Friends of Cuban pastor Ramón Rigal, who was imprisoned for educating his children at home, say officials are pressuring him to renounce homeschooling and his Christian faith.
Supporters insist that these attempts at coercion not only violate a treaty ratified by Cuba decades ago, but also rise to a level of injustice that all freedom-loving people should condemn in the strongest terms.
Targeting the Families
Pastor Rigal and his wife were sentenced to jail in April 2019. Soon after, fellow homeschoolers Golquis Almaguer and his wife were also imprisoned for homeschooling.
I have heard from several people who are close to these families that Pastor Rigal is being denied food and other necessities. Officials are also mistreating his mother and other relatives.
“The state security [officers] are confiscating medicine for Ramón’s mother and threatening family members who go to visit him in jail,” one friend informed me. “They are doing this … to get him to renounce his faith and his commitment to educating his children as Christians at home. Tell me this isn’t psychological torture.”
Strictly speaking, Pastor Rigal’s supporters are absolutely correct.
The United Nations Convention against Torture, which Cuba acceded to in the 1990s, prohibits government officials from inflicting physical or mental suffering on a person in an attempt to obtain something.
In this case, it appears Cuban officials are trying to extract a pledge from Pastor Rigal to comply with laws that force children to attend state schools. They apparently wish to make an example of him because of his influence as a pastor.
But Pastor Rigal and others initially resisted sending their children to state school because they did not want their students indoctrinated in Marxist ideology—which is founded on militant atheism. Punishing Pastor Rigal for wanting to convey religious values to his family, then, comprises a double violation of basic rights which Cuba promised to uphold in other international protocols.
What really angers friends of Pastor Rigal, however, is how officials are retaliating against him through the use of punitive restrictions.
“Ramón is only allowed one visit a month,” one of them told me. “We are simple, hardworking people who just want to bring him a little coffee, food and toilet articles. We have to save up a lot to afford these things that the state denies him.”
Cuban citizens also have a very limited ability to confront their government over injustice.
That’s why Home School Legal Defense Association is asking members and friends to help send a message to Cuban authorities that this sort of oppression cannot be tolerated.
We call on the Cuban government to release Pastor Rigal. If they don’t want him, then they should let him come to America. We also call on the United States government to condemn Cuba’s unjust imprisonment of Pastor Rigal and insist on his release.
Homeschooling is not a crime—it is a right. Any state that prohibits parents from homeschooling denies basic human rights and threatens freedom everywhere.