Baptist Group Fights Fine For Cuba Travel

A progressive group of Baptist churches is fighting a claim by the U.S. Treasury Department that five of its member churches violated federal regulation on travel to Cuba.

The Religion News Service (RNS) reported that the Treasury Department issued a notice in early July to the Alliance of Baptists that several of the group’s member churches between 2003 – 2005 violated their Cuba travel licenses by not engaging in “full-time religious activity.”

The notice issued by the Department’s Office of Foreign As­sets Control accused the Alliance members of abusing their travel privileges because of “sightseeing and beach time.” The De­partment said The Alliance of Baptists faces a fine of $34,000.

The Rev. Stan Hastey, the group’s executive director, told the RNS that Treasury’s accusations were unfounded and that the group would appeal the department’s notice.

“We’re told that they engaged in substantial tourist activities and that’s simply not the case,” Hastey said. “They engaged, by any reasonable definition, in programs of full-time religious activity.”

The action against the alliance comes at a time when the Bush administration is tightening sanctions against Cuba, including blocking humanitarian aid from reaching the Cuban Council of Churches.