P.O. Box 3000, Purcellville, VA 20134
|For Immediate Release||Contact: Michael Farris Jr.|
|April 27, 2017||(540) 338-5600|
Cuban Pastor Jailed for Homeschooling
April 27, 2017—Purcellville, VA
A Cuban pastor was sentenced to a year in prison on Tuesday because of his decision to homeschool his children. The three-hour trial concluded when the government prosecutor stated that homeschooling “is not allowed in Cuba because it has a capitalist foundation.”
Ramón and Adya Rigal decided to homeschool their children earlier this year but were arrested and charged with contributing to the delinquency of minors for failing to send their children to state schools. During the trial, Ramón was not allowed to speak in his own defense. “I brought evidence that my children were learning—notebooks and materials—[but] they didn’t care,” he 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.”
Ramón claimed that the trial was a platform for denouncing alternatives to state education, and the court relied on scripted testimonies from school officials to reaffirm that only trained teachers are qualified to teach socialist values. “Whenever I tried to bring up one of my witnesses,” Ramón said, “the judge would tell them to ‘get out of here.’”
Home School Legal Defense Association’s (HSLDA) Director of International Relations, Mike Donnelly, was distressed to hear the details of the trial, but not surprised. “It was just about what one expects from the communist courts of Cuba: anything but justice,” he said. “Their jurisprudence reflects a disregard for accepted principles of due process and the rule of law, as well as Cuba’s international human rights obligations.”
The Rigals have three days to appeal the decision, but HSLDA and the Rigals face an uphill battle finding attorneys willing to challenge the status quo in Cuba. “Communist governments do not appreciate lawyers who are willing to defend people whose human rights have been violated,” Donnelly said.
In addition to Ramon’s one-year prison sentence, Adya Rigal faces one year of house arrest. “We are only trying to do what is best for our children,” she said. “I do not want to be separated from my husband. Our children need him. Our church needs our pastor. My children are very sad and worried.”
Although Ramón would prefer to remain in Cuba, he hopes that the United States will offer refuge to his family since the Cuban authorities are determined to jail him rather than allow him to homeschool his children.
HSLDA has pledged their support to the Rigals and are encouraging supporters of homeschooling to send a message to the Cuban government by signing a petition calling on them to respect the Rigal family’s right to homeschool their children.