Iranian Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, who was sentenced to death in his native country for his Christian faith, has been acquitted of apostasy charges and released from custody. Nadarkhani, 32, was imprisoned for three years and waiting execution for refusing to renounce his Christian faith. His charges were lowered to evangelizing to Muslims, which carried a three-year sentence. He was released with time served, according to the American Center for Law and Justice, a Washington-based watchdog group that had been campaigning for the pastor’s release. “Today our sources in Iran reported that Pastor Youcef was acquitted of apostasy and released from prison. After languishing in prison for almost three years, he has been reunited with his family,” Jordan Sekulow, executive director of ACLJ said in a statement to FoxNews.com. “While we are working on confirming the exact details of his release, some sources report that the court alternatively convicted Pastor Youcef of evangelizing to Muslims, sentencing him to three years and granting him time served. Pastor Youcef’s story is an example of how the world can join together to ensure that justice is served and freedom preserved.” “While we praise the release of Pastor Youcef, we must recognize that Iran felt obligated to save face among its people and continue its pattern of suppressing religious freedom with intimidation tactics,” Tiffany Barrans, a legal director for ACLJ said to FoxNews.com. “International attention to this matter saved this man’s life, but we must not forget the human right of freedom of religion includes the right to freedom of expression.” The ACLJ worked with the State Department to try to win Nadarkhani’s freedom, and the U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution earlier this year condemning his imprisonment and calling for his immediate release. Nearly three million people have voiced support for Nadarkhani on Twitter through the “Tweet for Youcef” campaign.
- Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney reacted Saturday to Democrats’ initial hitch in having the word “God” in their party’s platform, saying Americans will have to have a new president that will commit to a nation under God, reports The Christian Post. “We believe in a nation under God, a nation indivisible, a nation united, a nation with justice and liberty for all,” Romney said, reciting the final clause of the Pledge of Allegiance, as he spoke at a military museum in Virginia Beach, Va., on Saturday afternoon. “And for that to happen, we’re going to have to have a new president that will commit to getting America working again; that will commit to a strong military; that will commit to a nation under God that recognizes that we the American people were given our rights not by government but by God himself,” the former Massachusetts governor added, taking aim at President Barack Obama’s party for initially removing any reference to “God” from the party’s platform. “I will not take God out of the name of our platform,” Romney vowed. “I will not take God off our coins and I will not take God out of my heart. We’re a nation that’s bestowed by God.” Romney recalled reciting the Pledge of Allegiance when he was in the fourth grade. “I remember as a boy, I was in the fourth grade, somehow in my mind I remember being there in the fourth grade in front of the blackboard, we had an American flag that was pinned in front of the blackboard. And every day we stood, lined up in front of that blackboard and we recited the pledge of allegiance. Do you remember?” he asked. “When I make a promise I intend to keep a promise, and I’ve done that through all my life. When I made that promise time and time again in my pledge of allegiance to the flag I remembered that flag and I remember it to this day,” Romney added. The GOP nominee pledged not to divide the nation or “apologize for America abroad.” He also vowed to have a strong military. “For us to have liberty here, for us to be able to protect ourselves from the most evil around the world, for us to share liberty with our friends around the world, we must have a military second to none, so strong no one would ever think of testing it.” Romney linked the need for dealing with debts to “justice for all.” “I also don’t think it’s justice for all when a nation as prosperous as ours, the most prosperous major nation in the history of the earth, to have one in every six people below the line of poverty.” After the other side responded by accusing the GOP candidate of “associating with some of the most strident and divisive voices in the Republican Party,” the Romney team countered the accusation, saying it was Obama’s campaign, not Romney’s “that pits people against each other.” “It’s just so far from what he promised voters when he was a candidate,” campaign adviser Kevin Madden was quoted as saying.
