Sunday, July 16, 2017

Establishment Clause Challenge To Portrayal of Hinduism In California Schools May Proceed

In California Parents for the Equalization of  Educational Materials v. Torlakson, (ND CA, July 13, 2017), plaintiffs challenge the treatment of Hinduism in the Standards and the Framework for history and social science courses taught in the California public schools.  They claim discrimination against Hinduism as compared to the treatment of other religions.  A California federal district court last week held that plaintiffs had stated a claim under the Establishment Clause.  The court relied on impressions of one sixth-grader to support its conclusion that the curriculum may have favored other religions over Hinduism:
The primary message that sixth grade student received was that her teacher and classmates considered Hinduism “cruel,” “primitive and unjust,” and that Hinduism had not been treated with “fairness and dignity.” ... The student formed this impression based in large part on the Framework’s content, which emphasized that the caste system was a part of Hinduism. 
The court however dismissed plaintiffs' equal protection challenge, holding that the equal protection clause may not be used to challenge the content of school curriculum.  The court also rejected plaintiffs' claims of discrimination in the process of adopting the curriculum Framework, as well as free exercise and substantive due process challenges. Courthouse News Service reports on the decision.