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U.S. condemns Iranian pastor's conviction
Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani shown in an Iranian prison.
September 29th, 2011
06:58 AM ET

U.S. condemns Iranian pastor's conviction

By Dan Merica, CNN

Washington (CNN) - The White House Thursday condemned the conviction of an Iranian pastor, who may be executed in Tehran for refusing to recant his religious beliefs and convert from Christianity to Islam.

Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani "has done nothing more than maintain his devout faith, which is a universal right for people," a White House spokesman said in a statement. "That the Iranian authorities would try to force him to renounce that faith violates the religious values they claim to defend, crosses all bounds of decency and breaches Iran's own international obligations."

The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, an independent advisory group appointed by the president and Congress to monitor religious freedom around the world, Wednesday expressed "deep concern" for Nadarkhani, the head of a network of Christian house churches in Iran.

After four days of an appeals trial for apostasy, Nadarkhani refused to recant his beliefs, the commission said. Chairman Leonard Leo said the pastor "is being asked to recant a faith he has always had. Once again, the Iranian regime has demonstrated that it practices hypocritical barbarian practices."

While the trial is closed to the press, Leo said the commission collects information from sources in Iran and around the world.

The commission's statement also called the trial a sham and said Iran is violating the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which it is a party.

"A decision to impose the death penalty would further demonstrate the Iranian authorities' utter disregard for religious freedom, and highlight Iran's continuing violation of the universal rights of its citizens," the White House statement said. "We call upon the Iranian authorities to release Pastor Nadarkhani and demonstrate a commitment to basic, universal human rights, including freedom of religion."

Nadarkhani was first sentenced to death in November 2010, the commission said, and in order to avoid the death penalty, he is being asked to recant his beliefs and convert to Islam. Leo said an apostasy trial is rare in Iran; the last occurred in 1990.

Iran's claim stems from the pastor's Muslim parents. According to Leo, the court needed to verify if Nadarkhani had ever been a Muslim. In order to be given what Iran claims is the opportunity to recant his beliefs, Nadarkhani must have never been a Muslim before the age of 15, Leo said.

Because he was given the opportunity during the four-day trial, it is apparent that the Iranian court found he was never a Muslim and therefore Nadarkhani could have converted.

According to a source close to the situation within the Commission on International Religious Freedom, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the Supreme Leader of Iran, would have to sign off on the execution. Speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the subject's sensitivity, the source said such cases in Iran are difficult because of the lack of transparency in leaders' decision-making.

The source also said that in the past, political prisoners have had their prison time and punishment reduced by the Iranian government. Though they did not say that was guaranteed in this situation, the source indicated it was a possibility.

The American Center for Law and Justice, a right-leaning organization founded by television evangelist Pat Robertson, reported Wednesday night that Nadarkhani's death sentence had been overturned, meaning that the pastor would be receiving a lesser punishment. They sourced the claim to someone in Iran.

Those reports could not be independently verified by CNN. The Permanent Mission of the Islamic Republic of Iran in the United Nations failed to comment on the ruling.

Jordan Sekulow, executive director of the ACLJ, said the outcry from Christians in America has been loud and sustained.

"American Christians, like never before, are engaged in this," Sekulow said. "This is evidence that Christians in America over the past decade have done a better job engaging in the persecution issue."

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Christianity • Iran

soundoff (2,425 Responses)
  1. Willy

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i1ytqY4Gr7M&w=640&h=390]

    September 29, 2011 at 3:46 pm |
  2. JOE

    Let's swap the Tea Party so-called christian conservatives. Let's begin by swapping Michele Bachmann. After all, she's just a worthless piece of flake.

    September 29, 2011 at 3:44 pm |
    • gay republican

      And u are far worst than her my friend

      September 29, 2011 at 3:46 pm |
    • Ohio

      republicans hate gays, right?

      September 29, 2011 at 3:59 pm |
  3. Willy

    All christians should volunteer for a quick death. Paradise and their god is waiting

    September 29, 2011 at 3:44 pm |
    • gay republican

      Christians have their own terrorist group right here in USA and its liberal dems hatemongering evil toward christians

      September 29, 2011 at 3:50 pm |
  4. Alex

    I hope for all this best with this fellow. But I do wish Pat Robertson would keep his trap closed. I cannot help but think he and his gang could possibly make things worse.

    September 29, 2011 at 3:43 pm |
    • HURLCO

      Were it not for the loud & sustained outcry from American Christians, the White House & State Dept. may have never stepped up to the plate.

      September 29, 2011 at 3:54 pm |
  5. T. Philip

    The Bible says for we do not wrestle against blood and flesh, but against principalies in utter darkness. The people of Iran especially the Mullas need to know the love of Christ and his forgiveness available to all man kind regardless of race or nations. Pray for the realise of this pastor.

