For Immediate Release
September 3, 2021
SAN DIEGO, CA – September 3, 2021- On September 3, 2021, Californians for Equal Rights Foundation (CFER), along with three San Diego parents, filed a lawsuit against the State of California, the State Board of Education, the State Department of Education, and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond in his official capacity. The lawsuit challenges the state-approved Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum (ESMC) and particularly the Aztec and Ashe affirmations in the ESMC as a violation of California Constitution’s free exercise of religion and no government aid clauses. We are represented by a group of San Diego lawyers affiliated with the Thomas More Society, a national public interest law firm dedicated to safeguarding freedom of speech, traditional family values and parental rights.
“The ESMC’s unequivocal promotion of five Aztec gods and the Yoruba religion through repetitive chanting and affirmation of their symbolic principles constitutes an unlawful government preference toward a particular religious practice,” commented Frank Xu, President of CFER. “This public endorsement of the Aztec and Yoruba religions fundamentally erodes equal education rights and irresponsibly glorifies anthropomorphic, male deities whose religious rituals involved gruesome human sacrifice and human dismemberment. Alarmingly, this is only the tip of the iceberg with the ESMC being California’s trojan horse of CRT!”
“Our clients have both a religious and civic objection to the Aztec prayer, and they do not want their children chanting it, being asked or pressured to do so, or risking ostracism if they refuse,” commented Paul Jonna, partner at LiMandri & Jonna LLP and Thomas More Society Special Counsel. “Under both the California and United States Constitutions, they have the right to expect all branches of the state government, including the State Board of Education and the Department of Education, to respect this choice. Furthermore, all Californians have the right to expect that tax-supported public schools will not aid or promote this religion.”
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 glaring examples of ESMC’s unconstitutional and CRT-based nature. Furthermore, the prayers demonstrate ESMC’s politicized championing of critical consciousness, social justice, transformative resistance, liberation and anti-colonial movements in the teaching of ethnic studies.
“While we recognize the values of teaching history, cultures and world religions in our schools, we firmly oppose biased instruction materials and methods that favor any particular belief, religion or religious faction,” said Jose Velazquez, a parent co-plaintiff. “As a Latino American, I want our diverse cultures and history to be celebrated without elevating any religious activity. The religious prayers in ESMC are by no means representative of our proud Hispanic heritage.”
The lawsuit asks 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 promoted by several individual school districts including the state’s two largest school districts—Los Angeles Unified School District and San Diego Unified 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.