For Immediate Release
January 14, 2022
SAN DIEGO, CA – January 14, 2022- On January 14th, Californians for Equal Rights Foundation (CFER), along with three San Diego parents, reached a settlement agreement with the State of California, the California Department of Education (CDE), and the State Board of Education (SBE), in response to a lawsuit filed on September 3, 2021. Based on this agreement, CDE will promptly remove the two religious chants challenged in our lawsuit from the state-approved Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum (ESMC). CDE will also issue a public notice to all California school districts, charter schools and county offices of education. CDE and SBE have also agreed not to encourage the use of the two challenged chants in California’s public schools.
Our lawsuit challenged the Aztec and Ashe affirmations in the ESMC as violations of California Constitution’s free exercise of religion and no government aid clauses. We are represented by LiMandri & Jonna LLP, serving as Special Counsel to the Thomas More Society, a national public interest law firm based in Chicago, IL. CDE and other co-defendants agreed voluntarily to remove the two affirmations and settled while disputing liability.
“We are encouraged by this important, hard-fought victory. Our state has simply gone too far in attempts to promote fringe ideologies and racial grievance policies, even those that disregard established constitutional principles. Endorsing religious chants in the state curriculum is one glaring example,” commented Frank Xu, the president of CFER. “To improve California public education, we need more people to stand up against preferential treatment programs and racial spoils. At both the state and local levels, we must work together to re-focus on true education!”
“We filed this lawsuit after we discovered that California’s Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum, a resource guide for local school districts, included prayers to Aztec gods – the same deities that were invoked when the Aztecs worshipped with human sacrifices,” commented Paul Jonna, partner at LiMandri & Jonna LLP and Thomas More Society Special Counsel. “The Aztec prayers at issue – which seek blessings from and the intercession of these demonic forces – were not being taught as poetry or history. Rather, the ESMC instructed students to chant the prayers for emotional nourishment after a ‘lesson that may be emotionally taxing or even when student engagement may appear to be low.’ The idea was to use them as prayers.”
“Fortunately, the parties were able to work out an informal resolution – and the State Board of Education and California Department of Education voluntarily agreed to remove the prayers from the ESMC. The State agreed to do this while continuing to dispute any and all liability. Nonetheless, we’re pleased that the prayers have been officially removed from the ESMC. Our team of lawyers will aggressively pursue civil litigation against any local school district that violates the Constitution and incorporates these Aztec prayers in class – particularly now that the State has excised them from the ESMC,” added by Jonna.
On March 18th, 2021, the California State Board of Education approved the final ESMC, a model that is still deeply rooted in Critical Race Theory (CRT) and critical pedagogy, with a race-based lens and an oppressor-victim dichotomy. The Aztec Prayer component, titled “In Lak Ech Affirmation,” and the Ashe Prayer component are two particularly egregious examples. Furthermore, the prayers demonstrate the politicized championing of critical consciousness, social justice, transformative resistance, liberation and anti-colonial movements in the state-sanctioned teachings of ethnic studies.
“Today is a day of relief to know it took a multi-racial coalition of individuals with different backgrounds and beliefs to move a mountain to challenge the state education apparatus,” commented Jose Velazquez, a parent co-plaintiff. “Both the ‘In Lak Ech’ and the ‘Ashe’ affirmations repetitively invoke religious gods or deities, which should be deleted from any public education curricula because our education system is not above the law. It is up to courageous parents, citizens and organizations to stand up for what’s right!”
The settlement agreement represents a significant triumph for freedom and equality. Our lawsuit asked that the Aztec Prayer and the Ashe Prayer components to be removed from the ESMC. Notably, the Aztec Prayer repeatedly invokes, makes intercessory requests and gives thanks to five deities, namely Tezkatlipoka (God of the Night Sky), Quetzalkoatl (God of the Morning and Evening Star), Huitzilopochtli (God of Sun and War), Xipe Totek (God of Spring) and Hunab Ku (God of the Universe). The prayer has been found in actual classroom teaching in several individual school districts such as San Diego Unified School District and Salinas Union High School District.
About Californians for Equal Rights Foundation (CFER): We are a non-partisan and non-profit organization established following the defeat of Proposition 16 in 2020, with a mission to defend and raise public awareness on the cause of equal rights through public education, civic engagement and community outreach. In 1996, California became the first U.S. state to amend its constitution by passing Proposition 209 to ban racial discrimination and preferences. Prop. 209 requires that “the state shall not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting.” CFER is dedicated to educating the public on this important constitutional principle of equal treatment. www.Cferfoundation.org.