As the US Senate prepares a resolution calling on Cuba to inject freedom into its society and release jailed homeschoolers, more parents have been imprisoned for homeschooling in the Caribbean nation.
Pastor Ramón Rigal and his wife Adya were sentenced to jail in April; his appeal has since been rejected by the Cuban “justice system.” We learned recently that Golquis Almaguer and his wife have also been imprisoned for homeschooling.
Almaguer, a member of Rigal’s congregation, was sentenced to one year in prison. He told me that as a Christian, he is motivated by his faith to homeschool.
“What is Christianity without Christian education from the cradle?” Almaguer asked me not long ago. “It is nothing. I am sure they will take me to a forced labor camp. Any support you can provide to me and my family will be gratefully accepted. I don’t know what will happen, but I know I and my family are in God’s hands.”
In Cuba the Communist party controls all the courts, and the rule of law is at the mercy of the totalitarian government based in Havana. Consequently, religious activity is closely regulated and children are required to attend state schools.
This is why the Rigals and Almaguers are suffering—for the alleged crime of teaching their own children.
Ruth and Joel Rigal, who are currently being cared for by relatives, are permitted scarce visits with their parents. They see their mother once a week and their father every two weeks.
Yet we have heard that Ramón and Adya feel strengthened by their faith and the knowledge that their cause is being championed by others around the world.
Dissent not Allowed
Few dare voice their support within Cuba.
When a Cuban lawyer tried to observe the Rigals’ trial, he was detained and severely beaten.
Lawyers in Cuba are supposed to uphold the socialistic views of the regime, risking everything if they defend a case against the views of the state. Thus, the Rigals were unrepresented in a court system too politicized for any sort of justice to rule.
HSLDA is committed to raising awareness of the unjust actions being inflicted on families such as the Rigals and to defending homeschool freedoms around the world.
Here in the United States, members of Congress have responded to Cuba’s persecution by calling for more freedom. Senators Mike Braun, Tom Cotton, Marco Rubio, and Ted Cruz sponsored Senate Resolution 215, which demands that Cuba release these families and other political prisoners and expand freedoms for the Cuban people. You can read the entire resolution on Senator Braun’s website here.
Calls for Freedom
Other federal lawmakers are also taking up the cause of Cuban homeschoolers.
Congressmen Alex Mooney and Mario Diaz-Balart recently issued a joint statement calling on the U.S. State Department to denounce Cuba’s crackdown on homeschooling—especially the unjust imprisonment of Ramón and Adya.
Mooney and Diaz-Balart wrote to Ambassador for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback and Assistant Secretary of State Kimberly Breier:
These appalling detentions reveal that the malevolent Cuban dictatorship does not respect basic human rights, including the internationally recognized rights to religious liberty and the ability of parents to decide how to best educate their children . . . . It is unconscionable that those courageous individuals who choose to homeschool their children in Cuba, as well as those with religious beliefs that the regime determines are a threat to its despotic grip on power, suffer imprisonment for acting on their deeply held beliefs regarding the best interest of their families.
You can read the letter in its entirety here.
Focus on Rights
This statement comes shortly after the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom issued a press release condemning Cuban authorities’ treatment of the Rigal family.
USCIRF Vice Chair Kristina Arriaga wrote:
This crackdown on Christians homeschooling their children is part of the Cuban government’s systematic assault on religion, which includes singling out religious leaders and activists for harassment and discrimination . . . . 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.
You can read the entire press release here.