California Parents Sue to Stop Public Schools From Letting Students Pray to Aztec Gods

Photo: (Photo : PEDRO PARDO/AFP via Getty Images)

A group of California parents filed a lawsuit against the public school system, which has asked the students to recite prayers addressing Aztec gods who demand human sacrifices under its ethnic studies curriculum.

According to Fox News, the California public school system approved its new Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum in March for implementation in the new school year. The course has a section asking students to chant prayers to Tezkatlipoka, the Aztec god honored by making human sacrifices. However, three parents told the San Diego courts that the chanting is "blatantly unconstitutional."

The counsels of the California parents under Thomas More Society said that they are not opposed to their kids learning about other cultures and religions. However, they believe that the California Board of Education went beyond their directives after asking students to recite "Nahui Ollin," a religious prayer addressing one of the Aztec gods.

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The curriculum also includes an affirmation of a "divine force" called Ashe and references to Hunab Ku, a creator deity or the Supreme Being in the Aztec Culture. While teaching other religions is appropriate and inclusive, the parents also said that asking the students to say the prayers is "offensive."

No Response to Remove Curriculum

The lawsuit comes after the California Board of Education failed to respond to the California parents -- Eric Gonzales, Steve Houbeck, and Jose Velazquez -- who wrote a letter asking to remove the particular school requirement.

Californians for Equal Rights Foundation president, Frank Xu, supported the removal as it suggested "an unlawful government preference toward a particular religious practice." Xu also said that maintaining these aspects of prayer in the curriculum appears to endorse the Aztec religion and the glorification of rituals involving "gruesome human sacrifice and human dismemberment."

Purdue University anthropology professor Dr. Alan Sandstrom also attached his name in the lawsuit and said that he sees the goals of the curriculum but believes including the chants was a "mistake." The professor said that the particular religious activity is not fit for public schools. Their lawyers also pointed out that reciting prayers in public, regardless of religion or faith, is prohibited in state schools.

For Student Engagement

Under the Lesson Resources for the curriculum, the school board believes that the activities will improve student engagement, energize the children and unite their understanding of ethnic principles and values. Scott Roark of the state's Department of Education said that the chants are not mandatory and they are not forcing the students to invoke the Aztec gods. He has also refused to comment on the lawsuit since he needs to review the complaints.

Nolan L. Cabrera, a professor at the University of Arizona, believes that the lawsuit is a "concerted attack on ethnic studies," and it's senseless for some California parents to think that the school is "trying to establish the Aztec religion." The professor said that the curriculum is a cultural affirmation, especially for many students exposed to their Chicano heritage.

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