    September 29, 2011 at 3:42 pm |
    • Willy

      'bible'? 'bible'? 'bible'? 'bible'? 'bible'? 'bible'? 'bible'? 'bible'? 'bible'? 'bible'? 'bible'? 'bible'? what bible? Which bible The gospel bible? The talmud bible? the Quran bible? The Torah bible?

      September 29, 2011 at 3:49 pm |
    • Nick

      you realize that its spelled release right?

      September 29, 2011 at 5:53 pm |
  6. Insight

    UN must intervene and try to stop Iran. And, if they cannot observe the fundamental human rights of a person, kick them out and Isolate. I still don't understand an Allha who hates people because of their relegion. God is pretty screwed up rather we screwed up the God and he behaves like us

    September 29, 2011 at 3:42 pm |
  7. hippypoet

    let him die as he choose to live, against the rules and laws of his nation! he did this to himself and knowing chose to.

    September 29, 2011 at 3:42 pm |
    • Alex

      You are an idiot. One could only hope the same for you.

      September 29, 2011 at 3:44 pm |
    • Hippies stink.

      That's better. It's almost Haiku. A few extra syllables but close. Good work! Now go wash your unmentionables.

      September 29, 2011 at 3:45 pm |
    • hippypoet

      @ alex .. oooo me too, i want to die with my kids and have all of us be really really high!

      @Hippies stink. you haven't placed a post yet, please speak your mind on the issue at hand, i wish to know your thoughts.

      September 29, 2011 at 3:49 pm |
    • Hippies stink.

      Oh, but I have. See if you can guess which. Hint: Religion is for weak minded war mongering fools.

      September 29, 2011 at 3:53 pm |
    • hippypoet

      i agree.

      September 29, 2011 at 3:56 pm |
  8. KC

    There go those zany tolerant Muslims again.......

    September 29, 2011 at 3:42 pm |
  9. Willy

    You think this unfair? Too bad. Lots of American society groups judge unfairly. REALTORS for one. PS> They swear an oath to the gospels

    September 29, 2011 at 3:42 pm |
  10. Willy

    In Torah there is no tolerance. None. If you are not with us, you are against us – period

    September 29, 2011 at 3:40 pm |
    • Ohio

      Who is us? Ignorant bigots?

      September 29, 2011 at 3:41 pm |
    • Willy

      Torah is racism and bigotry – get used to it

      September 29, 2011 at 3:43 pm |
    • Ohio

      Thanks for answering the question...i could repeat things but it doesn't make anything sound smarter

      September 29, 2011 at 3:56 pm |
    • Chuckles

      @Ohio

      Although Willy is clearing just spouting off random factoids and not willing to back them up, he is correct. The Torah is bigotry and racism in a nutshell. It's supposed to be for Jews and Jews only, the Ten Commandments? They only apply to jews, but its totally cool (and I'm not be facetious here) to kill a gentile, or have relations with his wife and so on, because they're gentiles which makes them not chosen and evil. We like to ignore that now because xenophobia and bigotry have become bad in this day and age, but when the Torah was written and even still in parts of world with exclusive jewish communites it's still very acceptable to be as xenophobic and racist as you so choose as long as its not against another jew.

      September 29, 2011 at 4:01 pm |
  11. Jesus H. Mohammed

    Throw your hat into the invisible man in the sky game and you get what you deserve. I just wish you fools would hurry up and kill each other off already so the rest of us can get on with our utopia. Clock's tickin'...chop-chop.

    September 29, 2011 at 3:39 pm |
    • Greg s

      What a piece of work you are, If you represent Utopia Ill stick with religion!

      September 29, 2011 at 3:41 pm |
    • Jesus H. Mohammed

      Greg – Good. That's probably where you belong. Now go kill for Jesus or Mohammed or whoever. CHARGE!!!

      September 29, 2011 at 3:43 pm |
    • blah9999

      you have a great utopia of murder and crime. mmm. murder and crime....

      September 29, 2011 at 3:46 pm |
    • REB

      We don't kill for Christ, we try our best to live in Christ's word. I will pray for you and all human kind. May you find the Lord our God, may His Holy Spirit enrich your soul and see the true meaning of peace and happiness. Amen.

      September 29, 2011 at 3:54 pm |
    • Jesus H. Mohammed

      @REB – Do whatever you like. Pray to Allah, Jesus, Vishnu, Spirit gods, Amun Ra, Bacchus, Aliens, Moses, I don't care. Know why? Because none of it will be of any consequence. You think your god is best and that will be your downfall.

      September 29, 2011 at 4:02 pm |
  12. FajitaBob

    There are virtually limitless posts on CNN mocking Christianity and recalling the Crusades. Where are you now to condemn this? Hello?

