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Cuba's crackdown on churches
Monday, March 13, 2006   By: Juan Paxety

Cuba enforces new regulations, but churches keep growing

The mainstream media is finally paying attention to the problems of churches in Cuba. Knight-Ridder newspapers has a story (here in the Columbus (Ga) Ledger-Enquirer) about the explosive growth of churches since 1992, and fidel's attempts to regulate them. 1992 is significant because the island was officially atheist until then.

The government is regulating home churches, called casas culto, and some Cuban pastors compare the regulations to zoning regulations in the US. As we reported back in December, the government was threatening to demolish a church only three days before Christmas.

"If anything, it demonstrates the growth of churches in Cuba," said Pastor Elmer Lavastida of the Segunda Iglesia Bautista El Salvador in the eastern city of Santiago. "It's simply a movement with large proportions that has to be legalized"

But other pastors are worried. And yes, we mean pastors - not priests. There seems to be a large growth in Protestant churches on the island.

Three casas culto in central and eastern Cuba were closed by the government late last year for failing to meet the new regulations, according to the Evangelical Christian Humanitarian Outreach (Echo Cuba), a Miami organization that conducts humanitarian missions through churches in Cuba.

The Cuban Council of Churches, a coalition of 25 Protestant denominations, recently formed a committee to track the new rules' effects.

"The Cuban government is afraid the church can create a kind of social movement," said Omar Lopez Montenegro, head of the Miami-based Cuban American National Foundation's committee for human rights.

The regulations require getting permits before modifications are made to a structure, and for churches, these permits are rarely issues. New regulations went into effect in September, and according to the article, require home churches to register with the government, provide full financial information, limit the number of services and to get government permission to host foreigners and missionaries.


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