(CNSNews.com) – Like other segments of American society, Christians are divided over the administration’s Iran nuclear deal, but on Thursday a coalition of pastors and leaders who say they represent millions of pro-Israel Christians sent a petition to the White House opposing any agreement that does not “completely dismantle the regime’s ability to build a bomb.”
The petition also called for any agreement on Iran’s nuclear program to be ratified by Congress. The administration has skirted a formal ratification requirement by ensuring that the agreement negotiated with Tehran was not a treaty.
“The prospect of an Iranian nuclear weapon is the single greatest threat to America’s national security,” said the petition, which was also sent to Republican and Democratic leaders in Congress.
“If America’s leaders do not act wisely now, we could wake up tomorrow with the world’s most dangerous regime in possession of the world’s most dangerous weapons.”
Over the summer individual Christian leaders and ministries opposing the agreement known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) have lobbied hard against it, sending out millions of emails and generating large numbers of appeals to lawmakers reviewing the deal.
Many of them came together behind the petition, under the banner of a new network called the American Christian Leaders for Israel – a project of the U.S. branch of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (ICEJ).
Organizers said it has been signed by 650 pastors and leaders “representing tens of millions of grassroots Americans.”
“Through this joint initiative, we want to demonstrate that this is not a partisan issue, nor a Jewish issue, nor only an Israel issue, but it is an American issue, and millions of grassroots Americans are opposed to this disastrous deal,” ICEJ U.S. director Susan Michael said in a statement.
Organizations whose leaders signed the petition include the Christian Coalition of America, Christians United for Israel, Hispanic Israel Leadership Coalition, National Religious Broadcasters, Intercessors for America, Traditional Values Coalition, Christian Broadcasting Network, Concerned Women for America, Moody Bible Institute, Family Research Council and Institute on Religion and Democracy.
Hispanic Israel Leadership Coalition president Mario Bramnick said the JCPOA fell short of standards called acceptable by both Republicans and Democrats in Congress.
“We lead an evangelical Hispanic community which represents more than 40,000 Hispanic churches across America,” he said. “We are asking members of Congress on both sides of the aisle to oppose this deal.”
Some signatories also raised the issue of Americans imprisoned or missing in Iran, whose fate was not linked by the administration to the nuclear negotiations. One of them is a pastor, Saeed Abedini, imprisoned for his faith. The others are former U.S. Marine Amir Hekmati, Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian, and retired FBI agent Bob Levinson, who has been missing since 2007.
“First and foremost, this deal should be rejected on the fundamental grounds that Iran continues to unjustly and brutally detain American citizens, including Pastor Saeed Abedini,” said National Religious Broadcasters president and CEO Jerry Johnson.
“This deal with Iran is a bad deal for the U.S., our ally Israel, and the four American hostages who were left behind,” said Concerned Women for America president and CEO Penny Nance.
In another initiative, the ICEJ has been gathering signatures over recent months from American citizens, calling similarly for any final agreement to “completely dismantle
the regime’s ability to build a nuclear bomb,” and to be ratified by Congress.
That petition, signed by more than 60,000 Americans, was also sent to the White House and congressional leaders on Thursday.
A separate ICEJ petition garnered 30,000 signatures abroad, and was sent to the governments of America’s P5+1 partners in the Iran nuclear talks.
Defeat ‘Dick Cheney’s line of thinking’
American Christians are far from universally opposed to the JCPOA. Those welcoming the agreement and urging Congress to endorse it range from Catholic bishops to liberal “social justice” Protestants.
The Vatican views the agreement as positive, and in a letter to Congress on the day the JCPOA was announced in Vienna, Bishop Oscar Cantú of Las Cruces, chairman of the Committee on International Justice and Peace of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, urged lawmakers to support it.
More recently, the USCCB called on Catholics to “encourage Congress not to take any actions that could undermine the agreement between the P5+1 and Iran.”
The JCPOA also won the support of a collection of theologians and scholars at leading Catholic institutions of learning.
For Jim Wallis, president of the liberal Christian group Sojourners, the JCPOA “is a victory for peace and diplomacy over another bloody and destructive war.”
“It is a time when common sense wins over bombast — when reality wins over rhetoric,” he said in a statement on Thursday.
“This is a moment when Dick Cheney’s line of thinking, that any significant world problem can and should be solved by another war, could be soundly defeated,” Wallis said. “Warmongers are the ones who can’t shake the habit of war, even when they are proven wrong again and again – and the warmongers might now lose for a change.”
Late last month 53 Christian leaders, including Protestants, Catholics and Orthodox, signed a letter to Congress warning that rejecting the JCPOA “would be a rejection of the historic progress our diplomats have made to make this world a safer place.”
Among the signatories were leaders in denominations that teach “replacement theology” or supersessionism, the belief that the church has replaced Israel in God’s purposes for the world. Many in that camp tend to be pro-Palestinian and critical of Israeli policies.