- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Christians in Iran, take notice: Don’t drink wine during communion. Doing so could bring a court-imposed sentence of 80 lashes, as four Christian men recently discovered during an informal worship service.

The men were convicted of wrongfully consuming alcohol and possessing a receiver and satellite antenna, the Christian Solidarity Worldwide news service reported. They were initially arrested at a Christmastime service but were just sentenced in the past few days by a court in Rasht.

The National Catholic Register said the four men belong to the Protestant-based Church of Iran. They have 10 days to appeal their sentences, the Jerusalem Post reported.

The verdict comes as Iran’s government seeks to crack down on “house churches,” or unofficial meeting spots for Christians. The sentences also seem to belie the international image as a moderate that President Hasan Rouhani was trying to cultivate for himself, the Blaze reported.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Iran said “at least 20 Christians were in custody [in Iran] in July 2013. In addition, violations of the rights of Christians, particularly those belonging to evangelical Protestant groups, many of whom are converts, who proselytize to and serve Iranian Christians of Muslim background, continue to be reported,” according to the Post.

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