June 2021 Church & State Magazine | AU Bulletin

The U.S. Supreme Court will not hear a case from California brought by a Hindu group that claimed that the faith is portrayed inaccurately in the state’s history and social-studies standards.

The high court declined the case April 26. It had been brought by a group called California Parents for the Equalization of Educational Materials, which asserted that the standards portrayed Hinduism in a negative light as opposed to other religions.

Hindu parents asserted that the standards, which date from 1998, put undue emphasis on the role of violence and invasions in the origins of the faith. In court, they argued that this portrayal violated the religious-freedom provisions of the First Amendment.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against the parents in September of 2020. The court held that while the parents may have been offended by the lessons, that did not interfere with their ability to practice their religion.

“Appellants’ allegations suggest at most that portions of the Standards and Framework contain material Appellants find offensive to their religious beliefs,” observed the appellate court. “Offensive content that does not penalize, interfere with, or otherwise burden religious exercise does not violate Free Exercise rights.” (California Parents for the Equalization of Educational Materials v. Torlakson)