, Fantastic Four volume 6

      Now I realize it’s stupid to think quotes from cartoon characters matter, but I do NOT understand why you don't realize the same thing.

      September 30, 2011 at 12:28 pm |
    • Buster Bloodvessel

      "He who makes a beast of himself gets rid of the pain of being a man." Samuel Johnson

      September 30, 2011 at 2:13 pm |
  15. nonmoslem

    Quran and Hadith say that anybody who left Islam must be killed.
    Please search "faithfreedom.org" in google.

    September 30, 2011 at 12:21 pm |
    • Tom Cruise

      There is a vlaid concern here that Iran's own laws are not being correctly applied.
      From the article you supposedly just read:
      "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."
      That being said, I hold that it is morally wrong to kill someone for their beliefs, and I furthermore submit that no sane god would demand blood simply because someone does not believe in them. It's akin to a childish "look-at-me" temper tantrum.

      September 30, 2011 at 12:25 pm |
  16. Richard S Kaiser

    The Sons of GOD are Gods in their own realms. These Sons of GOD live deeply inside upon the atomic cosmos plains.
    There are more Sons of GOD then one can count the sands upon all the beaches. For 'mankind' to just pick only but a handful of Gods is sheer lunacy. GOD, the creator and the Creation's Allness is no respecter of Celestially made humans that know little to nothing about the three base cosmologies which are fractal, celestial and cellular. If man could but fathom these three cosmologies, GOD might just be pleased with our denying ways but alas, there are few people to ponder such traits called cosmology. So sad,,,, so sad,,, really, so sad.

    September 30, 2011 at 12:20 pm |
    • Tom Cruise

      How about Sons of INSANITY? Have you come to preach to us the gospel of INSANITY?

      September 30, 2011 at 12:21 pm |
    • William Demuth


      You been hitting the bong again?

      September 30, 2011 at 12:21 pm |
    • Buster Bloodvessel

      Sounds more like Sp ice or diviner's sage. Guy's lost his marbles!

      September 30, 2011 at 2:50 pm |
  17. chuckt

    We lock up people that try to kill and blow up someone that does not believe in their God. Muslim Countries lockup people that don't believe in Islam. This guy is worshiping in his home and with friends and is not planning bombing attacks. He's is standing up for what he believes in and is doing nothing to harm anyone around him. Every true follower of Islam is a terrorist period. People that say they are a muslim and believe in peace are not true followers. Christians that say they want to act in violance for Christ are not true Christians, but those that want to follow Jesus in love and peace are. Nuff said

    September 30, 2011 at 12:18 pm |
    • Rico

      This is the biggest incoherent and inconsistent BS I have read in years.

      September 30, 2011 at 12:25 pm |
    • Tom Cruise

      I'm sorry, the only point I could find in that mess is the one on your head.

      September 30, 2011 at 12:26 pm |
    • Buster Bloodvessel

      It's the law. Are you against law and order?

      September 30, 2011 at 2:51 pm |
  18. SoldierofFortunes

    Tell your President that Christians can start flying to Iran and lets see how that works out...conjested airprorts will deflate the balloon of bananas this whole thing is...so will he kill me because I believe in God...tell him he should be happy I believe in something...losing my religion is shapeshifting here bubbas...peoples will believe in God and flavor of religion...
    On another note of Iran....tell Mr.President of Iran that " the wrong address " may have located " lost intelligence " and I might end up across the inlet in another country to listen to more retorics and lies...we are Soldiers of God...always...

    Led Zepplin: When the Levee Breaks...

    September 30, 2011 at 12:14 pm |
    • Tom Cruise

      Bonghit much?

      September 30, 2011 at 12:29 pm |
  19. Bri in NC

    Ask yourself, "What has this man done, that deserves death?"

    That is what the story is about. Get off your soap boxes. You have freedom, your practicing it as you post your comments.

    September 30, 2011 at 12:13 pm |
    • William Demuth

      What did the 100,000 Iraqi CIVILIANS do to deserve the death we inflicted on them?

      All killing is wrong

      September 30, 2011 at 12:39 pm |
  20. Carlton

    What Iran is simply saying under the motivation and inspiration of "ISLAM" is if you believe any other way other than "ISLAM" you are wrong, and our President as well as many other political leaders here in America call this a religion of peace? Bull!@#$!

    September 30, 2011 at 12:10 pm |
    • Carter

      it's not the religion of ISLAM that's condemning this man, it's the ISLAMic radicals that are. you can't shove the blame on an entire religion for something that a select few people are taking part in. it just makes you sound like an ignorant idiot, and i'm sure you don't want that.

      September 30, 2011 at 12:23 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.