A U.S. State Department official expressed outrage and pressed Iran to reverse a court decision that gives an Iranian pastor an outrageous, and suicidal, choice: Reject his Christian faith, or die.

The 32-year-old pastor, Yosef Nadarkhani, was arrested in October 2009 for apostasy because he objected to the teaching of Islam to Christian children at Iranian schools. He was sentenced to death by hanging late last year, a verdict that he appealed to Iran’s Supreme Court.

Late last month, the appeal appeared to have been granted, as his lawyer indicated to a news agency on July 3. But an Iranian human rights agency now says the ruling actually imposes the recant-or-die choice, according to CNSNews.com.

A U.S. State Department official issued a statement Wednesday expressing dismay at the prospect.

“While Iran’s leaders hypocritically claim to promote tolerance, they continue to detain, imprison, harass, and abuse those who simply wish to worship the faith of their choosing,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.

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