While you can hardly call the whole situation with Christian Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani a victory for freedom of religion, the latest development shows the positive effects media pressure can put on a case. Unlike Iran, the US respects and protects the freedom of religion – to some extent. We consider the right to follow the religion of our choice as a basic human right. Thus, along with others countries worldwide, US media outlets have been putting pressure on Iran to free Pastor Nadarhani.
Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani was freed from Lakan Prison in Rasht, an Iranian prison, after being re-arrested Christmas Day. Collectively, this pastor has spent nearly 3 years in prison for his religious beliefs. His crime? Renouncing Islam and proclaiming himself a Christian.
Nadarkhani’s troubles with the regime in Tehran, Iran began in 2006, when he applied for his church to be registered with the state. At that time, he was arrested, but quickly released. All was peaceful until 2009 when Pastor Nadarkhani complained to authorities that his children were being indoctrinated in the schools, arguing that his children should not be forced to learn about Islam.
Shortly thereafter in 2010, Nadarkhani (35) was arrested because he was an active member and pastor of Iran’s Evangelical community. Originally facing the death penalty, Nadarkhani’s sentence was eventually reduced. Forty-five days short of completing his sentence, Pastor Yousef was released in November. His Christmas Day arrest was a bitter blow to his wife, 2 young children and worldwide supporters.
In a joint-written letter released on January 4th, Congressmen Joe Pitts (R-Pa.), and Keith Ellison, (D-Minn.) noted,
“We were heartbroken to learn that the government of Iran has thrown Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani back in jail. Given its persecution of Pastor Youcef because of his Christian faith, it was particularly cruel to imprison him on Christmas Day.”
Fox News reports the status of Yousef’s lawyer, Mohammed Ali Dadkhah:
“[He] has been imprisoned and remains in Iran’s notoriously brutal Evin Prison, where his health is rapidly deteriorating and he is being denied proper dental care, according to his family. He has been jailed for advocating Nadarkhani’s case and other human rights cases.”
Don’t think you’re safe because our Constitution protects our freedom of religion and speech. While the Constitution protects this basic human right, it will come under fire from time to time. For example, if some are petitioning to label the Catholic Church as a hate group for expressing their beliefs, are our freedoms really being respected? Never stop fighting for your rights!