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Hindu Americans Object to Portrayal of their Religion in California Textbooks

Hindu Temple, Dallas, TX
Photo by: Andreas Praefcke – via Wikimedia Commons

By Ed Diokno
Views from the Edge

A Hindu American advocacy group filed a civil rights lawsuit in federal court last week against public school officials at the California Department of Education, State Board of Education, and several school districts throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.

The complaint alleges that Hinduism is not receiving the same degree of respect and treatment in California’s history-social science curriculum.

California Parents for the Equalization of Educational Materials (CAPEEM) and three community members filed a civil rights lawsuit in federal court Feb. 8.

“Hinduism is portrayed from a critical perspective, so I guess really what we’re asking for, is just be consistent,” said Glenn Katon, an attorney who filed the lawsuit on behalf of the Hindu Americans.

The curriculum framework adopted by the State Board of Education last summer devotes almost half the discussion of Hinduism to the caste system, which it portrays as a supposed Hindu religious belief. For every other religion, the SBE followed its policy of refusing negative examples that would instill prejudice — according to the lawsuit, there is no mention of negative interpretations of Christianity that supported slavery or condemned same-sex relationships.

The Complaint alleges numerous other ways the California curriculum treats Hinduism unfairly and differently from all other religions. Every faith except Hinduism is taught from the perspective of the believer, using the characters, narrative and values of the religion’s teachings. Hinduism is not described with characters and stories and is barely acknowledged as a religion at all.

“As a mother of two children in California public schools and a member of the Hindu community, I have seen the pain and embarrassment the current curriculum causes our families,” said Arti Kapoor of San Ramon, California in a statement issued by CAPEEM. “I hope this lawsuit will force the Department of Education to correct the discrimination we now face.”

Both the California Board of Education and the San Ramon Unified School District said they cannot comment on a case under litigation.

“Minority religions deserve fair treatment by the California public school system and it is clear that this curriculum discriminates against Hindus, which the Constitution does not allow,” said Katon.


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