Category archives: Religious Persecution

Pakistani Christian Woman’s Fate Hangs in the Balance

by Travis Weber

October 8, 2018

Earlier today, Pakistan’s Supreme Court heard the final appeal of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman convicted of the crime of “blasphemy” after being accused of insulting the Islamic prophet Muhammad—a claim which arose out of an argument with several Muslim women who grew angry at her for drinking water from the same bowl as them, which they believed made the water ceremonially unclean.

Subsequently, in the first and most high-profile case under Pakistan’s draconian blasphemy laws, Mrs. Bibi was charged, convicted, and sentenced to death.

Now, today, there appears to be a glimmer of hope that she could be acquitted by the high court and set free, with sources currently reporting the justices are set to reverse her conviction.

Yet the opposition to this within Pakistani society is great. Over the course of this ten-year long prosecution, multiple Pakistani politicians who have stood up for Mrs. Bibi have been assassinated, including Pakistani Minorities Minister Shahbaz Bhatti, the cabinet’s only Christian, and Punjab governor Salman Taseer, who was killed by his own bodyguard. The bodyguard, Mumtaz Qadri—who was later convicted and executed by the Pakistani government—has been lionized as a hero by Islamists, including the Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP) party, which rallies around punishing blasphemy and which is currently warning against any “concession or softness” for Mrs. Bibi, claiming that “[i]f there is any attempt to hand her over to a foreign country, there will be terrible consequences.”

This sad saga reminds us of the clear threat posed to religious freedom by the abuse of blasphemy laws. These laws—which infringe on a proper conception of religious freedom—would be bad enough on their face. Yet quite often, they aren’t even used for their ostensible purpose, but become vehicles to settle personal disagreements and even political scores.

Mrs. Bibi’s case also reminds us that we need religious freedom at the cultural level in addition to the governmental level. Pakistan may have government leaders willing to defend her, but when the worldview prevailing in Pakistani culture is closer to that of the TLP party than Mr. Taseer’s, the road toward religious freedom will remain beset with almost insurmountable obstacles. 

Let us pray for Mrs. Bibi’s release and safety in the coming weeks. Let us also pray for freedom and flourishing in Pakistan—desiring blessing for all in that land, Mrs. Bibi’s friend and foe alike.

Another Attack on Kenyan Christians Brings Us Back to Watu Wote

by Travis Weber

September 20, 2018

Tragedy has repeated itself with the most recent attack on Christian bus passengers by al-Shabaab militants in Northeast Kenya. As has happened before, militants reportedly forced the passengers to show their identification cards, and then separated them according to whether they had a Muslim and Christian name. Those with non-Muslim names were forced to recite the Shahada, or the Islamic statement of faith, and two (likely Christians) who failed to recite it were immediately executed.

Reflecting with sadness on these events, we recall the short film Watu Wote (“All of Us” in Swahili, pictured above). An Oscar short film finalist, it tells the true story of another al-Shabaab attack—also on a bus in this area of Kenya (in Mandera to be precise). In this instance, Muslims on the bus refused to separate from the Christians despite orders from the militants to do so, which helped save the lives of the Christians. The film is difficult to watch, but well-done, and an encouraging story of human beings choosing to do what is right, despite the risk of doing so.

In light of recent events, the film is well worth a watch.

India’s Opportunity for Religious Freedom

by Travis Weber

August 23, 2018

As the U.S. Secretaries of State and Defense prepare to travel to India next month for high-level talks with their counterparts in that country (the first time such talks have occurred), religious freedom should remain squarely on the agenda.

Pressure will no doubt arise from foreign policy realists to toss religious freedom from the discussion. Desiring to bolster the U.S./India relationship to counter China, they will want to avoid any sticking points—and religious freedom is one of them.

This does not need to be the case. If India could see that advancing religious freedom advances its own national security interests, and economic growth, it might be interested in more seriously addressing the issue. In light of India’s desire to advance economically, it should in particular pay attention to the relationship between increased religious freedom and increased economic growth.

But the issue certainly needs to be addressed. Those urged toward Hindu nationalist sentiment by governing BJP party allies have for years targeted Christians and others. More recently, U.S.-based charities like Compassion International have been restricted, shut down, or forced out of the country. The idea that someone might choose a religion other than Hinduism has these groups in an uproar, and hence their backing of “anti-conversion laws” in several areas of India which do in fact make it illegal to convert to other religions—including Christianity.

