The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom says the Iranian government is encouraging “derogatory public opinion” against Christianity and other faiths using Iranian media outlets.
According to The Christian Post, the report, “Religious Propaganda in Iran,” from the commission’s bipartisan federal advisory committee, says Iran’s government is using official media, government-run social media and other news mediums to spread “falsehoods and misconceptions” about religious minorities, including Christianity.
The report says there is a “systematic campaign to deny freedom of religion or belief to groups that do not conform to the government’s singular interpretation of Ja’afri Shi’a Islam.”
In one case, the government describes Christians as an “Evangelical Zionist cult.”
The phrase was used in a November 2021 ruling by Iran’s Supreme Court about Christianity and establishing home churches. The court opinion said Christian converts were an “Evangelical Zionist cult.”
“This misinformation campaign restricts freedom of religion or belief for religious minorities in Iran,” USCIRF spokesperson Danielle Saroyan Ashabhian told The Christian Post.
Also, according to the report, a Muslim cleric who serves as the secretary of the Islam-Christianity Dialog Association said that Evangelical Christian Iranians are pursuing a political agenda of expansion in opposition to the Iranian government.
Evangelical Christians have “resulted in their alienation from other Christians, and that Iranian Armenians are opposed to Evangelical Christians,” said Hojjat al-Islam Kashani.
“The impact on Iranian Christians is that they cannot rely on the government to uphold its obligations under international law to protect freedom of religion or belief, and are more likely to face discrimination from Iranians who internalize the government’s false messaging,” USCIRF Ashabhian said.
The report also found the Iran government may be pushing critical opinions of Jews, Sunni Muslims, Gonabadi Sufis and Baha’is.
Iran is one of 10 countries the U.S. State Department recognizes as a country of “particular concern for tolerating and engaging in religious freedom abuses.”
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Amanda Casanova is a writer living in Dallas, Texas. She has covered news for ChristianHeadlines.com since 2014. She has also contributed to The Houston Chronicle, U.S. News and World Report and IBelieve.com. She blogs at The Migraine Runner.