Los Angeles, California

17 Dec 2007

Michael Newdow joins CAPEEM’s legal team

Michael Newdow, a Sacramento based attorney specializing in Establishment Clause cases, has joined CAPEEM’s legal team and will argue CAPEEM’s lawsuit against California’s officials. The lawsuit objects to the derogatory descriptions of Hinduism and overwhelming doses of biblical indoctrination in history textbooks for sixth grade students. Newdow is known for filing the lawsuit challenging the words “one nation under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance. He will work with CAPEEM’s attorney Venkat Balasubramani.

“The process used to determine what religious materials should be placed in public school textbooks is highly problematic, inasmuch as it entangles government in determining religious ‘truth,'” said Newdow about California’s textbook adoption process. “Moreover, the content that has been approved by the State Board of Education clearly violates not only the religion clauses of the federal Constitution, but Article IX, Section 8, of the California Constitution as well,” he added.

That provision states that “[no] sectarian or denominational doctrine [may] be taught, or instruction thereon be permitted, directly or indirectly, in any of the common schools of this State.”

Newdow also stated that “the public schools are not to be used to as a stomping ground for those who hope to indoctrinate children with their preferred religious ideology.”

California’s textbooks contain topics like the Ten Commandments, Sermon on the Mount, and the Parables of Jesus. The books quote chapter and verse from the Bible, propagate creationist claims, assign dates to paranormal events described in the Bible and Koran, and present the resurrection of Jesus as a historical fact. They also ask students to read the Bible and match pictures depicting biblical events with corresponding verses in the Bible along with instructions to the teacher to give more information about the event described in the verses.

A disparaging tone is consistently used in case of Hinduism thus making the books violate the principle that they cannot further one religion over another. The books attribute the origin of Hinduism to a group of White Supremacists called Aryans, a claim that presupposes the truth of biblical events and has been debunked by scientific and archaeological evidence.

Hindu parents participated in the textbook adoption process and used scientific arguments against these books. However, a letter to the State Board of Education written on the official letterhead of Harvard University opposed those who presented the scientific arguments and defended the textbooks containing the biblical claims. Michael Witzel, a Harvard University professor who has written for self-admitted eugenicist Roger Pearson’s journal, coordinated his campaign to retain these textbooks with a religious group operating out of a church in Colorado. This information came to light when CAPEEM issued a subpoena to the Colorado based group.

Welcoming Newdow, Arvind Kumar, a Director of CAPEEM, pointed out that the dispute was in the interest of all Americans. “Mike is a great addition to our team as he is knowledgeable about Establishment Clause issues.While discrimination against Hindus and our demand for equality is an important part of the lawsuit, this dispute is more than a Hindu dispute and one for all Americans. It is about efforts to establish doctrines in Abrahamic religions as facts and to brainwash impressionable students. We need to oppose the bible-thumpers and prevent California from becoming part of the bible-belt,” he said.

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