Oct 19, 2021

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Three California parents are suing the public school system for requiring students to pray to Aztec deities as a part of an ethnic studies curriculum.  

Chants and affirmations or prayers?

The prayer, referred to by the school system as the  “In Lak Ech Affirmation”, is included in Chapter 5 of the curriculum which includes a section of ‘Affirmation, Chants, and Energizers’ as part of California’s Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum  (ESMC) that teaches about “the histories, struggles, and contributions of Asian, Black, Latino, and Native Americans”. The ESMC is required for all high-school students.

The parents sent a letter to the state superintendent of public instruction requesting that the requirement be dropped, claiming that the required ‘affirmation’ was, in fact, a prayer: 

“Although labeled an ‘affirmation,’ it addresses [five Aztec 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. In short, it is a prayer,” the letter explained.

The curriculum justifies the chant by stating, “In Lak Ech translates as you are my other me and relates to our habit of mind, empathy, and also compassion, interdependence, ecology, love, and mutual respect.”

The superintendent failed to respond to the parents, leading them to file suit with the California Supreme Court on September 3. The Thomas More Society, a law firm specializing in conservative issues, is representing the parents, described the curriculum as “blatantly unconstitutional”. 

“The rituals performed by the Aztecs in relation to these beings were gruesome and horrific, involving human sacrifice, cutting out human hearts, flaying the sacrificed victims and wearing the skin, sacrificing war prisoners, and other inhuman acts and ceremony,” the lawsuit read. “Any form of prayer and glorification of these beings in whose name horrible atrocities were performed is repulsive to Plaintiffs and to any reasonably informed observer.

“Additionally, the Aztec Prayer is intended to involve all students in the classroom, forcing students to either participate in the prayer or elect not to participate and face the social implications of declining to participate, which represents a violation of such students’ rights to the free exercise of religion under the California constitution,” the lawyers argue. “Printing and disseminating the prayer also constitutes an improper government aid of religion in violation of the California constitution.” 

“The curriculum’s unequivocal promotion of 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 in a statement published on The Thomas More Society website. Xu called the ethnic studies curriculum “California’s Trojan horse of CRT.” CRT is the acronym for critical race theory, which asserts that race is not biological but instead is socially constructed to oppress people of color. 

Thomas More Society Special Counsel Paul Joanna said in a statement: “The Aztecs regularly performed gruesome and horrific acts for the sole purpose of pacifying and appeasing the very beings that the prayers from the curriculum invoke.

“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.’

“Both the California and the United States Constitutions prohibit prayer in public schools. Can you imagine if elements of the Christian faith were proposed to be included in the public school curriculum? What if a class incorporated praying to the Blessed Virgin Mary, or even reciting the Lord’s Prayer? How would that be received?”

Aztec human sacrifice

The deities referenced in the chant purportedly include Tezcatlipoca, Quetzalcoatl, Huitzilopochtli, and Xipe Totec. Tezcatlipoca was one of the major deities of the Aztec pantheon and was a master of black magic as well as tempting virtuous deities in sinning through lust and drunkenness. The spread of the worship of Tezcatlipoca introduced human sacrifice into central Mexico. n the Aztec religion, Huitzilopochtli was the deity of war and human sacrifice. Xipe Totec was believed by the Aztecs to be the god that invented war. The yearly festival honoring him began and culminated in the gladiatorial sacrifice of war prisoners who had their beating hearts ripped out and their skin flayed. The priests paraded around the city wearing these human skins. The festival culminated in fertility rituals.

ESMC: Anti-semitic

The curriculum also includes the Ashe Prayer from the Yoruba religion.

The ESMC is controversial and has gone through at least five drafts. The initial draft hinted at white privilege among the Jewish population, implying that Jews were the primary group with advantages.

The initial draft also referred to Israel’s 1948 War of Independence as the Nakba, the Arabic word meaning “catastrophe.” This is a term used exclusively by the “Palestinian” supporters who want to deny the legitimacy of Israel. The curriculum also included a song lyric that appeared to accuse the Jews of manipulating the press, a long-standing anti-Semitic stereotype.

One of the key authors cited in the curriculum, Paulo Freire, a Marxist who, in his book “Pedagogy of the Oppressed”, claimed that the principal, perhaps the only function of education must be as a political tool to train the “oppressed” to overthrow “white supremacy.”