No Feathers, Please, We're Conducting Policy

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This news is two weeks old, but it still sucks ass. The U.S. government, as part of its ongoing fantasy that the best way to topple dictator-for-life Fidel Castro is by curtailing Americans' freedom, sent out a series of threatening letters to certain licensed religious organizations—which were previously exempt from the ban on travel to Cuba—saying that from now on they could only shuttle 25 people to the island every three months, or else face heavy fines.

Worse, the government is specifically targeting practitioners of Santeria.

The 25-person-per-quarter limit doesn't apply to what the government calls "established churches," such as the Roman Catholic Church. These organizations get licenses that don't limit the number of travelers to Cuba.

What was that line again, about "shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion"? Or that other one—wait, it's the same one!—about "the right of the people peacebly to assemble"? I guess freedom's just another word for Don't Fuck With Our Totally Successful Cuba Policy.

In a last twist of predictable irony, the Miami Herald reports that American travel to the island has

boomed since July, when the Bush administration reduced the number of times Cubans can visit their families on the island from once a year to once every three years.

My take on the immoral, illiberal, and counter-productive travel ban here.

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  1. You know, you hear people making “this violates the Constitution, that violates the Bill of Rights” arguments all the time.

    But seriously, a retarded trout would realize that you can’t treat two religions differently because the federal government deems one “established.” How the hell does something like this happen?

  2. # of lawyers the RCC has versus # of lawyers santaria practioners have.

    after all, bernard law isn’t in prison right now for a reason.

  3. I guess freedom’s just another word for Don’t Fuck With Our Totally Successful Cuba Policy.

    Sounds like something you might hear on the fabulous website
    “get your war on”
    .

    Lots of lefty comments/jokes, but many are still laugh-out-loud funny, which is a good thing…

  4. Obviously, we have to continue to make constitutional sacrafices on our ongoing effort to irradicate communism. I am surprised these commies just don’t give up already!

  5. On the handful of times that I’ve traveled outside the US I’ve made a point of buying Cuban cigars. Just as a token protest against the most idiotic policy ever constructed.

  6. the most idiotic policy ever constructed

    Well, except for all the others.

  7. Would you believe there’s a document on the Treasury Department’s website that’s actually titled “Cuban Cigar Update”? And, in this case, you don’t even have to go to Cuba to violate the embargo — purchasing a Cuban cigar in Canada (or any other third country) is sufficient.

  8. Yeah, I went to Bermuda once and made a point of scoring some Cuban cigars.

    I imagine we’d have a rational Cuba policy if Florida wasn’t an important electoral state.

  9. I imagine we’d have a rational Cuba policy if Florida wasn’t an important electoral state.

    It doesn’t take a lot of imagination to figure that one out. You’d think the fact that the travel ban’s done squat to weaken Castro after all these years would loom a bit larger than it apparently does, though.

  10. I imagine we’d have a rational Cuba policy if Florida wasn’t an important electoral state.

    The interesting thing is that the support for the Cuba policy is not as strong among Cubans in FL as it once was.

    True there’s the “old guard” that has dreams of overthrowing Fidel and curses JFK daily, but many, especially younger ones, are more interested in staying in touch with family and sending money “home”. Not to mention that they’re smart enough to see that the policy’s a failure and on top of that the old guys are nothing but a bunch of political hacks.

  11. Someone from Reason ought to write to the gubmint, pretending to represent a branch of the Unification Church, and ask how many people you can take to Cuba.

    It might be educational to see how Moonies rate, compared to Santeria.

  12. Some would take the establishment of religion to mean that the state cannot itself establish an official religion. I lean towards that somewhat myself.
    As far as recognizing already established religions, I think that is necessary to prevent outright abuse of the current system. If everyone was a deacon in their own personal religion, that would seriously muck up the tax system.
    Given the choice to remove those tax breaks, I would probably remove them. Its not going to happen anytime soon, though.

    Does anyone know whether religious organizations are afforded extra privileges regarding travel to Cuba? I believe it is rather difficult to make a direct connection when you are a non-cuban. Does being an evangelist make that easier?

  13. WTF is our gubmint afraid of, you wonder? That somebody’s going to sacrifice a chicken and drink its blood on the boat ride down there? Hell, I was on a Caribbean cruise in September, and there was all kindsa chicken on the buffet 24×7, so what’s the difference?

  14. I’ve always found it interesting that the communist satellites were the US intervened most heavily to overthrow regimes (ie: North Korea, Cuba, Vietnam) are the few that today still remain communist, with some exceptions like Nicaragua or Grenada.

    Consider the fact that the opening up of China in the late ’70s, coupled by US engagement, has probably done more to advance capitalism than any Bay of Pigs has.

  15. I’ve always found it interesting that the communist satellites were the US intervened most heavily to overthrow regimes (ie: North Korea, Cuba, Vietnam) are the few that today still remain communist, with some exceptions like Nicaragua or Grenada.

    Very interesting observation indeed!

    Is it entirely a coincidence that radical Islamists enjoy some of their greatest popularity in countries where the thuggish rulers are close US allies? (e.g. Egypt and Saudi Arabia)

    I don’t think so. I think that when the local thugs are seen as good buddies of the US, the strongest elements of the opposition will be the ones that are most virulently anti-American.

  16. I’m sure there’s no correlation between the religious identification of a given Miami Cuban, Catholic vs. Santeria, with skin color, socioeconomic status or, most importantly, political affiliation.

  17. More generally, I think that when we limit our policy options to invading the place or subsidizing the thugs we limit ourselves to bad outcomes.

  18. Dammit sm, we’re supposed to be “colorblind”! How can you be colorblind if you keep noticing things?

  19. The problem with recognizing official religions is that, while it prevents rampant abuse of the disgusting tax-breaks we give to religious groups, it effectively cuts off legitimate religious expression for those groups not recognized. Church of the Lukumi Babalu Aye v City of Hialeah only made animal sacrifice for Santaria constitutionally protected 12 years ago.

    Sure, a Jew, Muslem, Buddhist, Hindu, Catholic, Protestant, etc, none of these people are likely to face any kind of religious discrimination and they make up the vast majority of religious people in the nation, but there are quite a few other people who fall somewhere else.

    Religions come and go, and the spiritual experiance is an intensely personal one. Freedom of conscience is included in the constitution because it is one of the most basic and cherished freedoms we have. No good can come from the government defining what is and is not an acceptable faith. Just as we tollerate the existance of tabloids and daytime talk shows so that “real” journalists arent threatened, just as we accept neo-nazis as a biproduct of a free political system, we have to accept alternative (or even fraudulent) faiths because the government does not belong between us and our faith (or lack thereof). Ok, so the beast gets denied some taxes, is that threat really so great that even one person should have their RELIGION abridged?

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