UMAction Briefing HomepageMark Tooley
Institute on Religion and Democracy



April 7, 2000
Steve Rempe

"Would left-wing church groups be so determined to return Elian to his native land if he had escaped a right-wing dictatorship, instead of a communist one? I doubt it."

A United Methodist Church agency has helped procure a lawyer for the father of little Cuban refugee Elian Gonzalez. Unfortunately, that church agency is more interested in protecting the interests of the Cuban government than the interests of Elian or his family, the IRD spokesman warned.

The United Methodist Board of Church and Society is also raising money to pay this lawyer's legal fees. The Board wants 6-year-old Elian to be taken from his Florida relatives and returned to Cuba with his father. According to the Board's general Secretary, Thom White Wolf Fassett, the Board hopes to raise $50,000-$100,000 for its "Humanitarian Advocacy Fund." The Board is the Washington, D.C. lobby office for the 8.4 million member United Methodist Church.

"How shameful that the Board has stooped to exploiting Elian's situation for its own pro-Castro political agenda," responded Mark Tooley, who directs the United Methodist committee of the ecumenical Institute on Religion and Democracy. Tooley commented that the Board, like its partner in this effort, the National Council of Churches, has long been supportive of the Castro dictatorship.

The lawyer whom the Board helped to recruit for Elian's father is Gregory Craig, who gave counsel to President Clinton during his impeachment proceedings. According to Fassett, the Board is helping to raise funds because of its "long history of advocacy for children in every area of the world."

Tooley further responded: "The Board's concern for children evidently does not extend to the children of Cuba who, thanks to the 40-year communist dictatorship of Fidel Castro, have little hope of full religious, political or economic freedom." Tooley noted that the Board, like the National Council of Churches, blames Cuba's poverty on the U.S. trade embargo, while ignoring the failures of communism to provide for the needs of its people. Even more scandalously, Tooley observed, these church agencies have consistently refused to speak out against Castro's continued restrictions on church activity in Cuba, along with Cuba's complete ban on any political activity not controlled by the Communist Party.

"There may be good arguments for giving custody of Elian to his father," Tooley admitted. "But the left-wing Board of Church and Society is hardly the type of impartial agency that can make them convincingly." Tooley said that Elian's father, like other family members in Cuba, cannot speak freely. His public statements and actions are completely subordinate to the wishes of the Castro government. Elian's Florida relatives claim the father approved when his ex-wife left Cuba with Elian. She drowned when their small craft sank. Castro prohibits free travel by Cubans, forcing refugees to flee often in unsafe vessels.

"Elian's mother gave her life so that her son might live in freedom," Tooley concluded. "Would left-wing church groups be so determined to return Elian to his native land if he had escaped a right-wing dictatorship, instead of a communist one? I doubt it."

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