- The Washington Times - Friday, September 3, 2021

A group of parents in California sued the State Board of Education Friday over a proposed new “Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum” (ESMC) that would have public school students chanting affirmations to Aztec gods and invoking an ancient Nigerian Yoruba religious prayer.

Other critics have slammed the ESMC for allegedly indoctrinating students in Marxism and for promoting an antisemitic viewpoint. The state education board unanimously adopted the curriculum for the state’s 6 million-plus public school students in March, media reports indicate.

The lawsuit includes the text of the “Nahui Ollin,” described as a chant “founded on traditional Aztec beliefs, focusing especially on the four deities Tezkatlipoka, Quetzalkoatl, Huitzilopochtli, and Xipe Totek” as well as a reference to Hunab Ku, “an older Mayan creator deity.”

Also included in the curriculum is another “affirmation” dedicated to the Yoruba “divine force” known as Ashe. After sentences such as “Who is going to have a positive day?” or “Who will represent their people, this day?”, students are told to say, “Ashe!’”

The Thomas More Society and special counsel Paul Jonna of LiMandri & Jonna LLP filed the complaint with the Superior Court of California in San Diego on behalf of Californians for Equal Rights and San Diego county residents Eric Gonzales, Steve Houbeck, and Jose Velazquez, each parents of school-age children. The action came after the state board did not respond to a letter seeking the removal of the offensive items.

“The curriculum’s unequivocal promotion of five Aztec gods or deities through repetitive chanting and affirmation of their symbolic principles constitutes an unlawful government preference toward a particular religious practice,” Frank Xu, Californians for Equal Rights Foundation president, said in a statement. “This public endorsement of the Aztec religion fundamentally erodes equal education rights and irresponsibly glorifies anthropomorphic, male deities whose religious rituals involved gruesome human sacrifice and human dismemberment,” he added.

The ESMC lawsuit includes a section of “Affirmation, Chants, and Energizers.”  One invocation “addresses the deities both by name and by their traditional titles, recognizes them as sources of power and knowledge, invokes their assistance, and gives thanks to them.”

According to the complaint, “In short … it is a prayer.”

Mr. Jonna, the lawyer, noted in a statement that “both the California and the United States constitutions prohibit prayer in public schools – particularly prayers drafted by public officials.”

“Can you imagine if elements of the Christian faith were proposed to be included in the public school curriculum?” he added. “What if a class incorporated praying to the Blessed Virgin Mary, or even reciting the Lord’s Prayer?”

Other parts of the proposed new curriculum have already proved controversial.

The Jewish Journal, a Los Angeles-based publication, in an Aug. 16 commentary argued that said the curriculum’s authors “define Zionism as ‘a nationalist, colonial ideology,’ claim that there is a ‘current apartheid in Israel’ and that Israel’s ‘settler colonialism’ has ‘pedagogical importance’ and therefore must be included in California’s ethnic studies curriculum.”

Legislation mandating the ESMC in California schools is pending in the state Senate. A spokesperson for the State Board of Education told The Washington Times via email they could not comment on the lawsuit since the board has not seen it yet.

• Mark A. Kellner can be reached at mkellner@washingtontimes.com.

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