Promoting religious freedom is one of the central objectives of United States foreign policy. It's grounded in America's commitment to advance respect for fundamental liberties around the world. Freedom to practice one's faith without government interference is a basic human right. This principle has played a vital role in American history and culture, as well as those of nations throughout the globe. Indeed, it is articulated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
To better inform its policies toward other nations, the U.S. State Department annually prepares a report on the status of religious freedom there. Its focus is to recognize government actions that protect and promote religious freedom, and to cite those that contribute to religious repression or intolerance.
In the Western Hemisphere, many groups reported improvement in the protection of religious freedom in Cuba, although significant restrictions remain in place. The Cuban constitution recognizes the right of citizens to profess and practice their creed, but in both law and practice this right is not always observed.
Most religious groups report increased ability to attract new members, hold religious activities and maintain and repair their houses of prayer. Some members of these groups, however, say they have been subject to government surveillance and occasional detention. In April of this year, police set up checkpoints at a Havana church attended by the Damas de Blanco who protest the plight of Cuba's many political prisoners. As a result of high level discussions with the Catholic Church, however, the government relented and the checkpoints were removed.
This year's religious freedom report reaffirms the U.S. government's engagement with faith-based groups around the world to address the issues that affect them. Our embassies will continue to support interfaith dialogue and will work with religious groups across a full range of issues. We will also continue to speak out against the curtailing of religious liberty wherever and whenever it occurs.