While Prime Minister Modi has finally started to acknowledge some of these problems, a verbal acknowledgement alone won’t suffice. If Modi wants to point to this as “progress” if Secretary Pompeo raises the issue, he shouldn’t get a pass. Religious freedom advocates have cause to be skeptical in light of the years of abuse in India.

This very week, events commemorating the 10-year anniversary of the slaughter of Christians by mobs upset about the murder of the Hindu leader Swami ‎Lakshmanananda Saraswati are taking place. What followed this murder on August 23, 2008, constituted India’s worst Christian persecution in 300 years. Despite the fact that Maoists took responsibility for the Swami’s death, over the course of the ensuing months, around 56,000 Christians fled into forests and the homes of friends and relatives. Approximately 5,600 houses and 415 villages were raided and set on fire. The government reported that 38 people were killed and two women raped, though others have reported higher numbers.

In the aftermath, seven Christians (including six who were illiterate) were tried and convicted of the murder in what appears to be as close to a sham trial as one can get. Their case has been stagnating, with an appeals court failing to take it up. One journalist has taken to setting up a petition calling for their release. It currently has almost 70,000 signatures. Those who wish to join with him can sign here.

All of this is additionally lamentable in light of India’s proud history as a Commonwealth country. Formerly part of the British Empire, India and other commonwealth countries pride themselves on matters such as the rule of law. Yet the rule of law has sadly suffered in recent years as it pertains to religious freedom in India. This compounds the negative effect on economic growth, as investors grow skittish of places where the rule of law is threatened.

One way these religious freedom concerns can immediately be addressed is by giving the seven Christians convicted for the Swami’s death a hearing date for their pending appeal, and a fair and speedy trial. Such steps will start the process of remedying the religious freedom and rule of law issues which have developed in recent years, and begin the journey toward remedying the problems for religious freedom in India.

Update on California’s AB 2943: Therapy Ban Assaulting Freedom of Speech and Religion Passes Senate

by Peter Sprigg

August 17, 2018

Here are some quick facts on the most recent action regarding California’s alarming bill, AB 2943, with links to sources:

  • The California Senate just passed AB 2943 on August 16.
  • AB 2943 is Round Two of California’s attack upon sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE).
  • AB 2943 is so sweeping it could potentially ban the sale of some books—even the Bible.
  • Therapy bans restrict what therapists can say to clients. The Supreme Court has signaled that this violates constitutional rights to free speech.
  • Ironically, AB 2943 was passed even as a new study has debunked claims that SOCE is ineffective and harmful
  • Most clients who seek SOCE just want to live their lives according to the teachings of their faith, so bills like AB 2943 are an attack upon their freedom of religion.
  • The Assembly or Gov. Brown have a last chance to block enactment of AB 2943. Urge them to do so now.

CNN Publishes a Hatchet Job on Religious Freedom

by Travis Weber

August 10, 2018

Following the announcement of the Department of Justice Religious Liberty Task Force, CNN decided to post a recent piece that horribly mischaracterized what Christians believe about religious freedom. Whatever accuracy the piece contained was drowned out by glaring falsehoods—assertions and conclusions which are not only untrue, but which have now been released into the public discourse to further sow divisiveness and animosity.

Take this statement, for example: “[Sessions] also portrayed religious liberty as the right of religious groups not to be labeled as hate groups even if their beliefs prescribed hate.”

The author didn’t cite a Bible verse or theological position for “hate” because she can’t—it’s not there. So she just claims (falsely) that Christians’ beliefs “prescribe”—or instruct us to engage in—“hate” (whatever that means). In the process, she defended the Southern Poverty Law Center’s arbitrary “hate” list which Sessions was referring to—a hate list on which SPLC unilaterally labels and places FRC and other groups because we hold to unpopular truths about human sexuality, and a list which led to a gunman entering my organization’s headquarters several years ago with a plan to commit mass murder, wounding a security guard in the process. (FRC maintains no such lists of any of our opponents.)

