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Liberal Religious Officials Head to Iran this Weekend to Forestall U.S. Military Action

“These oldline church bureaucrats are more distressed about the U.S. than about a potentially nuclear Iran.” -Mark Tooley, IRD Director of UMAction

Contact: Loralei Coyle, The Institute on Religion and Democracy, 202-682-4131, 202-905-6852 cell, lcoyle@ird-renew.org; Radio Interviews: Jeff Walton jwalton@ird-renew.org

WASHINGTON, Feb. 19 /Christian Newswire/ -- A coalition of liberal religious leaders have joined together for a week long trip beginning on Saturday, February 17 to Iran. They plan to meet with Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the hopes of averting a clash between the U.S. and Iran. The trip, scheduled for Feb. 17-25, was organized by the Mennonite Central Committee and American Friends Service Committee. It comes after 45 religious leaders met for 75 minutes with Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad during his visit to New York last September. The delegation includes representatives of the United Methodist Church, the Episcopal Church, and the National Council of Churches, among others.

IRD UMAction Director Mark Tooley commented:

“These confused prelates will undoubtedly minimize, if not ignore, the evils of the Iranian police state theocracy that brutalizes all who do not share its particular brand of Shiite Islam. They are more worried about what the U.S. might do to Iran than what Iran’s deranged president, filled with apocalyptic dreams of destroying the U.S. and Israel, might do to the world.”

“The delegation’s goals mention only two concerns about the Iranian government: (a) Holocaust denial and (b) the Iranian nuclear program. These issues are mischaracterized as “the controversy surrounding President Ahmadinejad,” as if the problem were only the personality of one man rather than the consistent policies of a 28 year old repressively theocratic regime.

“Only the issue of Holocaust denial is stated frankly, whereas the nuclear issue is treated with false evenhandedness as a “dispute” between the United States and Iran. (In fact, Iran has been censured by almost the entire international community through the United Nations). The only issue that the delegation explicitly says it will ‘engage’ is Holocaust denial. ‘Engage’ is really weak. It’s far short of the vigorous repudiation that is necessary.

“The delegation says little about confronting Iran’s threats to wipe out Israel. It also says nothing about the religious freedom of Christians and other religious minorities in Iran. Indeed, there has been no professed concern about human rights in Iran. IRD challenges the delegation it to speak up for religious freedom of Iranian Christians and for all people in Iran, since the Iranians themselves are not free to speak plainly.”

The Institute on Religion and Democracy, founded in 1981, is an ecumenical alliance of U.S. Christians working to reform their churches’ social witness, in accord with biblical and historic Christian teachings, thereby contributing to the renewal of democratic society at home and abroad.