Pastor and Wife Arrested for Homeschooling Children in ‘Normalized’ Cuba

photo of pastor and wife
Courtesy Home School Legal Defense Association

A pastor and his wife have been arrested in Cuba for homeschooling their children, according to Mike Donnelly, director of global outreach for the Home School Legal Defense Association, a U.S.-based organization that has offered legal assistance to homeschooling families since 1983.

Donnelly wrote about Cuban pastor Ramón Rigal and his wife Adya, who were arrested on Feb. 21, on the HSDA website on Monday.

“The Obama administration argued that normal relations with Cuba would lead to improved conditions for Cubans,” Donnely wrote. “But things have not gotten better for homeschoolers.”

“We wanted the freedom to give our children the education that we, the parents, have chosen,” Ramón said. “As Article 26.3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights says, every parent has the right to give his children the education that he chooses.”

“The Municipal Office of Education in Guantánamo wrote to Ramón explaining, among other things, that ‘in our system, homeschooling is not considered an educational institution, as this term is basically used in countries with capitalist foundations,'” according to the Home School Legal Defense Association.

“The letter also stated that the Cuban penal code provides sanctions for a person who ‘leads a minor to abandon his home, be absent from school, refuse educational work that is inherent to the national system of education, or fail to fulfill his duties related to the respect and love for the homeland.’”

Donnelly said this stance violates international human rights law — something characteristic of totalitarian regimes like the one in Cuba.

“A government that denies parents the right to choose how their children are educated, including home education, violates fundamental norms of international human rights law,” Donnelly told Breitbart News.

In the article, Donnelly said Cuba should “meet certain minimum norms” to be part of the global community.

“If Cuba plans to join the community of nations, especially having a relationship with the United States, it should be expected to meet certain minimum norms in the way it treats its citizens,” Donnelly wrote in the article. “The right of people to establish private schools and to homeschool is a minimum expectation.

“A society that forces its children to learn only in public school is totalitarian and Cuba’s long history of totalitarian behavior in many areas including education must change now,” wrote Donnelly, who also sent a letter to the Senior Minister of Education in Cuba on behalf of the family.

He did not receive a response.

Donnelly pointed out in his article that the U.S.’s Cuban Democracy Act of 1992 states that U.S. policy should oppose the human rights violations of the Castro regime, to maintain sanctions “so long as it continues to refuse to move toward democratization and greater respect for human rights” and to “be prepared to reduce the sanctions in carefully calibrated ways in response to positive developments in Cuba.”

Donnelly also cited President Barack Obama’s 2016 memorandum that said normalizing relations with Cuba would help human rights.

“Our vision for U.S.-Cuba normalization reflects my Administration’s support for broad-based economic growth, stability, increased people-to-people ties, and respect for human rights and democratic values in the region,” then-President Obama wrote in the memorandum. “Our policy is designed to support Cubans’ ability to exercise their universal human rights and fundamental freedoms, with the expectation that greater commerce will give a broader segment of the Cuban people the information and resources they need to achieve a prosperous and sustainable future.”

“Ramón wants to be able to stay in Cuba to pastor his congregation. But it is no wonder that Ramón and his family, after being treated like this simply because they homeschool, have expressed a desire to seek refuge in a country that would respect their rights to educate their children,” wrote Donnelly, who called on the Cuban government to respect parents’ rights and the U.S. government to hold it accountable.

“A government that is unwilling to trust its citizens to homeschool is not worthy of trust from its citizens,” Donnelly wrote. “We call on Cuba to respect Pastor Rigale’s right and to end its prosecution of his family.

“We hope that members of Congress and the Trump administration will take an interest in this case and take action to defend the Rigals and others like them,” Donnelly wrote.


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