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Rightwing Lawyers Won't Let California Schools Teach Aztec Human Sacrifice Rituals To Kids :(
The crisis continues.
In a reminder that sometimes the wacked out emails you get when you're on WorldNetDaily's email list are sometimes worth opening, for laughs, I sure am glad I opened this, from the Thomas More Society, the rightwing culture-wars law firm that's out to sue America back to Christian morality. Hard to pass up a subject line like "California Department of Education Sued for Curriculum That Has Students Praying to Aztec Gods."
The email warns that, according to one of the group's lawyers,
The Aztecs regularly performed gruesome and horrific acts for the sole purpose of pacifying and appeasing the very beings that the prayers from the curriculum invoke. [...] The human sacrifice, cutting out of human hearts, flaying of victims and wearing their skin, are a matter of historical record, along with sacrifices of war prisoners, and other repulsive acts and ceremonies the Aztecs conducted to honor their deities. Any form of prayer and glorification of these bloodthirsty beings in whose name horrible atrocities were performed is repulsive to any reasonably informed observer.
So we looked at the complaint, and we hope you're sitting down gentle reader, because here's a surprise: The actual ethnic studies curriculum they're complaining about is very short on human sacrifice, cutting out of human hearts, and wearing the skin of human beings like a Silence of the Lambs cosplay. But there is a gripe about a supposed "Aztec Prayer," which could very well lead to all of the above!
The complaint isn't even about any central part of the proposed ethnic studies curriculum, but about a "lesson resource" chapter that's just chock full of Critical Aztec Theory. The chapter
includes various activities for children to perform, such as writing a poem explaining their ethnic and geographical backgrounds, or suggesting various museums that focus on the histories of various ethnic groups. This chapter also lists various "Affirmations, Chants, and Energizers"
Basically, they're grumping about some positive-thinking exercises meant to, as the curriculum guide puts it,
bring the class together, build unity around ethnic studies principles and values, and to reinvigorate the class following a lesson that may be emotionally taxing or even when student engagement may appear to be low.
Among the horrifying (and apparently optional) chants is an "Aztec Prayer" that has a lot of stuff about "agency, resiliency, & a revolutionary spirit that's positive, progressive, creative, native," which frankly doesn't sound terribly mesoamerican to us, but which does invoke the names of some Aztec gods, as well as hummingbirds, Venus, and "healing epistemologies, ecologies in life, home, streets, school, work, & life," like all good prayers do.
In much the way Christianists have always objected to anything that smacked of paganism , like yoga, meditation, or critical thinking, the complaint insists this is an actual bona-fide prayer of the Aztec religion because it "invokes" various Aztec deities, and because it is "intercessory," asking the gods to bestow a bunch of things like "the ability to become more realized human beings capable of listening to each other's hearts," and because this is a totally real prayer to actual Aztec gods:
The ancient Aztec religion is not a philosophy, dead mythology, historic curiosity, general outlook on life, or mere symbol. Rather, it is a recognized living faith practiced today both by descendants of the Aztecs and by others. Practitioners report ecstatic experiences and encounters with a "power from another plane of reality[.]" The fact that it is not large, institutional, or well-known does not change its status as a religion.
The curriculum notes that the chant is an "adaption of the Nahui Ollin , into poetic, rhythmic, hip hop song form," and as we note, it feels like the adaptation includes about as much self-help book as it does Aztec theology; probably more.
Tezkatlipoka, Tezkatlipoka, x2
smoking mirror, self-reflection
We must vigorously search within ourselves be reflective, introspective by silencing distractions and extensive comprehensive obstacles in our lives, (in our lives),
in order to be warriors of love, of love,
for our gente representin' justice, (justice)
local to global global to local ecological, & social, (social), justice (justice).
Quetzalkoatl, Quetzalcoatl, x2
the morning & evening star of venus double helix of human beings
fearless here it's, precious blessed
beautiful knowledge, gaining perspective,
on events & experiences our ancestors endured,
allows us to become more realized human beings learning
to be listening to each other's hearts and our elders with humility, dignity, indigenous
brilliance & wisdom in our hearts and our energies, remembering...
ancestral memories, planning, future trajectories,
la cultura cura, with remedies of knowledge,
healing epistemologies, ecologies in life, home, streets, school, work, & life ...
In all honesty, you could make a better case against this stuff on literary or anthropological grounds than by claiming it's bringing Real Aztec Beliefs into the classroom. We haven't read up on it in detail, but we doubt there was a lot of talk of self-actualization or ecological justice around the pyramids of Tenochtitlan.
The complaint includes separate sections explaining, at length, each of the Aztec gods' place in the culture's ancient religion, as spelled out in Encyclopedia Britannica, and eventually does note all the bloodthirsty stuff, too, although again, not really part of the curriculum.
Says the complaint, freely shifting between the semi-plausible idea that naming ancient gods might violate the First Amendment and the utterly absurd scary stuff,
Consequently, the Aztec Prayer is a prayer that favors religion over non-religion; it favors petitionary forms of prayer over religions that do not recognize such prayer; it favors religions that believe prayer should be public rather than private; and it favors religion that addresses anthropomorphic, male deities over those that do not.
The rituals performed by the Aztecs in relation to these beings were gruesome and horrific, involving human sacrifice, cutting out human hearts, flaying the sacrificed victims and wearing the skin, sacrificing war prisoners, and other inhuman acts and ceremony. Any form of prayer and glorification of these beings in whose name horrible atrocities were performed is repulsive to Plaintiffs and to any reasonably informed observer.
This is all very much against the First Amendment's establishment clause, the suit claims, because these are real prayers to real pagan gods, and are designed to inculcate students in the Aztec religion, in a classroom environment where they're expected to chant together or, who knows, be sent to the principal's office or perhaps have their still-beating hearts eaten by classmates.
We suppose that if we were attorneys for the state of California in this case, we'd probably just bring in a scholarly expert on Aztec religious practices to scoff at the "prayer" and say that real Aztecs would recoil in horror at having their gods' names attached to a lot of New Agey pop psychology. Bonus points if the expert transformed into a jaguar and ate the plaintiffs' attorney.
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