Iglesia de la Asuncion in Guanabacoa a borough of Havana, Cuba. Photo credit: Ivan2010 via Wikimedia Commons (CC-By-3.0).
Iglesia de la Asuncion in Guanabacoa a borough of Havana, Cuba.
Photo credit: Ivan2010 via Wikimedia Commons (CC-By-3.0)
Iglesia de la Asuncion in Guanabacoa a borough of Havana, Cuba. Photo credit: Ivan2010 via Wikimedia Commons (CC-By-3.0).
Iglesia de la Asuncion in Guanabacoa a borough of Havana, Cuba.
Photo credit: Ivan2010 via Wikimedia Commons (CC-By-3.0)

As U.S. President Barack Obama makes an historic visit to Cuba, he opens the possibility of increased ties between the two countries in commerce, agriculture and education. But Cuba’s communist government continues to impose restrictions on religious activity in Cuba.

According to the persecution watch group Voice of the Martyrs, Cuban religious leaders are reluctant to say anything that could be construed as opposing the government in the fear that they will face repercussions such as a denial of permits from the Office of Religious Affairs. Evangelical Christians have reported harassment, fines and arrests for conducting public gatherings.

To accommodate the growth of Christianity and overcome the country’s restrictions on the building of new church facilities, there are an undefined number of new house churches being added to those already established, likely numbering in the thousands.

“There is freedom of worship now, yes,” the Rev. Roberto Betancourt, the priest at Our Lady of Regla, one of Cuba’s landmark churches, told The Guardian in 2015. “But that’s not the same as freedom of religion.”

No other country in the Americas is so restrictive when it comes to religious practice. The Cuban government doesn’t allow the church to run its own schools or broadcasts. Public acts of worship or proselytizing are prohibited. And it is very interesting that Father Betancourt makes the same distinction that many of us in the religious freedom community have pointed out as a flaw in the policies of the Obama Administration – “freedom of worship, but not freedom of religion.”

Cuba has experienced a religious revival since the downfall of Soviet communism. Many Cubans are clearly responding with a curiosity about religion, and Christianity in particular.

This is a moment in which President Obama should demand to speak to the dissidents and the persecuted in Cuba the way that President Ronald Reagan showed his solidarity with Christians and other dissidents in the Soviet Union and President George Bush showed his solidarity with the Church in China.

Caffeinated Thoughts provides free news and commentary on culture, current events, faith, and politics, and we are dependent upon readers like you to keep us going. Please consider becoming a monthly patron or making a one-time donation. Every little bit helps!

Get CT In Your Inbox!

Don't miss a single update.

You May Also Like

Global Teaching Prize Winner Discourages Teaching Because of Common Core

Nancie Atwell, winner of the 2015 Global Teaching Prize, says that now is not the right time to get into teaching in public schools due to the Common Core.

Watching the Olympics Together

There is something to knowing that you are joining together with millions…

Jason Jones, Meagan Weber Speak at Pro-Life Event (Videos)

Watch Jason Jones of Movie to Movement and Meagan Weber of And Then There Were None share their pro-life testimony at the Iowa Prayer for Life program.

Supreme Court Asked to Stop Government Discrimination Against Church Signs

The U.S. Supreme Court was asked to reverse a split 9th Circuit Court decision that allows local governments to impose stricter regulations on temporary church signs.