The communist Cuban government, in what could be retaliation for new sanctions imposed by the Trump administration, has jailed a Christian pastor and his wife who were homeschooling their 13- and 9-year-old children.
The Home School Legal Defense Association, which has been defending Ramon and Adya Rigal for several years, said the couple “are prisoners of conscience.”
Mike Donnelly, HSLDA’s senior counsel and director of Global Outreach, they have been jailed “because their sincerely held religious convictions required that they homeschool their children – something that happens every day for two million children in the United States.”
Ramon was sentenced to two and a half years prison and Adya one and a half.
WND reported the parents was sentenced in May 2017 for homeschooling, but an appeals court surprisingly reversed the prison time imposed.
They decided to homeschool after their children were bullied at Cuba’s public schools and were being taught concepts that conflicted with the family’s Christian values.
At the time, WND reported there was concern that the Rigals’ fate could be affected by the president’s demand that Cuba respect human rights.
Last week, the Trump administration pulled back several policies established by Barack Obama that provided benefits to the communist regime.
National Security Adviser John Bolton also announced new sanctions against Venezuela and Nicaragua, describing the nations, along with Cuba, as “three stooges of socialism.”
The changes include restrictions on non-family travel to Cuba and capping the funds that can be sent from the U.S. to Cuba to $1,000 per family per quarter.
Bolton also announced the expansion of prohibitions on direct financial transactions with companies related to the communist nation’s military or security services.
Bolton was not conciliatory.
“While the last administration wanted to improve relations with the tyrants in Havana, and to convince the world that they posed no threat, the Cuban regime tightened its grip and extended its tentacles,” he said. “These new measures will help steer American dollars away from the Cuban regime, or its military and security services.”
The Trump administration also said Cubans who fled Fidel Castro’s regime will be allowed to sue companies that have used their former property on the island.
HSLDA has launched a campaign to publicize Cuba’s persecution of the Rigals and urge President Trump to intervene.
Donnelly said that for a time after the 2017 appeals court decision vacating the prison sentences, several families were allowed to homeschool.
Other families, when the Rigals were taken into custody, decided to return their children to public schools, he explained, to avoid similar punishment.
“Whether the [new] crackdown on homeschooling is linked to U.S. President Donald Trump and national security advisor John Bolton’s outlined steps to reimpose sanctions on Cuba is unclear,” Donnelly said.
“This summary arrest and imprisonment of Ramón Rigal and his wife over homeschooling is exactly the kind of treatment the U.S. administration should be concerned about.”
He said the parents’ decision is “an easy decision to understand.”
“When faced with the ‘choice’ of being sentenced to prison for years, not being able to support one’s family, and having one’s children turned over to an orphanage and not being permitted to escape from the country, most parents would make the same decision.”
He noted that there had been signs of trouble, and HSLDA booked flights for the Rigals to leave Cuba. The government stepped in at the last minute and blocked their exit.
See the family’s comments before the incarceration:
“An attack on homeschooling freedom a mere 90 miles from our shores that is not acknowledged as such is an attack on the freedom of every homeschooling parent, everywhere. Join us in calling on the United States government, and other governments, to acknowledge this violation of the rights of the Rigals and these other families,” Donnelly said.
“Even if we can’t make Cuba release the family and allow homeschooling, we can make sure that they know we are watching, and we can petition our governments to intervene and take steps to bring this case to the attention of higher authorities.”
Donnelly pointed out that Cuba has ratified a number of international treaties “that recognize certain fundamental human rights — including the right of citizens to live according to their religious convictions and of parents to direct the education of their children. Cuba has pledged to protect these rights. Now it needs to honor this promise.”
There are a few places in the world that still crack down on homeschooling, including Germany, which has never abandoned a law dating back to its Nazi era. In some Scandinavian countries, authorities have taken children away from their parents over the issue, destroying the families.