One need only crack the pages of the Bible for a moment to see how false the CNN piece is about Christianity: “Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love” (1 John 4:7-8).

Our faith leads us to love all people, which means conveying the truth. They may not like that truth, but their response does not mean we are not acting out of love.

For CNN to relay such falsehoods about Christians only serves to toxify the public square. Those commenting on the religious beliefs of others—like this author—need to get their facts right. If there is one thing Jesus “prescribes,” it is love. The cost of failing to accurately describe the religious beliefs of others is further mistrust and social deterioration. Unfortunately, this piece squarely contributes to that.

As a Christian organization, we not only aim to convey the truth out of love, but we believe no one should be compelled to act against their conscience in matters of faith. All people must be free to choose—or not choose—God. Therefore, we desire to protect religious freedom for all people (regardless of their faith), and applaud Attorney General Sessions’ efforts to protect Hindus and Muslims, for example. As mentioned during the Task Force announcement, the Sessions DOJ recently prosecuted an individual “who set fire to a mosque”—a fact which the CNN op-ed author conveniently left out of her discussion of how the Sessions DOJ approaches religious freedom. 

It is long overdue for CNN and other “mainstream” media to start discussing religious freedom in good faith, examining the facts and applying a dose of honesty with regard to what Christians actually believe about this issue. This would go a long way toward achieving the constructive dialogue necessary to heal our divided nation.

For the Sake of Our Security at Home, We Must Focus on Religious Freedom Abroad

by Travis Weber

April 5, 2018

In recent history, our foreign policy elites have primarily viewed religious freedom concerns as the parochial interest of humanitarian-minded pastors and religious freedom-focused human rights activists. Concerns were addressed when possible, yet the government handled problems on a one-off basis, usually to solve the annual flare-up over some imprisoned pastor somewhere. However, these religious freedom challenges haven’t been incorporated into any consistent, long-term, strategic thinking on foreign policy.

But what if they should be? One could argue the one-off approach hasn’t really advanced religious freedom worldwide, and that we should change the way we try to protect this right. Regardless, the assumption is that we are operating from a humanitarian basis. But what if the appeal was made on other grounds—that religious freedom is not simply a humanitarian concern, but that it is in the interest of our own security to advance it around the world?

Emerging evidence suggests that it is. As Professor William Inboden (who formerly served on the State Department’s Policy Planning staff and as senior director for strategic planning at the National Security Council) points out, “[t]here is not a single nation in the world that both respects religious freedom and poses a security threat to the United States.”

In a new FRC analysis released just yesterday, “Religious Freedom and National Security,” we make the case that the United States should not only promote religious freedom for its own sake, but also because it ultimately keeps us safer in the long run.

For a template, we can draw on the example of President Reagan, who unapologetically defended religious freedom on the world stage—confronting the Soviet Union, China, and others on this issue. Today, we face our own challenges posed by the spread of radical Islam and rising authoritarian governments—menaces whose suppression of religious freedom correlates with their threat to our national security.

With ongoing threats around the world which show no sign of abating, shouldn’t we at least be open to the possibility that we need to change our thinking on this issue, and address religious freedom violators because of their threat to our national security?

Just in the last several days, news has broken that China appears to be restricting the sale of Bibles and is also pushing a deal with the Vatican that would ultimately keep it in charge of appointing bishops.

It seems some of the same religious freedom problems President Reagan faced are rearing their heads today. It is time that we reclaim America’s historic role in engaging them, and firmly and strategically defend religious freedom around the world—for this will ultimately keep us safe at home.

Scalise Shooting Declared to be an Act of Terrorism Under Virginia Law, So Why is the FBI Confused?

by Chris Gacek

November 2, 2017

On October 6th, the Commonwealth’s Attorney for Alexandria, Va., announced his findings in a report regarding the use of force by law enforcement officers during the shooting of Representative Steve Scalise (R-La.) and others at a baseball field on June 14, 2017.[i] Bryan L. Porter concluded that the multiple shooting and attempted mass assassination constituted an act of terrorism under Virginia law.

