religious services Monday at the first Presbyterian church in Havana,
the moderator of the Presbyterian Church USA, Rick Ufford Chase, denied
that there is a “lack of religious freedom” in Cuba, despite the
constant complaints by believers and abundant evidence to the contrary.
Chase said church leaders in the US “are asking our government for more openness, more opportunities to make pastoral visits to Cuba for religious reasons,” and he denied there were restrictions on freedom of religion in Cuba, openly contradicting the report on human rights by the US State Department and the public testimony of leaders in Cuba such as Oswaldo Paya of the Christian Liberation Movement.
“The official US government has this idea that there is no freedom to practice religion in Cuba. After being here for one week, this is obviously not true,” Chase claimed. “It’s obvious that the churches here are active and are growing and they are doing so openly,” he added.
In a recent interview with the internet magazine Encuentro en la Red, Paya argued that while there is a certain freedom of worship in Cuba, the oppression in many places is “palpable,” with government agents openly monitoring Masses in an attempt to intimidate people.
“Although this is not public, I must speak about it,” he said, “because I know firsthand how many religious sisters and brothers are victims of threats, intimidating phone calls and blackmail.”