A sad story which should remind us two important facts. First, for all the warts and bumps on our American government, we are still tremendously blessed to live in a nation where we can freely criticize the government and work together to improve it. And second, we are reminded that Saudi Arabia is not a modern, free or admirable nation, regardless of the “ally” status that we confer upon them. The story in question revolves around a young Saudi blogger, Raif Badawi, who many of you may already be familiar with. Last year he was charged with apostasy for insulting Islam and showing disobedience. And what evidence was presented for these “crimes” he supposedly committed?

His lawyer, Waleed Abu Alkhair, says he became a target for Saudi authorities after declaring 7 May last year a “day for Saudi liberals” – in order to have more open discussion about social and religious issues…

The evidence against him included the fact that he pressed the “Like” button on a Facebook page for Arab Christians.

Amazingly, the court dismissed the charge of apostasy, which could have carried a sentence of death. But all was not well for Raif. The case was sent back to a lower court where he was still convicted of other charges. His punishment for these “lesser crimes” was beyond brutal.

A Saudi Arabian blogger has been publicly flogged after being convicted of cybercrime and insulting Islam, reports say.

Raif Badawi, who was sentenced to 1,000 lashes and 10 years in jail, was flogged 50 times. The flogging will be carried out weekly, campaigners say.

In addition to his sentence, Mr Badawi was ordered to pay a fine of 1 million riyals ($266,000; £175,000).

Mr. Badawi will be lashed fifty times each week until the full 1,000 lashings are finished, assuming he survives that long. The US State Department has, to their credit, objected to this in the strongest terms but the Saudis have ignored us. This serves once again as a brutal reminder of what “freedom” looks like in Saudi Arabia. The Saudis have no rights, and the Quran and the Sunnah are all they have for a “constitution” because the country has officially existed under Sharia law since 1992. The royal family may run secular matters and international diplomacy, but the Ulema (Islamic religious leaders) controls what passes for law and dictates the lives of the citizens.

We have very little leverage in this situation, or really much of anything when it comes to that kingdom. Saudi Arabian Wahhabism makes it a decidedly unfriendly field for outside influence, but we seem to be stuck with them as “partners” in the region because they are sitting on an ocean of oil and massive amounts of money. But it’s also worth noting that the entire society seems to be steeped in the attitudes which were shown toward Badawi. His wife, now living in exile, said that their former friends and neighbors did not rally to Raif’s cause, but instead turned their backs on them and even became hostile. That agenda of intolerance is not just embraced by “a handful of extremists” in Saudi Arabia… it’s most of the country.