The Magazine

The National Council of Castro Worshippers

The disgraceful behavior of the National Council of Churches didn't begin with Elian Gonzalez

Apr 17, 2000, Vol. 5, No. 30 • By TUCKER CARLSON
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Bright children between the ages of five to fourteen years volunteer [sic], after parental consent is given, to dedicate themselves to complete knowledge of and for the Revolution at the provincial Palace of Pioneers. Our group was absolutely impressed by the level of learning, zeal and intelligence of the young boys and girls. Their educational training is truly remarkable.

Can political naivete account for statements like this? It's plausible; other defenders of 1970s totalitarianism have since repented, or at least become New Democrats. The NCC, however, has never renounced its infatuation with Third World police states. As late as 1983, Paul McCleary, the head of the NCC's international office, testified before Congress in defense of Vietnam's infamous reeducation camps. At the time, tens of thousands of political prisoners had died in the camps. McCleary described one he visited as resembling "a small tropical resort area." In general, McCleary concluded, "the entire process of reeducation is one reflecting the government's commitment to encouraging and enabling people to exercise their rights, restored as full participants in Vietnam's future."

The NCC has never apologized for McCleary's statement. Nor, apparently, has it revised its view of Cuba. The NCC boasts that, all told, it has "adopted over 130 resolutions denouncing human rights violations in many countries." This is true. NCC administrators are avid resolution-adopters. Since 1951, the NCC has written resolutions attacking an awe-inspiring array of injustices, from racism at Bob Jones University to the tragedy of non-union lettuce. It has produced at least three statements expressing solidarity with American grape-pickers. It has weighed in on matters as esoteric as Japan's alien registration law and the crisis in Micronesia (whatever that was). It has never called on Fidel Castro to bring democracy to Cuba. NCC resolution-writers have been staunch in their support of gay rights. Yet they have never pitched a fit about Castro's longtime policies of sending homosexuals to labor camps and of quarantining AIDS patients.

Then there is the matter of religious freedom: There isn't much in Cuba. Castro expelled thousands of priests when he took power in 1959. He declared the island an atheist state, closed Christian schools, banned religious publications and radio stations, made it illegal to proselytize in public. In 1969, he eliminated Christmas.

Christmas returned a couple of years ago, after a personal appeal from the pope. Religious liberty did not. There are still no Christian media outlets in Cuba (in dramatic contrast to the rest of Latin America). Pastors are still arrested. Home churches are routinely shut down. You'd never know any of this from listening to the leaders of the National Council of Churches. At the moment they're too busy arranging charter flights for Greg Craig.

Last year, Joan Brown Campbell, then the general secretary of the NCC, took one of her many trips to Cuba. At a rally in Revolution Square in Havana, Campbell shared a stage with Fidel Castro. At one point she addressed the crowd of 100,000. Characteristically, Campbell used her platform to make a call for freedom -- not from totalitarianism in Cuba, but from the tyranny of its capitalist neighbor. "We ask you to forgive the suffering that has come to you by the actions of the United States," she said. The crowd cheered.

Tucker Carlson is a staff writer at THE WEEKLY STANDARD.