A group of parents is suing the state of California over an ethnic studies curriculum that encourages kids to chant and worship to Aztec gods. The parents claim the program violates both the federal and state constitutions.
According to Christian Headlines, a group of parents and taxpayers, represented by the Thomas More Society, has launched a federal lawsuit against the state. Californians for Equal Rights has also joined them.
Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum, an 800-plus-page document approved by the state in March and utilized by the state's public schools, is at dispute. The complaint claims that one of the exercises is a series of "affirmations, chants and energizers" that invokes Aztec mystical entities.
Thomas More Society special attorney Paul Jonna explained: "Our clients are not opposed to having students learn about different cultures and religions, including the practices of the Aztecs. But the California State Board of Education's approved Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum goes far beyond that by directing students to pray to Aztec deities. This portion of the Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum is not only offensive, but blatantly unconstitutional."
The complaint claims that one of the activities is an Aztec prayer, which "invokes five spiritual beings worshiped by practitioners of the Aztec religion."
Another exercise involves children participating in an "Ashe" chant or affirmation by repeating the word "Ashe," which is said to be the "divine force as recognized in the Yoruba religion.
The lawsuit states that children are instructed to repeat this name and other words in answer to different inquiries in order to create the mantra 'Ashe, Ashe, Ashe, Still I rise, Ashe.'
Using these exercises, according to the curriculum, may help "bring the class together, build unity around ethnic studies principles and values and reinvigorate the class following a lesson that may be emotionally taxing."
The lawsuit asserts that the "use of the prayers and chant violate the Establishment Clauses of both the U.S. and California Constitutions."
The Thomas More Society's attorneys are reportedly asking the California Superior Court for an order to prohibit Aztec prayers in schools.
According to the request for a Temporary Restraining Order, the state of California, as well as its educational agencies and officials, are prohibited "from authorizing, promoting, or permitting the use of Aztec prayers and the 'Ashe' chant in California's public schools."
Additionally, the administration must instruct anyone "under their authority" to abstain from utilizing the Aztec prayer or the 'Ashe' chant in state schools.
A specialist in Aztec and other Mesoamerican cultures, religions and rituals, sociocultural anthropologist Dr. Alan Sandstrom has made a statement to the court supporting a ban on the integration of these chants.
"I am very much in favor of the Model Curriculum's stated goals," he wrote. "However, I think its treatment of Mesoamerican culture in the 'In Lak Ech' affirmation is a mistake."
He emphasized that there's a lot of knowledge regarding Aztec culture, such as religion and ethics, is readily accessible and may be taught in educational institutions. He claims, however, that the inclusion of the "In Lak Ech" nullifies this as it exploits Aztec or Aztlan sacred rite to communicate a secondary contemporary meaning.
"In my view, there is no sound reason to invent an Aztec chant or to co-opt the elements of Aztec culture in this way. Doing so undermines genuine understanding and appreciation of these cultures," he said.