Know Your Rights: A Pamphlet Produced by the Hindu American Foundation

A resource outlining the rights of Hindus in schools, the workplace, public accomodations and facilities, in the immigration process, in the case of bias crimes, and in domestic violence situations, among others.

Hindu American Foundation


Schools and Public Institutions of Higher Learning

 The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution governs religion in the public school environment. It prohibits public schools from officially or unofficially preferring one religion over others or preferring religion over irreligionMultivalent terms that often are used to describe people (or their worldview) who reject the practices, dogma, and creeds of established religious traditions. Some people, on the other hand, may identify as Humanist and also consider this either a belief .... Many state constitutions offer similar protections.

What could unconstitutional religion in public schools look like?

A Hindu student athlete’s football team starts every game with a student-led prayerPrayer is the vocal or silent address to the Divine. It may consist of fixed words, spontaneous words, or rest in silence with no words at all. Some forms of prayer are accompanied with specific postures or gestures, while others are not. in which the coach also participates, though the coach does not ever lead the prayer. Thus far, student athletes have recited prayersPrayer is the vocal or silent address to the Divine. It may consist of fixed words, spontaneous words, or rest in silence with no words at all. Some forms of prayer are accompanied with specific postures or gestures, while others are not. invoking, “Our Savior, Lord JesusJesus is the historical figure considered by Christians to be the Christ, the Messiah, whose life and teachings, death and resurrection give clear evidence of God’s love for humankind. Jesus was born shortly before the death of Herod the Great (d. 4 BCE... Christ.” The Hindu student, though very uncomfortable, participates in the prayer for fear that the coach may not give him equal playing time as Christian student athletes.

A sixth grade teacher pulls aside a Hindu student after the social studies unit on Hinduism“Hindu” was originally a word given by the Greeks, then the Persians, to the land and peoples beyond the Indus or “Sindhu” River. The term “Hinduism” came into common use only in the 19th century to describe a complex and dynamic pattern of li... and calls her faith “evil” and one characterized only by casteCaste comes from a Portuguese word “casta” which was used by early traders to describe India’s complex class structure of varnas. The four major inherited varnas are the Brahmins (priests), Kshatriyas (kings, warriors), vaishyas (merchants), and shu..., idolatry, and witchcraft. The teacher urges the student to read and accept the truths in the BibleThe Greek term biblia means the “books.” Bible is used in both the Jewish and Christian traditions to refer to the book which gathers together their sacred writings. The Hebrew Bible includes the Torah, the Prophets, and the Writings—a collection re... so that the child’s soulThe soul is the inner spirit, the life-essence of a person, regarded in many religious traditions as Divine. In the Hindu tradition, the atman or pure consciousness within is understood to be one with Brahman, the ultimate reality that pervades the entire... can be saved.

A Hindu student group is denied space to meet on campus after school despite other religiously-oriented student clubs being given space.

What can you do?

Help educate others about Hinduism, as lack of awareness could be a reason why a teacher or administrator was hurting your child’s religious freedom.You have both administrative and legal remedies.

In many cases, talking to the principal about a teacher’s inappropriate behavior might resolve the issue and preclude the need to file a formal complaint against the teacher.

Before filing a formal complaint against a teacher or administrator, you may want to consider the repercussions from the school community and might request that your child be reassigned to another school or classroom pending resolution of the matter.

If the problem is one of school policy or curriculum, a lawsuit may be appropriate, and you should contact a lawyer for an assessment of your situation.

[Excerpt from “Know Your Rights: A Pamphlet Produced by the Hindu American Foundation.” Hndu American Foundation. www.hafsite.org. Condensed version available as PDF here.]