Cuba Crushes Homeschooling: Jails Pastor And Wife for Years, Others Recant
by Mike Donnelly • April 23, 2019
Cuban pastor Ramón Rigal and his wife Adya have been sentenced to jail terms of 2.5 and 1.5 years of jail, respectively, for homeschooling their two children Ruth, 13, and Joel, 9.
Other Cuban families have recanted their decision to homeschool and are sending their children back to school in order to avoid a similar fate.
Last week Home School Legal Defense Association reported the arrest of the homeschooling families and initiated a campaign asking the Trump administration to intervene at www.hslda.org/freerigal. Since then, Ruth Rigal gave a radio interview to Christian Solidarity Worldwide.
Several of the Cuban families expressed appreciation for the outpouring of support they received from the homeschooling community in the United States and other countries, even as they expressed regret over the situation.
“We thank you for your love and service and brave defense of the families involved in the situation in Guantanamo … but it now hurts us to say that we arrived at the point of being persecuted for not listening to the voices of the brothers, who were warning us that this would happen,” one father who wishes to remain anonymous wrote on behalf of the families.
It’s 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.
But no parent should be faced with such a dilemma. Cuba’s treatment of these families is unconscionable and unacceptable. International treaties to which Cuba has submitted requires respect for the rights of parents to decide how their children are educated and respect for their religious and philosophical convictions.
For a time the families, incredibly, were allowed to educate their children at home by enrolling them in a distance-learning program based in Central America. Whether the 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.
Last week Bolton gave a “fiery” speech calling Cuba part of a “troika of tyranny,” and calling Nicaragua, Venezuela and Cuba the “three stooges of socialism.”
Calling for Change
The new sanctions are meant to pressure Cuba and the others to change to how their governments treat citizens, and to foster a transition from socialism to a free society.
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.
Mike Pompeo linked the sanctions on Cuba to a broader attempt to affect other socialist regimes like Venezuela where people are suffering greatly under current state policies.
“The Cuban regime has for years exported its tactics of intimidation, repression, and violence,” Pompeo told reporters at a briefing about the new policy. “They’ve exported this to Venezuela in direct support of the former Maduro regime. Cuban military intelligence and state security services today keep Maduro in power.”
Cuba’ reaction to a few families enrolling their children in a Christian distance-learning curriculum shows how zealous and jealous the communist government is to retain iron-fisted control over the minds and hearts of Cuban children. And jailing a homeschooling pastor is like killing two birds with one stone; by jailing the pastor, the government silences a leader who preaches a message about loyalty to a higher power other than the Cuban state and also removes the possibility of children learning outside the communist classrooms.
How the families were able to homeschool at all is unclear—but for about a year they were able to do so without molestation. Did the regime not know? It’s hard to imagine since the Cuban state security makes it its business to know everything and tracks most, if not all, internet communications to and from the island.
No matter how the spark of freedom was lit, the tiny flame of homeschooling freedom that had sprung up in Guantanamo, Cuba—even under the shadow of the American base—has been snuffed out.
A Matter of Conviction
As of today, Ramón and Adya Rigal are prisoners of conscience. They have been jailed because their sincerely held religious convictions required that they homeschool their children—something that happens every day for 2 million children in the United States.
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.
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.
In championing the case of Ramón and Adya we also confront the world with the truth that homeschooling is, and ought to be, considered a fundamental right available to everyone everywhere.