Cuba prohibits pastor from leading church as punishment for homeschooling kids

Cuba is punishing a Christian pastor for homeschooling his children by barring him from church leadership and assigning him to a new job which involves checking local houses' water supply for mosquitoes, U.K.-based religious freedom advocacy group Christian Solidarity Worldwide said.

(REUTERS / Enrique de la Osa)The Cuban flag flies in Havana. April 14, 2015.

In February, Pastor Ramon Rigal and his wife decided to homeschool their two children after they were bullied in school. The couple also explained that the Marxist-Leninist atheist ideas being taught in classrooms were against their family's beliefs and values, The Christian Post detailed.

"This is a great injustice," Pastor Rigal said. "They are trying to force us to send our children only to state schools — not having the option for the children to be taught at home. 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."

Last month, International Christian Concern learned that Rigal, a pastor for the Iglesia de Dios en Cristo, was placed under house arrest and sentenced to a year of heavy labor as his punishment for homeschooling his children. His friend, Pastor Mario F. Barroso, said Cuba usually chooses to assign recipients of this "forced punishment" to a ranch or farm.

Now, CSW said Guantanamo Province officials have told Pastor Rigal that he can no longer lead his congregation. Instead, he now has to check for mosquitoes in local residents' water supply. His wife was earlier sentenced to house arrest for a year.

CSW denounced the Rigals' punishment as unwarranted, saying it forced the family to experience hardship. The group also described the pastor's new assigned job as a "longstanding tactic of the government to ratchet up the pressure on church leaders and activists" who oppose the state.

In light of the situation, CSW Senior Advocacy Officer for the Americas, Anna Lee Stangl, is calling on the Cuban government to repeal the Rigals' sentences. She also urged authorities to allow the pastor to continue functioning as the leader of his congregation.