Federal Court Holds California Education Guidelines Not Anti-Hindu

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The US Court of Appeals held that the 2016 guidelines for education in the State of California are not discriminatory against Hinduism. An action was brought by parents of Hindu children in the California public schools.

Background 

The California Parents for the equalization of Educational Materials (CAPEEM), alleged discrimination against the Hindu religion in the content of the History-Social Science Standards Framework for sixth and seventh graders. The District Court had held that this was an indirect attack on the curricula. 

Clauses in Use 

The First Amendment has two provisions concerning religion: the Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause. The Establishment clause prohibits the government from “establishing” a religion. The Free Exercise Clause protects citizens’ right to practice their religion as they please, so long as the practice does not run afoul of a “public morals” or a “compelling” governmental interest. The Equal Protection Clause provides that no state shall deny to any person the equal protection of the laws.

Arguments 

The main contention of the appellants is that curriculum materials carried a hostile and denigrating message about the origins of Hinduism when compared with similar provisions relating to other religions of the world. The appellants claimed the violation of the Equal Protection clause, the Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses of the First Amendment but the panel dismissed their claims. The panel noted that at least absent evidence of unlawful intentional discrimination, parents are not entitled to bring Equal Protection claims challenging curriculum content. 

Court’s Opinion 

The Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment, the panel held that the complaint did not allege interference with Appellants’ exercise of their religion under the Constitution as required for a viable Free Exercise claim. Addressing the First Amendment Establishment clause claims, the panel held that it must evaluate the Standards and Framework from the perspective of an objective and reasonable observer. The panel further concluded that none of the Appellants’ characterizations of the Hinduism materials as disparaging was supported with the reading of those materials.

Court’s Decision 

Agreeing with the District Court’s verdict the Appellate Court held that “We agree with the district court that the challenged content of the Standards and Framework, and process leading up to the Framework’s adoption, did not disparage or otherwise express hostility to Hinduism in violation of the Constitution.”


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