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July 12, 2017

Homeschooling Pastor’s Jail Sentence Overturned

Homeschooling Pastor’s Jail Sentence Overturned

Mike Donnelly by Mike Donnelly HSLDA Director of Global Outreach

In a surprising move on Friday, July 7, a Cuban appeals court reversed the one-year jail sentence imposed on Pastor Ramón Rigal for homeschooling his children.

The ruling came just weeks after President Donald Trump announced his new policy that better relations between the United States and Cuba would hinge on Cuba improving how it treated of its citizens. It did not overturn Ramón’s actual conviction or his wife’s sentence of one-year of house arrest, but it did ensure that Ramón will not serve any prison time.

This is a far better outcome than I had expected. Based on my understanding of how Cuba treats its dissidents, I was increasingly certain that Ramón was going to lose and go to jail. I was delighted to hear that the Cuban appeals court refused to impose this manifestly unjust punishment.

Ramón and his family have expressed their gratitude for the outpouring of support from others around the world. “I am very grateful to everyone who has been praying and especially to HSLDA. International opinion has been key in this victory. . . . My wife is relieved that I will not be locked up, but September will soon be here and the local authorities will surely try to force me to put my children in school.”

Ramón originally pulled his children out of the Cuban public schools because they were being bullied and because he was seriously concerned by what the schools were teaching them. He tried repeatedly to work things out with local authorities, but they refused to listen. Ultimately Ramón and his wife, Adya, were arrested in February and sentenced in April.

HSLDA has been working to support the Rigal family and to help overturn this unjust sentence. We held a rally at the Cuban Embassy in May, and started a petition calling on Cuba to respect the pastor’s right to homeschool his children. The petition generated over 30,000 signatures.

Ramón has expressed his firm commitment to continue the fight for freedom for his children and others to quietly educate their children at home in accordance with their convictions.

“I will continue to fight and not give in to their impositions and I will not take the children to school,” he told me. “This fight must be continued until they let me educate my children quietly in my house or let me leave the country. They want to impose their injustice and how to make an example out of me so that others do not follow my example of homeschooling. If I am not allowed to homeschool here in Cuba, I wish the authorities would let me leave the country to go somewhere that I may.”

HSLDA commends Ramón and Adya for their courage. We will continue to call on the Cuban government to allow its citizens to homeschool in keeping with its international human rights obligations. Not jailing Ramón surely qualifies as better treatment—but the regime should also acknowledge the Rigal family’s right to homeschool their children.

Home education is the fastest growing form of education in the world because it is effective. Research shows that children who are homeschooled perform with excellence academically and socially. Home education is not a subversive threat to society and must be permitted by governments as an appropriate exercise of parental rights and a legitimate means for delivering an education to children.

Thank you to all of you who have already taken action on behalf of the Rigals. If you haven’t signed our petition yet, we encourage you to do that today. You can also visit our page on the Rigals’ case for updates on this story.