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Christian Leaders Call for Tough Sanctions on Iran

Friday, 11 Dec 2009 12:18 PM

An unusual coalition of Christian leaders representing millions of evangelicals, Roman Catholics, and other denominations urged the House of Representatives in a letter Friday to pass tough sanctions on Iran to prevent it from obtaining nuclear weapons.

On Tuesday, the House of Representatives is scheduled to vote on the Iran Refined Petroleum Sanction Act (H.R. 2194). This legislation contains measures to expand economic sanctions against Iran. It would force the Iranian government, the leaders say, to choose between a ruined economy or continued nuclear development. These sanctions could be implemented if Iran continues its uranium enrichment and rejects U.S. attempts at diplomacy.

The Christian leaders, including Richard Land of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, Pat Robertson of Christian Broadcasting Network, and Bill Donohue of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, are urging Congress to take advantage of the overwhelming bipartisan majority in both the House and the Senate and bring legislation implementing sanctions to a vote immediately.

“Now that supermajorities in the House and Senate have made their support for sanctions known, and now that the Iranian regime has made its increasing defiance clear to the world, the time for Congress to act has arrived,” said Dr. Richard Land, of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention.

The letter urges the House to pass, at a minimum, a cut-off of exports of refined petroleum products, including gasoline, as a firm yet peaceful measure against the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism.

The coalition argues that Iran’s nuclear weapons program will destabilize the Middle East, lead to an arms race in a volatile part of the world, and threaten the United States and its allies in Europe.

After repeated efforts to persuade Iran to comply with its international obligations and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has recently reported to its member nations that its diplomatic efforts with the Iranian regime have come to a “dead end.” Since then, defiant Iranian officials have announced plans to begin building additional nuclear facilities.

And President Barack Obama’s own efforts to engage Iran diplomatically have failed. Obama said that "by the end of the year we should have some sense whether or not these discussions are starting to yield significant benefits,” and specifically held out the prospect of sanctions against Tehran "to ensure that Iran understands we are serious." That deadline is mere days away, Land and the other leaders point, and just as President Obama said, Tehran needs proof we are serious.

European leaders backed Friday new sanctions against Iran, warning that Tehran’s refusal to negotiate over its nuclear program must be met with a tough response.

As they met in Brussels, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said he expected ‘significant’ new measures imposed if the Islamic republic fails to live up to commitments, and accused it of ‘stiffing the international community’.

The Leaders include Pat Robertson of Christian Broadcasting Network, Richard Land of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, Bill Donohue of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, Dr. James Merritt of Cross Pointe Church, Wendy Wright of Concerned Women for America, Gary Bauer of American Values, Tom Minnery of Focus on the Family, and Dr. John Hagee of the Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, and Jordan Sekulow of the American Center for Law and Justice.

The letter, an initiative of Christian Leaders for a Nuclear-Free Iran, an ad hoc coalition of evangelical, Roman Catholic and other faith leaders, is part of an ecumenical effort to inform policymakers and opinion leaders on the threat that a Iranian nuclear arsenal represents.

The letter:

December 10, 2009

Dear Member of Congress:

We write to you today as Christian leaders, deeply concerned about Iran obtaining nuclear weapons, and urge you to bring legislation to the floor of the House and Senate that will impose meaningful sanctions against the Iranian regime unless and until Iran abandons its efforts to develop nuclear weapons.

At the onset of his diplomatic effort with Iran this spring, President Obama said that "by the end of the year we should have some sense whether or not these discussions are starting to yield significant benefits,” and specifically held out the prospect of sanctions against Tehran "to ensure that Iran understands we are serious." That deadline is mere days away, and just as President Obama said, Tehran needs proof we are serious.

In a report issued November 26, the IAEA Director General reluctantly concluded that talks meant to steer Iran’s nuclear program away from weapons development had come to a dead end because Iran has repeatedly lied about the extent of its nuclear enrichment program. This was most recently demonstrated by the discovery of a secret Iranian nuclear facility, the existence of which Iran has repeatedly denied. The IAEA member nations that "there has been no movement on remaining issues of concern which need to be clarified for the agency to verify the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear program," and that the IAEA has "effectively reached a dead end, unless Iran engages fully with us." As you know, the "issues of concern" to which the IAEA referred are the growing body of evidence that the Iranian regime has experimented with nuclear weapons programs, including missile-delivery systems and tests of explosives that could serve as nuclear-bomb detonators.

