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Coalition to Pres. Bush RE: Restrictions on Aid Through Cuban Council of Churches
7/28/2006
President George W. Bush
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear Mr. President:

As leaders of U.S. Churches, we are writing you with deep concern about the new and unacceptable restrictions on church-based humanitarian aid through Cuban religious organizations, contained in the recently released “Second Report of the Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba.” 

We note that one specific provision of the Report recommends that the U.S. Department of Commerce "[t]ighten regulations for the export of humanitarian items, other than agricultural or medical commodities, to ensure that exports are consigned to entities that support independent civil society and are not regime administered or controlled organizations, such as the Cuban Council of Churches."

The Cuban Council of Churches is the national council of churches established by the traditional Protestant churches in Cuba in 1941 and accepted by them as their ecumenical expression.  Many of these CCC member churches are our sister denominations in Cuba, with whom close and enduring ties have been maintained.  Ecumenical councils and their member churches throughout the world relate to the Cuban Council of Churches as an authentic member of one global ecumenical family.

We call on you to recognize that churches and Christian ecumenical bodies in the United States have a right to determine their faith partners and to engage with them internationally. We believe that attempts by the U.S. government, or any government, to determine who is and who is not a legitimate national council of churches is wholly inappropriate.

Moreover, we believe that to restrict or deny Christian fellowship and humanitarian assistance through any particular national church council, including the Cuban Council of Churches, offends constitutional guarantees for the free exercise of religion and violates the establishment clause.  It is interference in religious matters for which no government has the right or the competence.

Our concern is deepened because we have not received a positive response to our previous letter asking that you restore to the national churches our former licenses for religious travel to Cuba.  The restricted licenses we have been offered since 2005 are inadequate and hinder the churches’ mission.  We remind you that in March 105 members of the House of Representatives and 17 Senators signed letters to Secretary of the Treasury John Snow reiterating our concern about religious travel.

We urge you as a fellow Christian to uphold religious freedom and act to prevent the implementation of any restrictions on church-based humanitarian aid through Cuban religious organizations.  Accordingly, no burden should be placed on the ability of U.S. churches and ecumenical organizations to engage in Christian fellowship and to provide humanitarian assistance to Cuban brothers and sisters through the Cuban Council of Churches.

Yours truly,

Reverend John L. McCullough
Executive Director & CEO
Church World Service

The Most Reverend Frank T. Griswold,
Presiding Bishop and Primate
The Episcopal Church

Reverend Dr. Stan Hastey
Executive Director
Alliance of Baptists

Reverend Dr. M.L. Jemison
President
Progressive National Baptist Convention

Reverend Roy Medley
General Secretary
American Baptist Churches USA

Reverend John H. Thomas
General Minister and President
United Church of Christ

Reverend Dr. David Vargas
President, Division of Overseas Ministries
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Co-Executive, Global Ministries
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and United Church of Christ

Reverend Cally Rogers Witte
Executive Minister, Wider Church Ministries
United Church of Christ
Co-Executive, Global Ministries
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and United Church of Christ

Reverend Robert Edgar
General Secretary
National Council of Churches USA

Reverend Mark S. Hanson
Presiding Bishop
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Bishop Janice Riggie Huie
President, Council of Bishops
United Methodist Church

Reverend Dr. Clifton Kirkpatrick
Stated Clerk of the General Assembly
Presbyterian Church, (USA)

Reverend Dr. Tyrone Pitts
General Secretary
Progressive National Baptist Convention

Reverend Dr. Earl D. Trent, Jr.
Executive Director, Missions Ministry
Progressive National Baptist Convention

Reverend Sharon E. Watkins
General Minister and President
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)



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