- Marilyn Musgrave, spokesperson for the Susan B. Anthony List, has come out saying that the Democratic party’s pro-abortion stance was evidenced by the selection of speakers at the DNC, reports onenewsnow.com. Two of them were Nancy Keenan of NARAL and Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards. “The fact that Cecile Richards was there really speaks to the extreme position of the party [that’s] very evident in their platform,” Musgrave asserts. “Also this reflects her close relationship with the most pro-abortion president ever.” Upon listening to Richards’ speech, the SBA List spokesperson noticed that the fact that Planned Parenthood kills more than 300,000 preborn babies each year was missing—“or even the word ‘abortion,’ for that matter.” “Talking about women’s health—abortion is not healthcare,” Musgrave asserts. “Planned Parenthood has gotten by with this image of providing healthcare. Their money comes in from abortions—that’s what they’re all about.” Richards claimed that several million women would be denied health services like cancer screenings without Planned Parenthood. But the fact is those services are available through other sources that do not do abortions. Musgrave goes on to stress that the party platform seeks no restrictions at all on abortion, even late-term and sex-selection.
- A member of the Exodus International board resigned this week, citing concerns over recent remarks made by Exodus President Alan Chambers. Several weeks ago John Warren, who stepped down last Thursday as treasurer of the Exodus International Board of Directors, defended Chambers for his Biblical view of sin and repentance. But he became troubled after a radio interview in which Chambers was asked tough questions about his views on salvation and repentance. “I believe that Alan Chambers is a good man with good intentions. It is his messaging that concerned me recently and prompted me to resign,” Warren told The Christian Post in an e-mail Saturday. Warren said he still supports the ministry of Exodus, which is the largest organization that helps those who struggle with same-sex attraction. He has touted the work that Chambers and Exodus have performed in ministering to the hurting. “Alan is in an extremely difficult position, and I don’t want to disparage him,” Warren stated. Chambers has long been praised for both his ministry works and his life testimony by other Christian leaders. A former practicing homosexual, he is now happily married to his wife and has two children, and he affirms that homosexual behavior is a sin. Though he does not condone homosexuality, Chambers has come under fire recently for expressing his belief that salvation is secure for anyone, including an active homosexual, who has a relationship with Christ. The Exodus head was grilled on that and other views he holds by Christian radio host Janet Mefferd, who stood in complete disagreement with him. “If you believe that you have to turn from your sin and turn to Christ, . . . how can you simultaneously hold that somebody who is an unrepentant homosexual can go to Heaven?” Mefferd asked on the Wednesday program. She was referring to Chambers’ belief that Justin Lee, founder of the Gay Christian Network, is a fellow Christ follower and will be with him in Heaven. When asked by Mefferd if Lee had repented of his homosexuality, Chambers stated that Lee was celibate. “But he is not repentant about homosexuality being a sin? In other words, by your definition of repentance, he has not agreed with God on what God says about homosexuality,” the radio host stated. “I can’t tell someone that they do know Christ or that they don’t know Christ,” Chambers responded. “What I believe about Justin, having had numerous conversations with him is that he knows Jesus, is that he has a relationship with Jesus Christ. I don’t know what people do with Scripture on issues related to homosexuality or anything else where so clearly they are living differently than Scripture teaches. I can’t say to Justin, you don’t know Jesus.” Warren’s resignation comes days after Jeff Buchanan also left his position as executive vice president. “God will bless a ministry that is careful to focus on His truth, and I certainly hope that perhaps events of late serve as a wake-up call to the organization,” Warren added.
- A Bible owned by singer Elvis Presley until his death in 1977 and containing his handwritten notes, thoughts, annotations, and underlining was bought by an American man based in the U.K. for £59,000, or $95,000, at an auction in Cheshire on Saturday, reports The Christian Post. The Bible was given to the American singer on his first Christmas in Graceland in Memphis, Tenn., in 1957, which he had until his death on Aug. 16, 1977, at age 42. One of the lines emphasized by the “King of Rock and Roll” states, “What is a man advantaged if he gain the whole world and lose himself or be cast away,” according to U.K.’s Press Association. The book was expected to sell for around £25,000, or $40,000, but went for more than double its value at the sale at Omega Auctions in Stockport, Cheshire. The buyer refused to be identified. “It was a really exciting atmosphere in the room; we had 300 people and there was bidding online and on the telephone across the world. You could hear a pin drop when it sold for that price,” Karen Fairweather, sales room manager at Omega Auctions, was quoted as saying. An entire Elvis collection, put up for sale by a single British collector, sold for just over £100,000, or $160,000.
