Congressmen Robert Aderholt (AL-04), Trent Franks (AZ-02) and Jeff Fortenberry (NE-01) today sent a letter to Iranian Grand Ayatollah Khamenei on behalf of Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, who has been sentenced to execution as early as today for refusing on four separate occasions to recant his Christian faith.
Congressman Robert Aderholt:
"Religious freedom is one of the most important and fundamental rights a person should have. The conviction and sentencing of Iranian Christian Pastor, Mr. Youcef Nadarkhani because of his religious beliefs is very unfortunate and violates basic human rights and Iran's international commitments. No one should be persecuted, discriminated against or face death because of their faith and it is my sincerest hope that Iran's leaders do what is right and release Pastor Nadarkhani and all those facing persecution because of their faith."
Congressman Trent Franks:
"I am compelled to remind an ostensibly modernized government that it is shameful and cowardly to kill an innocent person for merely practicing his faith. While Iran's leaders claim to uphold tolerance, the Iranian people deserve to know that their government is hypocritically disregarding one of the most fundamental human rights: the ability of the Iranian people to freely choose a faith of their choice.
"I appeal to whatever semblance of humanity may remain in the hearts of Iran's leaders and urge the Obama Administration to make it clear, through every channel possible, that such grievous human rights abuses will not stand."
Congressman Jeff Fortenberry:
"I am deeply grieved by reports of the apostasy verdict issued in the case of Pastor Nadarkhani. The scope and nature of religious persecution in Iran is deeply disturbing. Leaders in the civilized community of nations must speak out loudly and clearly against such a drastic violation of basic and commonly held human rights norms."
The full text of the letter is attached and available here.
Aderholt currently serves as Chairman of the Subcommittee on Homeland Security for the powerful House Appropriations Committee, is a member of the Committee's Commerce, Justice and Science; and Agriculture Subcommittees, and also serves on the Helsinki Commission.
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei
Dear Grand Ayatollah,
We respectfully request your help from your position of spiritual leadership in the Islamic Republic of Iran. We are very hopeful that the conviction and sentencing of Mr. Youcef Nadarkhani would be overruled and/or rescinded. We understand that he is being called on to reject his faith in Christianity or face death. He identifies himself with the faith or religion of Christianity and will most likely die rather than deny his faith in Jesus. In our age, no civilized nation should force a man to deny his faith or die.
This latest sentencing follows a long and reoccurring pattern of rulings by courts within the Islamic Republic of Iran, ones that violate basic human rights and the Islamic Republic of Iran's international commitments. Specifically, Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, of which most Organization of the Islamic Conference members are signatories, upholds the right to adopt a religion and manifest this religion in community or individually. Furthermore, the punishment in the issued verdict of Mr. Nadarkhani seems to conflict with some Islamic principles.
The punishment in the issued verdict for Mr. Nadarkhani does great damage to the reputation of Islam and to relations between nations and between people of faith in every nation. Many within Islam have taken pride in emphatically underscoring that in its Holy Scripture there must not be any compulsion in adopting a religion. Moreover, the verdict was stated in such a manner that it seems to be in serious dispute by some principles of Islam.
As a final thought, even if one were to adhere to a more strict and textual interpretation of religious penal code, it seems to us that compassion is an essential component of all world religions including Islam. It is this canonical principle of compassion that should overrule other elements.
As people of deep faith, we ask that you use your influence to help secure the release of Mr. Nadarkhani and the dropping of all charges against him. We also appeal for fair treatment and protection for people of all faiths in the Islamic Republic of Iran and in other nations where people are being persecuted for their faith.
With sincerity and prayers,
Rep. Robert B. Aderholt
Rep. Randy Forbes
Rep. Jeff Fortenberry
Rep. Trent Franks
Rep. Joe Pitts