An Iranian court this month sentenced four Iranian Christians to 80 whiplashes for drinking wine during communion, despite there being no religious ban on alcohol in Christianity.
The Islamic Republic of Iran does not condone the drinking of alcohol, not even when it is part of a Christian religious activity it seems.
A court issued the sentence in the city of Rasht on Oct. 6. The men received the verdict on Oct. 20, and then had ten days to file an appeal, reported the Independent.
The men were also charged with possessing a satellite antenna.
The men sentenced are Behzad Taalipasand, Mehdi Reza Omidi (Youhan), Mehdi Dadkah (Danial) and Amir Hatemi (Youhanna).
CEO of Christian Solidarity Worldwide Mervyn Thomas, said in a statement: “The sentences handed down to these members of the Church of Iran effectively criminalize the Christian sacrament of sharing in the Lord’s Supper, and constitute an unacceptable infringement on the right to practice faith freely and peaceably.
We urge the Iranian authorities to ensure that the nation’s legal practices and procedures do not contradict its international obligation under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to guarantee the full enjoyment of freedom of religion or belief by all of its religious communities.”
According to the Independent, the harsh punishment comes amid a government crackdown on Iran’s so-called “house churches.”
Worshippers gather in unofficial buildings, or “house churches,” to conduct Christian ceremonies.
According to a recent U.S. State Department report, an estimated 370,000 Christians live in Iran.