Hindu American Foundation Sues California State Board of Education

 

SACRAMENTO, Ca (Mar. 17, 2006) – The Hindu American Foundation (HAF) filed suit against the California State Board of Education (SBE) in California Superior Court in Sacramento yesterday. After months of repeated correspondence with the SBE and California Department of Education (CDE), HAF filed suit as the foundation contends that a fair and open process was not followed in adopting textbooks that introduce Hinduism to sixth grade students. HAF sued the SBE for failure to perform those duties required by the California Education Code and the Standards of Evaluation of Instructional Materials with respect to Social Content.

"Today Hindu Americans have taken a stand against not only the illegal machinations of the SBE and unfair treatment Hindus received during the textbook adoption process, but also the inaccurate and unequal portrayal of their religious tradition in school textbooks," said Nikhil Joshi, Esq., member of the HAF Board of Directors. "This is about treating Hindus in America and their religion with the same level of sensitivity and balance afforded to other religious traditions and their practitioners," continued Joshi.

The HAF complaint alleges that the SBE violated the law when it approved textbooks for sixth grade history-social science that tend to demean, stereotype, and reflect adversely upon Hindus; that portray Hinduism as undesirable; that hold Hindu beliefs and practices up to ridicule or as inferior; that inaccurately describe and characterize Hinduism; and discourage belief in that religious tradition. HAF identified five areas where the foundation holds that the staff recommended edits were not only inadequate, but also inconsistent.

HAF asks in the lawsuit that 1) the description of the role and status of women in Hinduism be neutral and consistent with the treatment accorded this issue in the context of other religions; 2) the description of the caste system and the social practice of "untouchability" be historically accurate and consistent with descriptions of social inequities in other societies that are falsely perpetrated by some in the name of religion; 3) description of Hindu theology and its understanding of divinity be consistent with the understanding of practicing Hindus; 4) Hinduism not be unfavourably compared with other religions or made to appear as a more regressive or archaic belief system; and 5) the text present the Aryan Invasion or Aryan Migration Theory as one possibility, along with the prevailing view among Hindus that Hinduism is indigenous to India.

On December 2, 2005, SBE's Curriculum Commission initially approved several Hindu edits that addressed these issues. The SBE decided to ignore the Curriculum Commission only in regards to the edits suggested by Hindu groups. HAF further argues that the SBE violated the California Open Meeting Act among other procedural violations when it made numerous private determinations that effectively subverted the public process. The Bagley- Keene Open Meeting Act requires that certain state agency meetings be conducted openly so that the public may remain informed.

HAF is seeking a temporary restraining order to halt the publishing of the textbooks until the issue of whether the textbooks meet the state standards have been resolved by a court of law.

"We’re dealing with hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars here," stated Suhag Shukla, Esq. HAF Legal Counsel. "We need to ensure that the suggested edits by the Hindu American community are given due consideration and that ultimately the text is fair and accurate before it goes to the print."

An emergency hearing for injunctive relief will be scheduled within the next week. A copy of the complaint and exhibits are available on www.hinduamericanfoundation.org

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