(Image courtesy Pixabay)

(Image courtesy Pixabay)

A watchdog established by Congress charged Cuba’s jailing of a homeschooling couple is a “systematic assault on religion.”

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom said Cuba is “singling out religious leaders and activists for harassment and discrimination” in its treatment of pastor Ramon Rigal and his wife, Adya, for homeschooling their 13- and 9-year-old children.

“We urge the Cuban government to immediately cease all intimidation tactics and release Pastor Rigal and his wife along with others detained for homeschooling their children according to their religious beliefs,” said USCIRF Vice Chair Kristina Arriaga.

WND reported last week the Home School Legal Defense Association, which is defending the couple, believes the prosecution could be retaliation for new sanctions imposed by the Trump administration and calls them “prisoners of conscience.”

Mike Donnelly, HSLDA’s senior counsel and director of Global Outreach, said 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.

The commission explained the Rigals had been homeschooled because of their religious beliefs and concern about Cuban schools’ “promotion of socialism and atheism.”

“USCIRF is further alarmed that Roberto Jesus Quinones Haces, an independent lawyer who wanted to observe the trial, was detained and severely beaten. Two other fathers were recently detained for enrolling their children in the same program as Pastor Rigal’s family,” the commission said in a statement.

The organization is an independent, bipartisan federal government entity established by Congress to monitor, analyze and report on threats to religious freedom abroad.

It annually provides to the president and secretary of state a list of “countries of particular concern” that systematically persecute religious believer and recommends penalties, such as economic sanctions.

WND reported the parents were 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.

WND reported concern that the Rigals’ fate could be affected by the president’s demand that Cuba respect human rights.

The Trump administration recently eliminated several policies established by President 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.”

Bolton outlined new policies in a speech in Florida.

The policies 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 the country 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.

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.

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