(Photo: American Center for Law and Justice)
The U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution Thursday condemning Iran for imprisoning Christian pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, while calling for his immediate release.
The resolution passed with a 417-1 vote. Rep. Lois Capps (D-Calif.) was the only representative to vote against the resolution, although she later confirmed that she had accidentally voted "no." Capps' press secretary, Ashley Schapitl, informed The Christian Post of the mistake and provided a YouTube video which documents Capps' address to the House of Representatives, during which she acknowledges her mistake and requests that her approval of H. Res. 556 be recorded. The voting record, however, cannot be changed.
The resolution, titled H. Res. 556, was introduced by Rep. Joseph Pitts (R-Pa.) on Feb. 17. The three-page document, initially backed by seven members of Congress, states that the U.S. is "condemning the Government of Iran for its continued persecution, imprisonment, and sentencing of Youcef Nadarkhani on the charge of apostasy."
It also cites Iran's violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Political and Civil Rights, and further argues that Iran is in violation of its own constitution, which promises freedom of religion.
Since its introduction, the resolution has gained 61 co-sponsors.
The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) said in a statement Thursday that the resolution sends a "powerful message that human rights and religious freedom transcend political and religious differences."
Jordan Sekulow, executive director of the ACLJ, says the vote shows "truly bipartisan support" that is "extraordinary."
"We're grateful that so many members of Congress -- from different political and religious backgrounds -- understand the importance of standing up for religious freedom, for human rights," Sekulow added.
According to Sekulow, a similar resolution is now being introduced to the U.S. Senate.
The ACLJ and several other persecution watchdog organizations agree that international pressure has helped keep Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani alive.
So far, the United States, European Union, France, Great Britain, Mexico, and Germany have all condemned Iran for imprisoning Nadarkhani.
Nadarkhani was arrested in Oct. 2009 and charged with apostasy and attempting to evangelize Muslims. On Feb. 21, 2012, the ACLJ announced that Iranian courts may have issued an execution order for the evangelical Christian.
The United States has taken a more pro-active approach to Nadarkhani's plight in these past few weeks. After learning of the execution order, both the White House and the U.S. State Department released statements urging Iran to release the pastor.
The ACLJ has continually shed a telling light on Nadarkhani's situation. It began the "Tweet for Youcef" campaign, which has successfully reached 960,000 Twitter accounts in 198 countries and territories, according to the ACLJ website.
On Thursday, international soccer icon Ricardo Kaka, a Brazilian mid-fielder for Real Madrid, tweeted his support for Nadarkhani to his 8.8 million followers. Kaka, who is also a Christian, is the 17th most-followed person on Twitter.
Little is known regarding Nadarkhani's current situation. The ACLJ confirmed Sunday that Nadarkhani is in fact alive, but there is no further news on the status of his execution order.
Correction: Thursday, March 1, 2012:
The Christian Post initially reported that Rep. Lois Capps (D-Calif.) was the only representative to vote against the resolution. However, Rep. Capps informed CP that her "no" vote was cast by accident, and that she was indeed in favor of the House resolution.