Experts at the world’s foremost advocacy organization for homeschooling, the Home School Legal Defense Association, say a homeschooling Cuban father’s hope to remain out of jail may rest with the Trump administration’s recent policy change.
WND reported last month when Ramon Rigal and his wife, Adya, went to court in the island nation on government charges they were homeschooling their children.
Both were convicted and he was ordered to a year in jail; she to a year of home detention.
They have appealed and now have been notified of a hearing in their case set for July 5.
In a note to HSLDA, Rigal explained he and his family are waiting for the results of the appeal.
“It was so strange to see the brutal injustice before our noses and be unable to do anything or say anything in a country that flaunts its achievements, its justice, and brags unreasonably about the achievements of the revolution,” he said. “Where is that transparent justice that they so demand?”
WND reported that at trial, Ramon Rigal was not allowed to speak.
The couple began homeschooling last winter because their children were being bullied at Cuba’s public schools, and they also were being taught ideas that contradicted the family’s values.
HSLDA pointed out that international pressure could help the couple.
“President Donald Trump recently announced that he will condition U.S. relations with Cuba on that country’s respect for human rights,” HSLDA said in a report. “The willingness of a nation to recognize the authority and responsibility of parents to direct the education of their children is clearly established in the United States and in international human rights laws. In 2008, Cuba signed treaties that obligate it to respect these rights.
“A country’s treatment of homeschooling is a barometer of that nation’s commitment to true freedom. A state that forces children to learn state-approved values in state-run schools is tyrannical and totalitarian.”
The report said Cuba “can demonstrate its willingness to improve its treatment of citizens by allowing the Rigal family to either homeschool their children or to freely leave the country.”
“The Trump administration can demonstrate its commitment to freedom by bringing the matter to the attention of Cuban diplomatic and governing authorities and requesting they act favorably to the Rigal family.”
After an earlier development in the case, Mike Donnelly, the director of global outreach for HSLDA, said Americans “care about what happens to people in Cuba.”
“If Cuba is going to have normal relations with the United States, then the Cuban government should know that homeschooling is an option that must be allowed,” he said.
It was President Obama who reopened relations with the communist regime running Cuba. Among the concessions he granted the regime was to no longer grant asylum to Cubans who reach U.S. shores seeking freedom.
“Homeschooling is a fundamental right protected by our Constitution and all major human rights treaties,” said Donnelly. “Cuba is a party to these treaties and must answer for violating the rights of the Rigal family.”
The few places in the world that still crack down on homeschooling include Germany, which has never abandoned a law dating back to its Nazi era, and some Scandinavian countries.
HSLDA and CitizenGo also have created an online petition to call on the Cuban government to correct the human-rights abuse.
HSLDA noted Ramon Rigal’s concerns: “Today I talked to my lawyers, and I know they will not offer a good defense. They will not respond to international complaints, cancel the trial and withdraw their accusations because they are not interested in human rights. Here, they do what they want.
“In other words, unless someone does something, Pastor Ramón is going to jail,” HSLDA said, even though Cuba has signed treaties that obligate it to respect the rights of parents to direct their children’s education.
At trial, the evidence that Cuba’s constitution and international agreements allow homeschooling was ignored by the judge, HSLDA said.
“When I tried to tell the judge about my evidence or to say that the government was acting unfairly, the judge told me that if I continued to speak she would have me removed from the courtroom,” Ramon told Donnelly.
He said that when he tried to call a witness to testify, the judge told the witness to “get out of here.”
Donnelly said the judge instead used “what appeared to be scripted presentations from state employees,” such as a school “psychologist” and a probation officer.
They testified that “only trained teachers are qualified to inculcate socialist values.”
Further, the prosecutor said homeschooling is not allowed in Cuba because the practice “has a capitalist foundation.”
The result, Donnelly concluded, “was just about what one expects from the communist courts of Cuba – anything but justice.”
The family already has requested asylum in the United States.