Law Firm Retained to Represent Hindus in California Textbook Efforts

Date: January 12, 2006

SACRAMENTO, CA - The Hindu American Foundation (HAF) has retained the law firm of Olson, Hagel and Fishburn, LLP of Sacramento, California to represent the Foundation in its interactions with the California State Board of Education (SBE). The SBE is currently considering a determination of the California Curriculum Commission that several edits and corrections of textbooks regarding the teaching of Hinduism to public school students be accepted.

The Vedic Foundation (VF) and Hindu Education Foundation (HEF) previously submitted extensive edits as part of a lengthy review process conducted by SBE and the Curriculum Commission. HAF became involved in the process when it became apparent that the SBE and its staff failed to adequately address a substantial number of the VF and HEF edits, and improperly allowed certain individuals to undermine the procedures available for public debate and resolution of these issues. The most recent example of this appears to have occurred at a January 6, 2006 meeting in which previous determinations of the Curriculum Commission were apparently re-opened and reviewed in a private session from which VF, HEF and HAF were excluded.

Although a final determination with respect to these matters may be made by the SBE at its February meeting, attorneys representing HAF are planning to appear at the SBE meeting January 12, 2006 and provide Board members with the attached statement.

"We believe that the Curriculum Commission of the California State Board of Education made its recommendations to the SBE based on an accurate understanding of science, history and the sentiments of those people in California that actually practice the Hindu faith being taught in schools," said Suhag Shukla, Esq., Legal Counsel of HAF. "It would be completely inappropriate - and we believe illegal - for those recommendations to be modified by the staff and Board members as the result of a closed meeting. HAF is committed to ensure that a fair and open process is followed, and the decision to retain counsel on this matter reflects our concern that the appropriate process is perhaps not being followed in this case."

A lack of communication from the office of the SBE to HAF regarding these concerns, despite numerous attempts, led the foundation to retain counsel.

"We are fully cognizant of how strongly our constituents feel about the textbook issue, and we at HAF are determined to utilize every possible option to ensure that the SBE process remains fair and impartial for Hindu Americans," added Ms. Shukla.

The Sacramento based law-firm will handle communication with the SBE on behalf of HAF and ensure that the concerns of the Hindu American community regarding textbook portrayals of Hinduism are conveyed. Attorneys at HAF continue to provide background material, the context of the current controversy and perspectives of the Hindu American community to the firm.

"Hindus throughout the United States are watching this process with concern since the results have broad implications for all Hindus. For many years, Hinduism was taught from a non-Hindu perspective. All that we are asking is that Hinduism be taught as per state law, which asks that the education 'Instill in each child a sense of pride in his or her heritage; develop a feeling of self-worth...; eradicate the roots of prejudice... and enable all students to become aware and accepting of religious diversity while being allowed to remain secure in any religious beliefs they may already have'", said Mihir Meghani, M.D., President of HAF.