Religion: Choice or obligation

March 28, 2012

Opinion By: Bailie Meyers

SOME MAY think the days of martyrdom are a thing of the past, but in some parts of the world it is not an uncommon occurrence.

In the United States, we enjoy the freedom of choosing what we believe and not having to fear that the government will punish us because of it, which is something we should fight for and never take for granted. But in Iran, Christian pastor Youcef Nadarkhani has been sentenced by an Iranian trial court to death by hanging.

The situation has come about because of Nadarkhani’s conversion from Islam. Nadarkhani first was imprisoned in December 2006 on a charge of apostasy from Islam and evangelism to Muslims.

He was released two weeks later and was not charged. Nadarkhani was imprisoned again in 2009, when he discovered an Iranian educational policy that would force students, including his sons, to read from the Quran.

Nadarkhani protested against the policy, stating that the Iranian constitution guarantees freedom of religion.

Nadarkhani was arrested on charges of protesting. The charges later were changed back to apostasy and evangelism, and in September 2010 he was sentenced to death on the charge of apostasy.

The law requires that a man be given three chances to recant his beliefs and return to Islam, which he has refused to do.

Nadarkhani still is alive today because of international pressure that has been placed on Iran.

According to The Washington Post, “Thus far 61 members of Congress, including nine Democrats, have signed on to co-sponsor the resolution, ‘Condemning the Government of Iran for its continued persecution, imprisonment and sentencing of Youcef Nadarkhani on the charge of apostasy.’”

The resolution continues, “Freedom of religious beliefs and practice is a universal human right and a fundamental right of every individual, regardless of race, sex, country, creed or nationality, and should never be arbitrarily abridged by any government.”

For thousands of years, we have seen examples of people being persecuted for what they believe in, and I don’t believe that ever will end.

Nadarkhani’s story is one of courage and strength that teaches us to hold dear the freedom that we have as U.S. citizens and to help those who don’t have that legal right.

The American Center for Law and Justice has a petition to free Pastor Nadarkhani that you can sign at At this writing, 191,057 people had signed the petition to free him.

I encourage you to share Nadarkhani’s story with friends and family, pray for him and learn more about his story at


1 Comment

  1. I really see this as a problem with religion more so than a problem with Government. The basic foundations of the main three monotheisms insist that a disbelief in their preachings leads to an eternity in hell. A person who claims an allegiance to Christianity believes that they are setting themselves up to enjoy an eternity in heaven, while those who don’t believe the preachings of Christianity will ultimately spend an eternity in hell. The same can be said of the Islamic faith, and of Judaism.

    I fail to see why religion is let off the hook, yet the government is the one to take the blame for these actions. All religions are based on seeking out disbelievers and prosecuting them. Christianity is just as guilty of this as any other religion. We are lucky enough to have founding fathers that realized that religion should play no part in the foundation of our country.

    The title of your article asks, Religion: Choice or obligation? If one adheres to any religion, they find that the preachings they believe in are rooted in obligation, not choice. This is the problem he is facing, and the problem our world faces with religion. Not enough people have stood up to teachings that were popular when basic hand tools didn’t exist.

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