Powerful voices within the Iranian government have responded with defiance to the IAEA report and its resolution condemning Iran’s secret nuclear-enrichment plant in Qom. On November 30, the Speaker of Iran’s parliament, Ali Larijani, suggested Iran will withdraw from the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. And, the head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, Ali Akbar Salehi, said that, as a direct response to the IAEA resolution, Iran intends to build an additional 10 nuclear enrichment facilities – which would give Iran a total of 500,000 centrifuges, enough to produce over 150 bombs a year.

The stakes are exceedingly high. A nuclear-armed Iran is almost certain to initiate an arms race with other Middle Eastern and Arab nations who have reason to fear the religious, political and military ambitions of Iran’s extremist leaders. As the world's leading state sponsor of international terror, we must assume Iran will sell or give nuclear weapons to extremist groups that are declared and demonstrated enemies to America and her allies.

As demonstrated by their co-sponsorship of implementing legislation, an overwhelming, bipartisan consensus exists among your colleagues in the House and Senate in support of sanctions on foreign companies that: export refined petroleum products, including gasoline, to Iran; help maintain Iran’s domestic refining capacity; provide ships or shipping services to transport such products; underwrite those shipments to Iran; or finance or broker those shipments. Although these proposed sanctions are a serious start, we urge you to consider other, targeted sanctions as may be required to demonstrate our seriousness to the Iranian regime.

There is an overwhelming bipartisan consensus in Congress in favor of these sanctions. President Obama’s December 31 deadline is days away. And the IAEA has concluded that diplomatic efforts have reached a dead end. It is time for you to bring legislation implementing these sanctions to the floor for a vote. Additionally we urge you to make your actions and concerns known to the United Nations Security Council and our allies in the international community who share a common interest in preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.

As the clock runs out, we must remember that Iran remains the world’s leading state sponsor of terror, is funding Hezbollah and Hamas in Lebanon and Gaza, has sought to destabilize democratic and Western-leaning regimes throughout the Middle East, is currently arresting and detaining political opponents, actively persecutes its Christian citizens, has shot protestors in cold blood in the streets, and its president has denied the Holocaust and vowed to wipe Israel off the face of the earth. We speak out today on behalf of millions of Christians who believe that the interests of peace and security would best be served by our elected representatives sending a powerful signal that this tyrannical Iranian regime shall never threaten the world with nuclear weapons.

Sincerely,

Dr. Pat Robertson, President of Christian Broadcasting Network

Richard Land, President of Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, Southern Baptist Convention

Tom Minnery, Senior Vice President of Government and Public Policy at Focus on the Family

Dr. John Hagee, Cornerstone Church, San Antonio, Texas

Wendy Wright, President of Concerned Women for America

Colin A. Hanna, President of Let Freedom Ring

Michael Little, President of Christian Broadcasting Network

Anthony Verdugo, Founder and Executive Director of Christian Family Coalition

C. Preston Noell, III, President of Tradition, Family, Property, Inc.

Micah Clark, Executive Director of American Family Association of Indiana

Michael Novak, Author, Scholar and awarded 1994 Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion

Matthew Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel

Dr. Benny Tate, Senior Pastor, Rock Springs Church, Milner, GA

Jack Rohrer, President of Virginia Faith and Freedom Coalition

Robert E. Reccord, President of Total Life Impact Ministries

Ron Shuping, Executive VP of Programming, The Inspiration Networks

William A. Donohue, President of The Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights

Ronald J. Rychlak, MDLA Professor of Law, University of Mississippi, School of Law

Diana L. Banister, Vice President and Partner of Shirley & Banister Public Affairs

Deal Hudson, Executive Director of Catholic Advocate

Mark A. Smith, President of Ohio Christian University

Dr. Richard Lee, President of There’s Hope America

Jack Whelan, Chairman of Culture of Life Foundation

Peter Huessy, President of GeoStrategic Analysis of Potomac, Maryland

Bobby Eberle, President of GOPUSA

Bud Hansen, Papal Foundation

Jeffrey Karls, President of Magdalen College

David R. Carlin, Professor of Sociology and Philosophy at the Community College of Rhode Island

Al Kresta - Executive Producer of Ave Maria Radio

Cortes E. DeRussy, Bronxville, NY, Former Board Chair, Crisis Magazine

Dr. James Merritt, Senior Pastor, Cross Pointe Church, Duluth, GA

Rev. Louis P. Sheldon, Chairman of Traditional Values Coalition

Jordan Sekulow, Director of International Operations at American Center for Law and Justice

Gary L. Bauer, President of American Values

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An unusual coalition of Christian leaders representing millions of evangelicals, Roman Catholics, and other denominations urged the House of Representatives in a letter Friday to pass tough sanctions on Iran to prevent it from obtaining nuclear weapons.On Tuesday, the House...
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