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Jesus Wants You to Free Castro's Spies By: Mark D. Tooley
FrontPageMagazine.com | Thursday, July 02, 2009

The National Council of Churches (NCC) has rarely, if ever, shown interest in political or religious prisoners in communist prisons on Cuba.  But the NCC chief, recently visiting in Cuba, has called for "justice" for five imprisoned Cuban intelligence agents serving prison terms in Florida.  Popularly called the "Cuban Five" since their arrest by the FBI in 1998, the communist agents are a cause celebre for the international Left.

"This is a case in which individuals and families have been caught in the quagmire of politics between the United States and Cuba," NCC chief Michael Kinnamon innocuously explained in Havana in late June, according to an NCC news release. "The Cuban Five have appealed their convictions on the grounds that their trials were unfair and the churches of the United States support due process to resolve their situation."  Kinnamon is especially distressed that the U.S. Supreme Court recently declined to intervene on behalf of Castro's spies.

Seeing the tragic plight of these imprisoned Castroite agents as a pressing priority, the Rev. Kinnamon said he and other U.S. religious officials are seeking a private audience with President Obama to plead on their behalf. The NCC news release bashfully recounted that the "Cuban Five" were "intelligence officers convicted of espionage, conspiracy to commit murder, and other illegal activities," and who were "allegedly attempting to infiltrate U.S.-based Cuban exile groups who were organizing illegal and occasionally violent activities in Cuba."

The NCC did not mention that the "Cuban Five" also sought to infiltrate the U.S. Southern Command headquarters in Florida, for which they earned prison sentences ranging from 15 years-to-life.

It's not clear why the NCC said the quintet were "allegedly" criminals, since they were swiftly convicted in federal courts by juries.  The NCC pointed out that the "Cuban government claims their presence in the U.S. was a measure to counter terrorist activities against Cuba."  At least it's somewhat refreshing for the NCC to employ the word "terrorist," a term the NCC will not typically deploy against Islamists or Marxists.  Evidently only anti-Marxists qualify.

The NCC news release also helpfully asserted that the "Cuban Five" have "languished" in prison, sometimes in "solitary confinement," partly because "evidence" for their defense were unfairly "branded as 'secret' by the U.S. government" and withheld from their defense counsel. These vital documents include "family pictures, correspondence and recipes." Such "legal aberrations" raise questions about their trials' "fairness." The NCC cited the Cuban government for the claims about withheld evidence, undoubtedly remembering that Cuban Communist authorities are both factually reliable and themselves sticklers for careful jurisprudence and justice for defendants in their own country.

Understandably, the official communist Cuban News Agency (CNA) gushed over the Rev. Kinnamon's "solidarity" with the Cuban "anti-terrorists" unjustly imprisoned by the imperialist Yanquis. The CNA reported that Kinnamon lamented the plight of the "Cuban Five" as a "clear expression of how politics influences U.S. justice," a concept foreign in Cuba. 

According to CNA, Kinnamon was joined in his anti-U.S. press conference in Havana with Cuban Council of Churches President Marcial Miguel Hernandez, who also pledged his "solidarity" with the Cuban "antiterrorist fighters held in U.S. jails."  The Rev. Hernandez likewise affirmed his support for ""what has always been done in our nation in the benefit of the people."  Was Rev. Kinnamon nodding his head as Hernandez seemingly praised Cuba's Communist regime? In fairness to Hernandez, who is the subject of a totalitarian state, he has no choice but to mouth his government's propaganda.  What is Kinnamon's excuse?

The CNA ostensibly quoted Kinnamon as explaining to his Cuban audience that Protestants work for "unity of all forces, in order to try to influence the decision-making of governments with regard to peace, solidarity, justice, and the struggle against poverty." In other words, Protestantism is indistinguishable from the proletariat!  If Kinnamon attributed any religious purpose to Protestantism, CNA declined to mention it.

Kinnamon is relatively new to flacking for Cuba's tyranny, but the NCC is not.  One of his predecessors as NCC chief, Joan Brown Campbell, once hosted Fidel Castro for an ecumenical lovefest in New York.  Later she prominently championed returning Elian Gonzalez to Cuba. More recently she has joined such luminaries as Noam Chomsky, Angela Davis, Howard Zinn, and Danny Glover in touting the "Cuban Five."

"The Cuban Five and their loving families are victims of our propaganda against the Cuban people," the Rev. Campbell intoned in 2007.  "We have created an atmosphere where their guilt is assumed and goes unchallenged by far too many Americans." Campbell spoke of refusing to be "intimidated by those in power," adding, "we must continue to speak out for the Cuban Five."

Evidently neither Campbell, nor her successor, is willing to offend "those in power" in Cuba, or to offer solidarity with Cubans in Cuba who are justifiably "intimidated" by their despotic rulers.  Sadly, Campbell went on to praise Cuba for having "crafted a society that cares for the basic needs of all its people," with "quality and available health care for all" which is "still an unrealized dream" for Americans, and "education for even the poorest of Cuban people," and a land where "abject poverty and hunger do not exist."  Did all of Campbell's sensory perceptions cease operations in 1979?  Seemingly so.

How spiritually sterile, even by NCC standards, must church officials be to still shill for the crumbling shambles of Cuban communism in the year 2009?

Mark D. Tooley is president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy. He is the author of Taking Back the United Methodist Church.

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