Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said over the weekend that certain policies of President Barack Obama's administration reminded him of stories he'd heard about Cuban communist dictator Fidel Castro.
Speaking with Jon-David Wells of "The Wells Report," Cruz began by admitting that Obama hadn't yet "descended to the level of a communist dictatorship" and wasn't "committing the atrocities" that regimes such as Castro's were known for. He then said, however, that he noticed some policies "of a similar kind" between the two men.
"Let's take, for example, the policy of threatening service men and women that if they share their faith they will be court-martialed and thrown out of the military,” he told Wells in an exchange first caught by the Washington Examiner. "It is of a similar kind to the policies that are enforced in dictatorships."
Cruz went on to recall a story told to him by his father, who fled Cuba in 1957 before Castro took power. According to Cruz, during the communist rise to power, armed soldiers would come into classrooms and tell students to "close their eyes and to pray to God for candy." They'd then open their eyes and find no candy. Students would then be told to close their eyes again, and this time pray to Castro for candy. Upon opening their eyes, there would be candy on their desks, placed there by the soldiers.
“Integral to an oppressive government is undermining the faith in God and any other higher power that would distract from loyalty to the state,” Cruz concluded.
While Cruz's account of communist Cuba is interesting -- and one that has been used by other conservative Cubans to criticize Obama -- his criticism of the administration's policy on religion in the military is lacking key details.
The controversy began earlier this year after the Pentagon met with members of religious freedom groups to discuss proselytization in the armed services. Some outlets and lawmakers took this as a sign that the military was preparing to step up disciplinary action against religious speech.
In an article in Stars & Stripes magazine last month, however, Defense officials said that conservatives had misrepresented the nature of the Pentagon's policy in claiming that it threatened those who wanted to express their faith.
"Service members can share their faith (evangelize), but must not force unwanted, intrusive attempts to convert others of any faith or no faith to one's beliefs (proselytization)," Pentagon spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Nate Christensen explained in a written statement.