Parents and a civil rights group are asking a court to force California to immediately halt Aztec prayers in public school classrooms that are required by the California State Board of Education’s Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum.
This novel curriculum includes a section on “Affirmation, Chants, and Energizers.” Among these is the “In Lak Ech Affirmation,” which invokes five Aztec deities—Tezkatlipoka, Quetzalcoatl, Huitzilopochtli, Xipe Totek, and Hunab Ku. The pagan prayers address the deities both by name and traditional titles, recognize them as sources of power and knowledge, invoke their assistance, and give them thanks.
Aztec religious practices included the cutting out of human hearts and the flaying of victims and wearing of their skin.
“Our clients are not opposed to having students learn about different cultures and religions, including the practices of the Aztecs,” said Paul Jonna, partner at LiMandri & Jonna LLP and special counsel for the Thomas More Society, a national public interest law firm. “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 lawsuit, Californians for Equal Rights Foundation v. State of California, was filed Sept. 3 in the Superior Court of California, County of San Diego, by the Thomas More Society. The other plaintiffs are Eric Gonzales, Steve Houbeck, and Jose Velazquez, all of whom are parents who now have or had children enrolled in public schools in California. The application for a temporary restraining order was filed on Sept. 24 and is scheduled to be heard by Judge Eddie C. Sturgeon on Oct. 7.
“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, president of Californians for Equal Rights Foundation, said when the lawsuit was launched.
“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.”
Sociocultural anthropologist Alan Sandstrom, a scholar with expertise in the culture, religion, and rituals of the Aztec and other Mesoamerican peoples, filed a declaration with the court supporting an order prohibiting the inclusion of the prayers.
“Having reviewed the ‘In Lak Ech’ affirmation, I can say it is a modern creation that borrows elements of the Aztec religion. It would be of no real value in learning about the Aztec people or culture of the past or today.”
According to the legal complaint, the State Board of Education appointed R. Tolteka Cuauhtin, a co-author of the 2019 book “Rethinking Ethnic Studies,” to chair a committee tasked with developing an “ethnic studies model curriculum” (ESMC). In his book, Cuauhtin “demonstrates an animus towards Christianity and Catholicism—claiming that Christians committed ‘theocide’ (i.e., killing gods) against indigenous tribes.” In March, the Board of Education approved the ESMC.
The curriculum also includes the “Ashe Affirmation,” which “invokes the divine forces of the Yoruba religion four times—honoring this divine force and seeking assistance for the school day,” the complaint states. Yoruba is “an ancient philosophical concept that is the root of many pagan religions, including santeria and Haitian vodou or voodoo,” according to the Thomas More Society. It reportedly has 100 million believers worldwide in West Africa, Brazil, Colombia, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guyana, and in Caribbean nations.
The Epoch Times reached out to California Attorney General Rob Bonta, a Democrat, for comment but didn’t receive a reply by press time.