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May 23, 2017

Rally Pressures Cuba to Free Homeschooling Family

Mike Donnelly by Mike Donnelly HSLDA Director of Global Outreach

HELP THE RIGAL FAMILY

Ramón and Adya Rigal have been sentenced, but are appealing their conviction. We are asking our members and friends to join us by signing a petition to the Cuban government to respect the rights of parents to homeschool their children and to cease its prosecution of the Rigal family.

SIGN THE PETITION »

A rally in Washington, D.C. last week drew media attention and raised awareness on behalf of a family who is being persecuted by the Cuban government for homeschooling.

Dozens of activists gathered outside the Cuban embassy to demand justice for the Rigal family, whose fate has been uncertain since the parents were found guilty last month of violating Cuban education laws by homeschooling their two children.

Ramón Rigal was sentenced to a year in jail. His wife Adya was ordered to spend a year under house arrest. Both are still at liberty for the moment as they attempt to appeal their convictions.

As the Director of Global Outreach for Home School Legal Defense Association, I helped organize Wednesday’s rally to shed light on oppressive regimes like Cuba and call on champions of freedom to press for reform.

I reminded rally-goers that Cuba has signed treaties recognizing the right of parents to direct their children’s education. Unfortunately, under the ruling Communist Party, the state retains a monopoly over education to ensure children are indoctrinated according to socialist values.

Activists rally for the Rigals.

This hardline policy is all the more troubling in light of how Cuba came to terms with the former Obama administration in order to normalize relations with the United States.

Will Estrada, HSLDA’s Director of Federal Relations, echoed these concerns in his address to rally attendees.

“Our message to the Cuban government is to embrace the freedom of people to live their lives as they see fit,” he said. “Let the Rigal family educate their family according to what’s best for them.”

Estrada added that he hopes the Trump administration will rethink its diplomatic ties with Cuba if the regime continues to oppress families like the Rigals, whose desire to teach Christian values to their children contributed greatly to their decision to homeschool.

Cuban refugee Mario Leonardo said he especially appreciated all who had turned out to support the Rigals because he, too, had experienced religious persecution as a boy attending a state school in Cuba.

HSLDA has called on the U.S. government to grant the Rigals asylum. I recently wrote U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson asking him to intervene on behalf of the family.

Ramón also told me not long ago that he had made an appointment to speak with American officials in Cuba about applying for asylum. I have yet to hear whether he was permitted to keep the appointment.

Meanwhile, Ramón and his wife will continue to appeal their conviction. An attorney has agreed to represent them—which is an act of bravery in itself, considering how totalitarian governments such as Cuba do not take kindly to being challenged.

This fact was dramatically confirmed at the Washington rally, when staff at the Cuban embassy rebuffed our attempt to give them copies of an online petition hosted by Citizen Go. Thirty-one thousand people had signed the document asking Cuban officials to respect the rights of the Rigals—and others—to choose how to educate their children. Cuban diplomats wanted no part of it.

But we aren’t giving up. As Leonardo said (through his interpreter), “I believe the example of Ramón Rigal will be heard. It will have an impact.”

For more information visit our Rigal homepage.

Watch a video of the rally on Facebook.