The Porter report is significant because its conclusion stands in sharp contrast to the report offered by two FBI officials at a press conference eight days after the shooting.[ii] Andrew Vale, the Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office, indicated that the shooter acted alone and that there was “no nexus to terrorism.”[iii] He also stated that the agency would be investigating the shooting as an assault on a member of Congress and an assault on a federal officer. No indication was given that a terrorism investigation was being conducted, and the statements made seemed to downplay the shooter’s ideological and political beliefs.

It is important to recall the key facts in the case. Early on the morning of June 14, Rep. Scalise, the Majority Whip of the U.S. House of Representatives, and numerous other GOP House members and senators were the primary targets of a mass assassination attempt at an Alexandria baseball diamond. Scalise was shot in the hip and nearly died from his wounds. Two other players on the field, not elected officials, were shot and received dangerous wounds. Two United States Capitol Police agents, present as part of the protective detail for Rep. Scalise, were wounded by gunfire—one seriously.[iv] The would-be assassin, James T. Hodgkinson, was killed after being shot three times.

Commonwealth’s Attorney Bryan L. Porter made the following observation about the would-be assassin’s political affiliation and motivations:

Hodgkinson held strong political opinions and was very unhappy about the outcome of the 2016 presidential election. He spent a significant amount of time on social media, using it to express his political views, such as his strong support for Senator Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign.

Another example of this is that Hodgkinson “liked” the Southern Poverty Law Center on Facebook—indicating that he was a fan of the organization and its attacking brand of politics.

Citing the Virginia terrorism statute, Porter confidently concluded, “The evidence in this case establishes beyond a reasonable doubt that the suspect, fueled by rage against Republican legislators, decided to commit an act of terrorism as that term is defined by the Code of Virginia.”[v]

Page 9 of Porter’s report may contain the most significant information pointing to the FBI’s misjudgment in the case—evidence that Hodgkinson conducted a number of surveillance sweeps of the playing field. After the shooting, there was a report to police that Hodgkinson had parked his van at the field on June 10th and walked around the field “casing” it. Porter reported that “at least one member of the Republican baseball team remembered seeing the suspect sitting in the Simpson field stands and watching the team practice on the morning before the incident, June 13.”[vi]  

The Alexandria prosecutor’s report also noted that video files from Hodgkinson’s phone “show video of [the baseball diamond] recorded in April 2017.” This field cannot be described as a tourist site in Alexandria. Rather, it is a relatively unattractive part of the city that one would not visit at 7 a.m. but for the baseball practice. Furthermore, “several witnesses came forward and reported seeing the suspect walking around [the field] in May 2017.” Porter observed that “[f]rom these facts, it may be inferred that the suspect had already selected Simpson Field as a potential target as early as April 2017.”

Even if one does not agree with Porter that Hodgkinson had determined his course of action in April or May 2017, his viewing the practice the day before and looking over the location on June 10th gives strong evidence as to his intentionality in committing the shooting. Of course, this is only underscored by the widely known fact that Hodgkinson had asked two members of the GOP team only moments before the shooting, while walking into the parking lot, whether the Democrat or Republican team was practicing. When told that the GOP team was on the field, he replied “ok, thanks” and proceeded to get his rifle and pistol from his van. The shooting began shortly thereafter.

The shooting was no spur-of-the-moment loss of control by Hodgkinson. It tied into his ideological animosity to the political views of the men he was trying to assassinate, and he intended to kill as many of them as he could.  

The Patriot Act sets forth the definition of “domestic terrorism” at 18 U.S.§ 2331(5). Such terrorism “means activities that”

(A) involve acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State;
(B) appear to be intended—
     (i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population;
     (ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or
     (iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping; and
(C) occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States.

It requires little imagination to see how sections 2331(5)(B)(ii) or (iii) might apply to Hodgkinson’s mass assassination attempt. Given his strong anti-Republican and hard-left beliefs combined with his effort to kill numerous members of the U.S. House and Senate, Hodgkinson could easily be seen to be attempting to influence federal government policy by intimidation or coercion—by shooting leading political figures of the majority party in both legislative bodies.

Moreover, it is straightforward to see Hodgkinson’s actions as attempting to influence the conduct of government by assassination. At the very least, dead or significantly wounded members don’t vote or lead while incapacitated. The Majority Whip of the U.S. House of Representatives had been taken from his duties for almost four months, and he may now assess his political future differently. Even though he did not kill any members of Congress, his actions clearly affected our government if only for the horrific effect it had on Majority Whip Scalise.

