Update: The Status of 2,000 AoG Churches Threatened with Confiscation in Cuba

In January 2015, approximately 2,000 churches linked to the Assemblies of God (AoG) denomination were declared illegal in Cuba under Legal Decree 322, putting them at risk of confiscation and, in some cases, demolition. CSW’s July 2017 report details a new development in the case.

In May 2017, the superintendent of the denomination was summoned to the Office for Religious Affairs (ORA), where government officials gave verbal assurances that the churches were no longer under threat of confiscation. While verbal assurances have been provided in the past have not been honoured, on this occasion a document was provided that officially rescinded the demolition order for one of the AoG churches.

At the same meeting, the superintendent received verbal promises from ORA officials that they would help legalise the churches that had been under threat. This is tentatively being considered a positive development, however it remains dependent on implementation.

It should be noted that while this appears to be good news, this meeting took place one week before the superintendent was due to attend a conference on international religious freedom held by The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association in Washington D.C. The officials at the ORA were aware of this and encouraged the superintendent to say that ‘there are no religious freedom problems in Cuba’. Worryingly, this could signify that the verbal concessions made by the ORA were merely an effort to manipulate what the superintendent was going to say at the conference.

Since May, there have been no further developments in the situation of the AoG churches. While it is good that the government has not done anything to indicate that they are reneging on their promise not to confiscate them, there has been a frustrating lack of movement towards the promised legalisation of the churches.

In addition, recent months have seen no developments in the return of church properties that were confiscated during earlier periods of open persecution. This took place for over three decades after the 1958 revolution, before a 1992 constitutional amendment which changed the official state religion from atheist to secular. After this, persecution became more covert, but churches that had been previously targeted received no compensation.

At present, Legal Decree 322 is still in effect in Cuba. CSW’s July 2017 report therefore makes the following recommendations:

  • Reform Legal Decree 322 to ensure it cannot be used to arbitrarily expropriate property, including property belonging to religious associations
  • Return church properties confiscated by the government, including under Legal Decree 322
  • Enact and implement legislation allowing for the legalisation of house churches, and for churches to purchase property or receive it as a donation transferred by the owner

CSW remains committed to the close monitoring of the situation to see if there are any changes, positive or otherwise, to the status of the AoG churches.


In Depth: The Process of Church Confiscations in Cuba

Update: In May 2017 CSW received further information on the status of the AoG churches. Please read the latest information here.


In August 2016, CSW’s latest report on Freedom of Religion or Belief (FoRB) in Cuba detailed FoRB violations including the destruction of church property, arbitrary detention and harassment of religious leaders, and the demolition and confiscation of church buildings.

There has been some misreporting in the media about the situation concerning churches belonging to the Assemblies of God (AoG) denomination, in particular the situation regarding 1,400 AoG churches that are in the process of being expropriated by the government; 100 of which are under threat of demolition.

As CSW’s report explains, between January and July 2016 there was a continuation of serious FoRB violations in Cuba: “In line with previous years, these religious freedom violations are predominantly carried out by Cuban government officials and the Office of Religious Affairs (the ORA), and take place in many regions throughout the island.”

“In 2015 around 2,000 churches linked to the Assemblies of God (AoG) denomination, the largest Protestant denomination in Cuba, were declared illegal by the government. 1,400 of these church buildings, many of which are house churches, are in the process of being expropriated by the government – despite the fact that the denomination has refused to sign the orders of confiscation. Although the government made verbal promises in early 2016 to the denominational leadership not to go ahead with the expropriation, neither the ORA nor the Ministry of Housing have made any effort to halt this process.”

No churches have yet been seized, as indeed the AoG World Missions has stated; however the process of expropriation is underway and the status of the churches has not officially been changed.

The legislation under which the AoG churches were declared illegal is Legal Decree 322. As CSW’s report states: “This legislation, which was announced on 5 September 2014 and came into effect on 5 January 2015, was supposedly established to regulate private properties and enforce zoning laws. However, it has been and is being used by government officials to seize church properties.”

The report also notes that government has failed to honour its verbal assurances to religious groups in the past: “The government has also failed to keep its promises to other churches and religious groups. The Maranatha Baptist Church, part of the Eastern Baptist Convention, was notified in December 2015 that the order for the confiscation of their church under Legal Decree 322 had been rescinded. They were informed that they would also be able to build a new church, as the current building is in poor condition and too small for their congregation of 800. However, the government has not followed through with the necessary permits for the new construction.”

In its report , CSW makes the following recommendations to the Cuban government:

  • Respond to increasing calls by many religious leaders and their congregations for better protection of FoRB, by abolishing the Office for Religious Affairs (ORA) and adopting legislation that facilitates the registration process and protects FoRB for all.
  • Reform Legal Decree 322 to ensure it cannot be used to arbitrarily expropriate property, including property belonging to religious associations.
  • Nullify the designation of 2,000 Assemblies of God churches across the country as illegal, halt the process of confiscating 1400 of those churches, and cease the demolitions of other church properties.

CSW stands with all religious groups in Cuba who are facing freedom of religion or belief violations.