Cuban Pastor Jailed for Homeschooling Kids Told He Can Resume Work as Church Leader, but Can't Leave His House

(Photo: Reuters/Enrique de la Osa)Worshippers carry a statue of Jesus Christ during a Via Crucis (Way of the Cross) procession on Good Friday in Havana, April 6, 2012. Bells rang from Roman Catholic churches throughout Havana on Friday to remember the death of Jesus Christ as Cubans celebrated a holiday on Good Friday for the first time in more than half a century. The day off, granted at the request of Pope Benedict on his recent visit to the communist island, translated into quieter streets than usual, but only sparse attendance at a Mass in the city's main cathedral presided over by Cardinal Jaime Ortega.

A Cuban pastor who was jailed and later placed under house arrest because he and his wife began homeschooling their children earlier this year will now be allowed to resume his work as a church leader, a leading religious freedom watchdog group has reported.

According to Christian Solidarity Worldwide, a United Nation's accredited human rights organization, Pastor Ramon Rigal of the Church of God in Cuba made an appearance in court Tuesday where he was granted the right to resume his work for the church after he was initially barred from doing so upon his release from a correctional facility last month.

Rigal's troubles with the socialist government began in February when he and his wife, Adya, were arrested for refusing to send their children to a state-run school.

The couple felt that the teachings their children were receiving in the state school emphasised a Marxist-Leninist secular ideology that cuts down their Christian beliefs.

In April, Rigal was sentenced to one year in prison, while Adya was sentenced to one year of house arrest.

The Homeschool Legal Defense Association reported that during the trial, Ramon wasn't allowed to speak in his defense.

"I brought evidence that my children were learning — notebooks and materials — [but] they didn't care," Rigal was quoted as saying.

Rigal's prison sentence was reduced to house arrest in early July. CSW reports that the release from prison came with the caveat that Rigal enroll his children in state school in September. Additionally, he was barred from serving as a church leader.

CSW notes that even though Rigal has been granted permission to resume his work with the church, he and his wife are still confined to house arrest. Additionally, the issue with their children's education remains unresolved because the children have also been given scholarships to an online course through a Christian institution.

"While we welcome the news that Pastor Rigal will be able to continue leading his church, he and his wife are still under house arrest," CSW senior advocate Anna Lee Stangl said a statement. "We continue to call for the unwarranted sentences that he and his wife received to be cancelled and for the government to cease its harassment of the family and their church."

The HSLDA launched a petition earlier this year calling on the Cuban government to "stop violating families' freedom to homeschool." The petition has been signed by over 35,000 people.

"They are trying to force us to send our children only to state schools — not having the option for children to be taught at home," Rigal was quoted by the HSLDA as saying. "They should respect the right that parents have based on the human right to teach their children and to respect their faith and the right to homeschool."

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