    September 29, 2011 at 3:38 pm |
  13. Mymaria

    The scary part about this story is that no main stream media was reporting on this story until early today. Why? Aren't the editors at CNN appalled that someone is being persecuted? Now if Christians were persecuting a Muslim and threating to kill him, CNN's webpage would probably blow up. Gotta love that 'religion of peace' that's Islam!

    September 29, 2011 at 3:37 pm |
  14. john

    Need more proof that Islam is evil?.....

    September 29, 2011 at 3:36 pm |
    • Ohio

      Islam isn't doing this, people are. Hitler was a Christian and also obsessed with the occult. Does this mean all Christians are evil? Get off your high horse. Christians, Jews and Muslims believe in the same God, as they are Abrahamic religions. Please, use intellect rather than ignorance to construct your beliefs

      September 29, 2011 at 3:40 pm |
    • john

      muslims always say this is not islam...yet day after day islam sticks out its ugly face!......i see it everyday......If Hitler was a religion it would be called Islam!.....fascism, communisim, islamism....its all the same supid evil crap!

      September 29, 2011 at 3:48 pm |
    • Ohio

      John, you are obviously undereducated. I feel bad for your lack of intellect. I am actually surprised that you are able to form an opinion, no matter if it is cogent or not

      September 29, 2011 at 3:54 pm |
    • Kentucky

      @Ohio – Hitler was a Christian? Seriously, do your homework before making such a ridiculous statement!!

      September 29, 2011 at 3:54 pm |
  15. D

    NONE OF OUR BUSINESS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    September 29, 2011 at 3:36 pm |
    • john

      humanity is everyone buisness..idiot

      September 29, 2011 at 3:38 pm |
    • hippypoet

      @john

      "humanity is everyone buisness..idiot"

      then go to africa and help the aids pandemic, or shut up. but nooooooo, morons like you only bother with countries you have heard of or need stuff from! what about half of south america huh, underground slavers are selling people to gold mines and making a killing.....get it – a killing – oh how i love puns!

      September 29, 2011 at 3:40 pm |
  16. hippypoet

    "The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom" THATS AN OXI-MORON, here i'll explain – the us has banned any religious practice it doesn't like – for instance, hoo doo, the killing of a chicken, now the animal saciface must be bought at a market.already dead!.... the mormons, used to be able to marry many times without getting rid of the first wife, now the us gov. have made it a crime to practice mutli wife style – unless your state or town makes a separate law allowing it...much like the pot laws – fed – illegal, state-pending... this country has no real care over religion as long as those in power agree with the practices. the U.S. of A. has no place in making statements about the rights of others who are not citizens of the U.S., further more, if the rights of the person were placed in danger the U.S. would only care if the gov. gets something out of it!
    As the most at war nation on the planet – no other nation goes into a FULL war every 20 years like us- we now are trying to appear as humanists , thats a joke! we started this country by killing the natives and now we keep at it by killing the natives of other countries, good times.

    September 29, 2011 at 3:35 pm |
    • Sam

      blah blah blah

      September 29, 2011 at 3:45 pm |
  17. Chedar

    " Openness
    Aware of the suffering created by fanatism and intolerance, I am determined not to be idolatrous about or bound to any doctrine, theory, or ideology, even Buddhist ones. Buddhist teachings are guiding means to help me learn to look deeply and to develop my understanding and compassion. They are not doctrine to fight, kill, or die for. " Excerpt from Mindfulness

    September 29, 2011 at 3:32 pm |
  18. HeIsGod

    THANK GOD I AM A CHRISTIAN AND NOT A MUSLIM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    September 29, 2011 at 3:32 pm |
    • Jesus Saves

      Amen.

      September 29, 2011 at 3:36 pm |
    • ENLIGHTENED

      The Inquisition and conquest of the new world were different how?

      September 29, 2011 at 3:41 pm |
    • Mark

      Those happend centuries ago enlightened, I don't see any Chirstians asking for a Jihad all the time. Today's Christians are a lot different then the ones hundreds of years ago and don't kill people in the name of God unless they are radicals and are probably not really Christian.

      September 29, 2011 at 7:32 pm |
  19. Chedar

    Openness
    Aware of the suffering created by fanatism and intolerance, I am determined not to be idolatrous about or bound to any doctrine, theory, or ideology, even Buddhist ones. Buddhist teachings are guiding means to help me learn to look deeply and to develop my understanding and compassion. They are not doctrine to fight, kill, or die for.

    September 29, 2011 at 3:30 pm |
    • FajitaBob

      then the fanatics win, dumdum

      September 29, 2011 at 3:35 pm |
  20. freedom5071

    Send one of those stealthy blackhawk helicopters in and save the day. Really I'm not kidding, something has to be done with these maniacs in Tehran.

    September 29, 2011 at 3:30 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.