ALEXANDRIA, La. (BP) — Yousef Nadarkhani, a Christian and a pastor in Iran, has been imprisoned since 2009. His crime, according to Iranian clerics: converting to Christianity. His sentence is death by hanging which could be carried out at any time.
The White House has condemned Iran’s plan to execute Nadarkhani and so has Speaker of the House John Boehner. However, conspicuously absent from the voices denouncing Iran are America’s rich and famous. News stories about Nadarkhani’s plight are also few and far between.
Just a week ago a cacophony of cries was being lifted by U.S. celebrities denouncing the state of Georgia’s planned execution of Troy Davis, who was convicted of murdering a Georgia police officer in August 1991.
In the two decades since his conviction, Davis’ lawyers had attempted every appeal available in the American judicial system. In the end, the appeals process did not result in an overturning of his conviction and Davis was executed Sept. 21.
As Davis’ execution date drew near, news stories appeared in abundance offering countless reasons he should not be put to death. Celebrities like Alec Baldwin, Sean “Diddy” Combs, Kim Kardashian and Sandra Bernhard lent their voices to Davis’s cause. Filmmaker and author Michael Moore called for an economic boycott of Georgia if Davis was executed.
But the passionate opponents of the death penalty have said very little concerning the plight of Nadarkhani. Additionally, the so-called major media outlets have pretty much ignored the story.
The contrast between Davis and Nadarkhani could not be more stark. Davis was convicted of murder in the first degree, which in Georgia can result in punishment by death. Nadarkhani has been convicted of apostasy — leaving Islam — which under Sharia law mandates execution.
Davis was convicted of murdering a police officer and was given the death penalty. He had 20 years’ worth of appeals in which to establish his innocence. In the end all Davis’ appeals failed and his date for execution was set.
Nadarkhani, has been sentenced to death because he embraced Christianity. He was repeatedly given the opportunity to recant his beliefs and have his life spared. But he refused and faces execution.
If one is opposed to the death penalty in each and every instance, then why not protest Nadarkhani’s execution? Where is the nationwide outcry for a man being put death for choosing to convert to a different religion?
Thankfully our founding fathers understood both the importance and nature of faith, especially Christianity. They understood well that faith could not and should not be coerced or legislated. Hence, the First Amendment of the Constitution forbids the government from making a “law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
By the time you read this, Yousef Nadarkhani may well have been executed, martyred for his faith in Jesus Christ. If so, I doubt you will hear much about it from the anti-death penalty crowd in America.
Kelly Boggs is a weekly columnist for Baptist Press and editor of the Baptist Message (www.baptistmessage.com), newsjournal of the Louisiana Baptist Convention.