All of these facts that were available to Mr. Porter and his prosecutor’s office in Virginia were also available to the FBI. Yet, a conservative reading of the federal domestic terrorism definition makes it clear that Hodgkinson’s actions should be characterized by the FBI as terrorism. Yet, the FBI stated eight days after the shooting that there was no nexus to terrorism. Why the rush to shut down a proper inquiry?

Congress needs to look into this and discover why the FBI is mischaracterizing what took place in Alexandria. It isn’t fair to Mr. Scalise or the other victims of this crime. More significantly, it is not accurate, honest, or truthful, and the American people deserve better.

It is a matter of great importance that our leading law enforcement agency understand terrorism. If the FBI cannot apply the law to simple facts, then it may be time for Congress to make some changes in that agency and its Washington field office.



[i] Bryan L. Porter, Use of Force Investigation and Analysis, Commonwealth’s Attorney, City of Alexandria (Oct. 6, 2017) (https://www.alexandriava.gov/uploadedFiles/commattorney/info/17-001%20-%20Simpson%20Field%20Shooting%20-%20FINAL%2010.06.17.pdf).

[ii] Law Enforcement Press Conference on the Shooting of Rep. Steve Scalise and others, FBI Field Office, Washington, D.C.(June 21, 2017): https://www.facebook.com/wjlatv/videos/10155472388738734/ (Facebook page for WJLA-TV). The two FBI officials who participated were Andrew Vale, Assistant Director in Charge, Washington Field Office, and Timothy Slater, Special Agent in Charge, Criminal Division, Washington Field Office.

[iii] It is possible for an act of terrorism itself to have no “nexus to terrorism” – in the sense of a wider terror network, but Vale could have made this more clear.

[iv] Both members of Rep. Scalise’s protective detail, Special Agent David Bailey and Special Agent Crystal Griner, were fired upon; Griner was severely wounded after being shot in her left ankle.

[v]See Va. Code § 18.46.4. In the pertinent part, the Code of Virginia defines an ‘Act of Terrorism’ as ‘an act of violence… committed with the intent to (i) intimidate the civilian population at large or (ii) influence the conduct or activities of the government of the United States, a state or locality through intimidation.’” Carla Branch, “Commonwealth’s Attorney Finds Use Of Deadly Force In June 14 Shooting Justified,” AlexandriaNews.org (Oct. 6, 2017) (http://www.alexandrianews.org/2017/10/commonwealths-attorney-finds-use-of-deadly-force-in-june-14-shooting-justified/).

[vi] Porter, Use of Force Investigation and Analysis, at 9. 

Vice President Pence Announces Relief for Middle East Christians

by Travis Weber

October 27, 2017

Several days ago, Vice President Pence announced that the Trump administration would address the needs of the Middle East’s Christian community directly, bypassing UN aid programs which have been largely ineffective in helping Christians affected by ISIS. Speaking before a gathering of the group In Defense of Christians, Pence stated:

Here’s the sad reality: The United Nations claims that more than 160 projects are in Christian areas, but for a third of those projects, there are no Christians to help. The believers in Nineveh, Iraq, have had less than 2 percent of their housing needs addressed, and the majority of Christians and Yazidis remain in shelters.

Projects that are supposedly marked “finished” have little more than a U.N. flag hung outside an unusable building, in many cases a school.

And while faith-based groups with proven track records and deep roots in these communities are more than willing to assist, the United Nations too often denies their funding requests. My friends, those days are over.

Our fellow Christians and all who are persecuted in the Middle East should not have to rely on multinational institutions when America can help them directly. And tonight, it is my privilege to announce that President Trump has ordered the State Department to stop funding ineffective relief efforts at the United Nations. And from this day forward, America will provide support directly to persecuted communities through USAID.

We will no longer rely on the United Nations alone to assist persecuted Christians and minorities in the wake of genocide and the atrocities of terrorist groups. The United States will work hand-in-hand from this day forward with faith-based groups and private organizations to help those who are persecuted for their faith.

