TEHRAN, July 30 (UPI) -- The Iranian government has denounced the U.S. Department of State's findings in its just-released 'International Religious Freedom Report for 2013.'
Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham said that "Such reports are instrumental, prepared and broadcast with the mere goal of piling up pressure on other countries."
It seems the State Department would agree. Commenting on the purpose of the report, Secretary of State John Kerry said Monday that "The promotion of international religious freedom is a priority for President Obama and it is a priority for me as Secretary of State."
With regard to Iran, the report found that the constitution "protects certain aspects of religious freedom for members of some but not all religious minorities. In practice, the government severely restricted religious freedom, and there were reports of imprisonment, harassment, intimidation and discrimination based on religious beliefs."
Kerry pointed to Iran's imprisonment of Pastor Saeed Abedini, a dual American and Iranian citizen, as an example of Iran persecuting someone for their religious beliefs. Abedini is serving an eight years prison sentence for his alleged Christian evangelical activities in Iran.
"We will continue to call for his release and we will continue to work for it," Kerry said Monday, adding, "And make no mistake: We will continue to stand up for religious minority communities under assault and in danger around the world, from Jehovah's Witnesses to Baha'is to Ahmadi Muslims."
Meanwhile, Iran's foreign ministry maintains that "Iran has always defended the freedoms explicitly mentioned in the Constitution and has put on its agenda the Islamic principles in defense of rights of followers of other divine religions and common values of divine religions."