- The Obama administration has just argued in court that the government can make a requirement that violates religious beliefs and that a company cannot reflect the religious faith of its owners, reports WorldNetDaily. The administration’s statements came in a court filing that asserts the federal government has the authority to order private companies to provide abortifacients for their employees. A case against the order was brought by the Thomas More Law Center on behalf of Legatus, the nation’s largest organization of top Catholic business leaders, and Weingartz Supply and its owner. The Department of Justice attorneys argued the challenge by Weingartz Supply Company and its owners “rests largely on the theory that a self-described secular corporation established to sell outdoor power equipment can claim to exercise religion and thereby avoid the reach of laws designed to regulate commercial activity.” “This cannot be.” The federal attorneys—Stuart F. Delery, Barbara L. McQaude, Sheila M. Lieber, Michelle Bennett, and Ethan P. Davis—are arguing in federal court in Michigan against a request for a preliminary injunction that would prevent the enforcement of an Obamacare mandate requiring employers to provide such abortifacients through health programs for employees. The plaintiffs argue that the federal order conflicts with the U.S. Constitution by requiring them to violate their religious faith. The Michigan case is just one of dozens nationwide that raise similar issues. The federal attorneys contend that allowing employers to direct the activities of their entities with a respect for their own religious faith would be unworkable. “It would also cripple the government’s ability to solve national problems through laws of general application,” they wrote. Erin Mersino, the Thomas More Law Center attorney handling the case, said the federal attorneys’ arguments essentially suggest that a Christian faith is just fine as long as it’s inside a private home or private worship center, but not in society. The brief contains “a complete and utter disregard” for religious rights, she said. The next step, she said, could be for the government to demand that private companies not only pay for abortifacients, but under Obamacare’s “counseling” provision to pay for those who would try to convince employees to have abortions—at company expense. “It’s very frightening, facing this,” she said. “We just hope the judge makes the right decision.” If such a concept would be upheld by a court, it could have a far-reaching impact, such as on the decision by Chick-fil-A owners to close their stores on Sundays to allow their employees to go to church. A hearing is scheduled Sept. 28.
- Hundreds of mainly Jewish protesters, as well as Muslims and Christians, demonstrated on Sunday for religious freedom and the decriminalization of circumcision in the German Federal Republic, reports The Jerusalem Post. According to German media reports, the former head of Berlin’s 10,500-member Jewish community, Lala Süskind, spoke at the rally and said it was unacceptable that people who are incompetent and intolerant continue to “pipe up” against circumcision and find a large echo in German society. Süskind, a popular Jewish leader in Berlin, stressed that the religious ritual is important for identity for young Jewish and Muslim boys, and noted that the World Health Organization recommends the procedure as a medically accepted practice. The demonstrators turned out as a reaction to last week’s administrative law decision. Jewish organizations in Berlin and across the country have categorically rejected the law as gutting religious freedom in Berlin. The Berlin senator issued the new regulation in response to a Cologne court decision that criminalized circumcision in the western German city. The ban of brit mila rocked German-Jewish relations and shined an uncomfortable spotlight on the justice system’s treatment of religious freedom in post-Holocaust Germany.
- The National Day of Repentance, sponsored again this year by Christian attorney and Pastor Jeff Daly, is set for later this month, reports onenewsnow.com. Daly says the National Day of Repentance is intended for the nation as a whole, specifically for Christians. “We need to clean up our own act within the Body of Christ,” he contends. “It has to start with the leaders. It has to start with those who are the ‘called-out’ ones. I studied early American Christian history, and those devout men and women of God who were our founders knew that when we called for a day of fasting and repentance, God moved. Yes, we will vote in this coming election, but the issues we have are deeper than politics,” Daly asserts. The last president to declare a day of repentance was Abraham Lincoln.
- A young Christian girl accused of blasphemy in Pakistan for burning pages of the Koran was freed from prison Saturday, reports New York Daily News. Rimsha Masih, believed to be between 11 and 16 years old, was escorted from a jail near Islamabad by heavily armed police and taken by helicopter to a secret location a day after a judge granted her bail. Masih was arrested over three weeks ago after hundreds of her neighbors gathered outside her home in the village of Mehr Jaffer, accused her of desecrating the Islamic holy book, and severely beat her.