Aztec Prayers Dropped from California Public School Curriculum, Thomas More Society Announces

By Craig Bannister | January 17, 2022 | 5:11pm EST
Aztec Temple of  Quetzalcoatl
(Getty Images/Richard A. Cooke III)

California public schools will no longer be teaching students to recite Aztec and Yoruba prayers as part of the state’s Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum, the Thomas More Society reported Sunday, explaining that their attorneys have obtained a settlement in a lawsuit brought by parents and the Californians for Equal Rights Foundation, against the State of California, its Board of Education, and Department of Education.

“We filed the lawsuit after we discovered that California’s Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum, a resource guide for local school districts, included prayer to Aztec gods – the same deities that were invoked when the Aztecs worshipped with human sacrifices,” Thomas More Society Special Counsel Paul Jonna, partner at LiMandri & Jonna LLP said.

California schools had been instructing 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,” Jonna said.

The school prayers violated the California Constitution’s guarantee of “free exercise and enjoyment of religion without discrimination or preference,” the Thomas More Society argued in its lawsuit.

The Thomas More Society says that the Aztec prayer curriculum is “deeply rooted in Critical Race Theory and critical pedagogy, relies on viewing culture with a race-based lens and an oppressor-victim dichotomy.”

The Thomas More Society first announced its lawsuit last September, objecting to the California school curriculum including prayers invoking and praising five Aztec deities:

“The curriculum in question features the Aztec prayers in a section titled, ‘Affirmation, Chants, and Energizers.’ Among these is the ‘In Lak Ech Affirmation,’ which invokes five Aztec deities, acknowledges their power, asks for their help, and praises them. Additionally, the curriculum includes the Ashe Prayer from the Yoruba religion. Yoruba is an ancient philosophical concept that is the root of many pagan religions, including santeria and Haitian vodou or voodoo.

“Sociocultural anthropologist Alan Sandstrom, Ph.D., a professor and scholar with expertise in the culture, religion, and ritual of the Aztec and other Mesoamerican peoples, has submitted a declaration to the court supporting an order prohibiting the inclusion of these prayers.”

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