This is good news indeed. While much of the focus in the Middle East has been on defeating ISIS, communities left devastated in its wake will need to rebuild and try to get on with their lives. For the Middle East’s Christian community, politically less powerful than other communities and often without a voice or advocate in the region’s larger decision-making, this is especially important. For too long, they haven’t received proper assistance in returning to their ancestral lands (the same lands the first Christians walked nearly 2,000 years ago), even while Iran and other power players try to come in and ply their influence in the vacuum created by ISIS’s defeat.

Is the Air Force Finished With People of Faith?

by Travis Weber

October 18, 2017

Is it really possible that the Air Force no longer has room for people of faith? Based on the matter of Colonel Bohannon, that may sadly be the case.

Leland Bohannon is a decorated colonel who has devoted decades of his life to serving our Air Force, including flying missions in the B-2 stealth bomber. He’s been ranked first on his performance reports, has been bestowed numerous honors, and trusted with oversight of nuclear weapons. In other words, he’s the model Air Force officer.

Yet Colonel Bohannon’s career may be flushed down the drain by the Air Force simply because of a subordinate who wanted approval of a same-sex marriage. When he was handed several awards and certificates to sign for the subordinate’s retirement ceremony, Colonel Bohannon signed all of them except a “certificate of spouse appreciation”—which he couldn’t in good conscience sign because the certificate was for a spouse of the same sex. He sought advice about what to do from his chaplain and attorney; the chaplain told him to ask for a religious accommodation. He submitted one but it was returned six weeks later “without action.” In the meantime, a major general offered to sign the certificate instead, and it was signed and presented to the subordinate. Yet when the subordinate saw that Colonel Bohannon was not the signatory, he filed an Equal Opportunity complaint against him, alleging discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

The EO investigator found that Col Bohannon violated Air Force regulations and “unlawfully discriminated against the MSgt based on sexual orientation.” The EO investigator recognized that a religious accommodation had been sought, but claimed that “even had the accommodation been granted, Col Bohannon would nonetheless be guilty of unlawful discrimination.”

As a result, his superior “suspended Col Bohannon from command, withheld his decoration, and submitted a letter to the Air Force Brigadier General promotion board—the rank for which Col Bohannon is eligible—recommending that Col Bohannon not be promoted.”

Not only is this entire side-show an absurd waste of time, it is clearly unlawful and unconstitutional. The EO investigator is apparently ignorant of the law in this area; if a religious accommodation is granted, that means by definition that he’s not “guilty of unlawful discrimination”—because he’s been granted an accommodation. Moreover, religious freedom law and military policy demand that he be granted an accommodation in an instance like this—where the objective is easily fulfilled with another signature on the certificate.

At best, this entire matter is a distraction for Colonel Bohannon. At worst, it could end his career. That’s the track this train is currently proceeding on.

Thankfully, our friends at First Liberty are on the case, and those in the media like Todd Starnes are calling attention to this. Let us hope the Air Force fixes the issue before the entire situation is derailed and the military environment only grows more toxic for people of faith. 

Iran Heightens Its Crackdown On Christians

by Daniel Hart

August 8, 2017

The Wilberforce Initiative is reporting that Iran is targeting Christians, re-sentencing them to lengthier jail times despite having already served their sentences. According to the report, Ebrahim Firouzi, a former Muslim who converted to Christianity, was re-sentenced to five additional years for trumped-up charges of “forming a group for disrupting national security” based on “the same evidence used in the previous court case for which he had already served his prison sentence.”

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has reported an uptick in arrests and imprisonments in the last four years of those who are a part of religious minorities in Iran. In the last month alone, “12 Christians have been sentenced to lengthy prison confinement for 10 years or more because of their faith,” according to World Watch Monitor.

Iran is a country of some 80 million predominantly Muslim inhabitants, of which only one percent are religious minorities. This includes about 300,000 Christians, some of whom are Armenian Christians who are considered to be born Christian and are generally not bothered by the Iranian regime. In a country that is over 99 percent Muslim, it is considered a crime to convert from Islam to Christianity, which can carry a death sentence.

With President Trump considering his options on how to pull out of the rashly devised Obama-era nuclear deal, it is also highly important for him to consider the tragic plight of Christians and other persecuted minorities who are languishing in Iranian prisons simply because of exercising their God-given right to freely follow their consciences.

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