A new California public school curriculum that directs students to offer pagan prayers and chants to five Aztec gods and a “divine force” of the Yoruba religion violates the California Constitution, the Thomas More Society says in a lawsuit filed against the state and its Board of Education.
The lawsuit was filed Sept. 3 in Superior Court of California in San Diego, on behalf of three California parents and the Californians for Equal Rights Foundation. The suit alleges the state’s Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum, approved by the State Board of Education on March 18, contravenes the free exercise and no-aid clauses of the California Constitution. The plaintiffs are seeking a permanent injunction forcing removal of the pagan prayers and affirmations.
Janet Weeks, director of communications for the California State Board of Education, said the department has not seen or reviewed the suit and would have no comment.
The model curriculum is provided to the nearly 10,600 public schools in the state that serve nearly 6.2 million students in grades K-12. Chapter 5 of the nearly 900-page curriculum offers nine pages of “affirmations, chants and energizers” meant to “bring the class together, build unity around ethnic studies principles and values, and reinvigorate the class following a lesson…”
The “In Lak Ech Affirmation” is an Aztec prayer invoking the names of Tezkatlipoka, Quetzalkoatl, Huitzilopochtli, Xipe Totek and Hunab Ku — five beings worshipped by the Aztecs as gods or demi-gods, the suit says. The Aztecs were a Mesoamerican people who lived in what is now central Mexico in the 14th through early 16th centuries….
On Aug. 26, Thomas More Society attorneys sent a letter to Tony Thurmond, state superintendent of public instruction at the California Department of Education, asking for removal of the prayers and affirmations. When no reply was received by Sept. 2, the lawsuit was filed.
Paul Jonna, special counsel for Thomas More Society and a partner at LiMandri & Jonna LLP, said the case “is about as clear cut of a violation as I’ve ever seen.”
The suit says the student activities are a violation of the California Constitution, including Article I Section 4 — The Legislature shall make no law respecting establishment of religion — and Article 16 Section 5, which states government aid of religion is prohibited. Further, the U.S. Supreme Court and the California Supreme Court have held that prayer in public schools is prohibited, the suit says, and prayers drafted by public school officials “are doubly prohibited….”
Jonna said despite the “feel-good phrases” in the chants, there is a deeper agenda at work that is anti-Christian.
“The people behind this are obviously anti-Christian,” he said. “I don’t think we need to prove that to win our case. All we need to prove is this is a prayer and they’ve endorsed this religion. Do I personally think these people are anti-Catholic? Absolutely. Is there evidence supporting that? I think so, yes. But it’s not really an issue we’re going to need to prove….”
The above comes from a Sept. 7 story in Catholic World Report.