Cuban Religious Freedom According to the U.S. Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba

On October 10, 2003, President George W. Bush created the U.S. Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba and directed it to report with recommendations for a comprehensive program to (i) “Bring about a peaceful, near-term end to the [Cuban] dictatorship;” (ii) “Establish democratic institutions, respect for human rights and the rule of law [in Cuba];” (iii) “Create the core institutions of a free economy [in Cuba];” (iv) “Modernize [Cuban]infrastructure;” and (v) “Meet [Cuban] basic needs in the areas of health, education, housing and human services.”[1]

This Commission issued two reports and has not been heard from in the Obama Administration. Its government website ( no longer exists.

Its first report in May 2004, in my opinion, was a U.S. blueprint for taking over Cuba. It said, “Religious organizations, including Catholic and certain authentically independent Protestant denominations, represent the fastest growing and potentially fastest growing alterative to the Cuban state in providing basic services and information to the Cuban people.” (P. 20; emphasis added.) The rest of the report makes clear that the Commission believed that only evangelical Christian groups were authentically independent and should be used by the U.S. to build a free Cuba. According to this report, they had “the trust of the people and the means to organize through an existing social network of communications and distribution channels at all levels of society.”[2]

The report also called for the U.S. to avoid trying to use the Cuban Council of Churches, which the U.S. Commission believed, had been “taken over by the Castro regime in the early 1960s and used as a means to control the Protestant churches.” (P. 64.) However, most of the clergy and laity of churches that belong to the Council, the Commission asserted, were “not sympathizers of Castro and the communists and therefore should not be denied assistance or a role in Cuban religious affairs due to ‘guilt by association.” (P. 64.)

The second Commission report in July 2006 provides more details for how the U.S. wants to see Cuba function.[3] President George W. Bush immediately approved the report and directed his Administration to implement its recommendations.[4]

The Commission’s castigation of the Cuban Council of Churches (CCC), in my opinion, is totally unjustified and particularly outrageous. I note that the most recent reports by the U.S. Department of State and by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom do not attack the Cuban Council in this or any other manner.[5]

The CCC was founded in 1941 and “is a fellowship of churches, ecumenical groups, and other ecumenical organizations which confess Jesus Christ as Son of God and Saviour, according to the holy scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, and seek to respond to their common calling, to the glory of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” Today their membership consists of 22 churches, 12 ecumenical groups. 3 observer members and 7 fraternal associates.[6]

The CCC seeks “to give unity to the Christian Churches of Cuba and to help unify Cuban churches with other churches around the world.” It also “encourages dialogue between different movements and institutions as a means for churches to expand their ecumenical vocation of service, thus deepening their responsibilities towards society and all of God’s creation.” Finally CCC “promotes study, dialogue, and cooperation among Christians to increase Christian witness and enhance life in Cuba.” [7]

One of its specific programs is the CCC Committee of Emergency Relief that provides relief and building emergency response infrastructure . . . in times of natural disaster” like the hurricanes that hit the island.[8]

Moreover, I have visited the Havana office of the CCC and met some of its employees. I also know a Cuban pastor and seminary official who has been president of the CCC. Based on this personal experience I believe the Council is a legitimate Christian organization that assists its member churches and congregations in a multitude of ways to conduct their ministries in the Cuban context.

<<<<Here is a photo of the CCC sign outside its office. The other photo shows a banner listing its members and programs that I saw in the office.>>>>>>>

These Commission reports, in my opinion, are absolutely outrageous. They assume that it is entirely appropriate for the U.S. to consider and develop plans for a U.S.-imposed regime change in Cuba. They also assume that it is entirely appropriate for the U.S. to make decisions on who in Cuba (or any other country for that matter) is authentically Christian. And they assume that the U.S. may properly use certain Cuban churches, and not others, to advance U.S. objectives in Cuba. All of these assumptions and the conclusions from these assumptions are, in my opinion, illegal, immoral and unwise. I trust that its disappearance from the public scene is final.

[1] Wikipedia, Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba, for Assistance to a Free Cuba.

[2]  Commission on Assistance to a Free Cuba, Report to the President (May 2004),

[3] Commission on Assistance to a Free Cuba, Report to the President (July 2006), available on Council on Foreign Relations website,

[4] White House (President George W. Bush), Fact Sheet: Commission on Assistance to a Free Cuba Report to the President (July 10, 2006),

[5] See Post: U.S. Government’s Opinions on Religious Freedom in Cuba (Jan. 5, 2011).

[6] World Council of Churches, Cuban Council of Churches,; [U.S.] National Council of Churches, Background on the Cuban Council of Churches,

[7] Id.; United Church of Christ, Cuban Council of Churches, See Comment: U.S. Church Leaders Call for U.S.-Cuba Reconciliation (Dec. 10, 2011)[Comment to Post: President Obama Is Wrong on Cuba (Sept. 29, 2011)].

[8] Id.

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As a retired lawyer and adjunct law professor, Duane W. Krohnke has developed strong interests in U.S. and international law, politics and history. He also is a Christian and an active member of Minneapolis’ Westminster Presbyterian Church. His blog draws from these and other interests. He delights in the writing freedom of blogging that does not follow a preordained logical structure. The ex post facto logical organization of the posts and comments is set forth in the continually being revised “List of Posts and Comments–Topical” in the Pages section on the right side of the blog.

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