U.S. House of Representatives unanimously demands Pastor Nadarkhani's release

The American Center for Law and Justice reports on the passage of House Resolution 556, “condemning the Government of Iran for its continued persecution, imprisonment, and sentencing of Youcef Nadarkhani on the charge of apostasy,” which passed with unanimous support on Thursday:

This bi-partisan resolution, spearheaded by Representatives Joe Pitts (R-PA), an evangelical Christian conservative, and Keith Ellison (D-MN), the first Muslim in Congress, directly called “for the Government of Iran to exonerate and immediately and unconditionally release Youcef Nadarkhani and all other individuals held or charged on account of their religious or political beliefs.”

Nadarkhani has been sentenced to death by hanging in Iran, and has been a prisoner for over 800 days.  Jordan Sekulow of the ACLJ commemorates the significance of this vote, and hopes the Senate will soon follow suit:

The truly bi-partisan support in the House to stand up for Pastor Youcef and demand his release is extraordinary. Iran is violating international law with its detention and promised execution of Pastor Youcef. We’re grateful that so many members of Congress – from different political and religious backgrounds – understand the importance of standing up for religious freedom, for human rights.

Our attention now turns toward a similar resolution being introduced in the Senate, by Senator Vitter, along with co-sponsors Rubio, DeMint, Hoeven, Kirk, Blunt and Hatch.

House Speaker John Boehner also hailed the vote:

The House sent a clear message today: the government of Iran should immediately exonerate and release Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, an Iranian Christian, and all others imprisoned by the regime for their religious beliefs. Religious freedom is a universal human right. No person – of any country or creed – should live in fear of persecution for worshipping as they see fit, or be forced by government mandate to disavow or compromise their faith. Iran’s leaders should release Youcef Nadarkhani and anyone held or charged because of their religious beliefs at once.

H.R. 556 notes that Iran is “a member of the United Nations and signatory to both the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,” and is therefore pledged to recognize “the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion,” which naturally includes “the freedom to change his religion or belief” and worship in community with others.  Pastor Nadarkhani’s success at establishing such communities is one of the reasons he faces execution at the hands of the Iranian theocracy.

The House went further and took note of the “significant increase in the number of incidents of Iranian authorities raiding religious services, detaining worshippers and religious leaders, and harassing and threatening members of religious minorities” in recent years.  The United Nations – you know, that little international society Iran belongs to – “has reported that Iranian intelligence officials are known to threaten Christian converts with arrest and apostasy charges if they do not return to Islam.” 

For the benefit of anyone momentarily tempted to take Iran’s trumped-up charges of rape and other crimes against Nadarkhani seriously, the House reminds us that “on numerous occasions, the judiciary of Iran offered to commute Youcef Nadarkhani’s sentence if he would recant his faith.”