Cuba: majority votes in favor of draft of new constitution that is questioned by the Church

A MAJORITY OF CUBANS on Feb. 24, 2019 voted yes in a referendum ratifying the draft for a new constitution for Cuba that was passed by the National Assembly in July. On several occasions, the Conference of Catholic Bishops of Cuba (COCC) had criticized the absence of unambiguous clauses recognizing the right to religious freedom.

Convent in Salvador de Bayamo, Cuba, currently under repair

The COCC does acknowledge that the inclusion of the statement that “the Cuban state is a secular state” (Article 15) suggests an acknowledgment of the “right of the individual to believe in those values that reflect his or her faith, to live them and to proclaim them.” However, the bishops have argued that this statement “contradicts the contents of the preamble of the constitution, which includes a reference to the absoluteness of the Marxist-Leninist ideology.” According to the COCC, this language rules out “any other possibility for achieving complete personal fulfilment besides [the path] offered by socialism and communism.”

Furthermore, the COCC has expressed its concerns about the vagueness of the wording chosen for the definition of religious freedom in the constitution. In their statement, the bishops wrote that “the freedom to practice one’s chosen religion does not comprise only the freedom of having religious beliefs. It involves the individual’s freedom to live according to his or her personal beliefs and to proclaim these in public, always within the bounds of being respectful to others.”

The bishops called attention to the lack of “legal recognition of the Church and its own identity and mission.” This, they believe, leads to the systematic exclusion of the Church from “access to the media, the freedom of doctrine and evangelization, the construction of buildings and the acquisition and ownership of the goods required to carry out its activities;” the bishops have also stressed that the draft constitution denies the Church the “freedom to form associations, not only for purely religious purposes, but also for [setting] education policy, [as well as for] cultural, health-care related and charitable purposes.”