Senator Blunt Joins Call to Save Pastor

Liberty Alerts, American Center for Law and Justice

Senator Roy Blunt (MO) has prepared the following statement to be entered into the Senate record when the Senate comes back into session on Tuesday. We thank him for his support for Christian Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani and commitment to religious liberty around the world.

I would like to take a few moments to draw the Senate’s attention to a troubling situation abroad. By now many following the news have heard of the name Youcef Nadarkhani. Pastor Youcef is a Christian in Iran who has been sentenced to death for refusing to deny his faith. He was originally arrested in October 2009, while attempting to register his church. He allegedly questioned the Muslim monopoly on the religious instruction of children in the state.

To Iran, his crime is his Christian faith and evangelism, and the punishment is death. For as many problems as we face in America, we are blessed that this is not one of them. The American Center for Law and Justice and other national groups have been diligently working on the case since it was first reported earlier this year. At any moment, Pastor Youcef could be executed without notice to his family or the public. I would like to take this time to add my name to the list of those calling for his immediate, unconditional release.

This past weekend, Iran began to claim that Pastor Youcef’s crimes were not of religion but of rape and threats to national security. These new allegations appear to be a new and unfounded attempt to justify his execution. None of these crimes were mentioned in his trial over the past two years.

While “religious freedom” may be the law of the land in Iran, it is certainly not the practice. This audience is well aware of the persecution of religious minorities and Christians abroad. We should not forget the plight of religious minorities throughout this region, especially the Coptic Christians in Egypt, Chaldo-Assyrian Christians in Iraq, the dwindling Christian population in the Holy Land, and other religious minorities in the Middle East.

I believe we can and we must do more to advance religious freedom abroad. Earlier this year, in coordination with Congressman Frank Wolf in the House and my Senate Colleague Mr. Levin, I introduced the “Near East and South Central Asia Religious Freedom Act.” The bill creates a Special Envoy on religious freedom in the State Department to monitor the status of religious minorities in these particularly vulnerable regions. I am sincerely committed to this effort and believe that it is essential to promoting the God-given right to liberty around the world. I’m hopeful that the Senate can soon join the House in passing this important legislation.

I ask that other members of the Senate join me in this call to save Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani’s life and condemn Iran’s denial of the universal right to religious freedom.

Used with the permission of the American Center for Law and Justice.