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LEXINGTON, Ohio (LifeSiteNews) — Parents of an Ohio fifth-grader say their son’s First Amendment rights were violated when he was coerced during class into making a pagan idol, that is, the likeness of a spirit worshiped by Native Americans.

Students at one of Lexington Local Schools’ elementary institutions were instructed in class to make a Kachina doll, used by the Hopi Indians as a “sacred object” to teach children about spirits believed to have “special powers,” such as curing the sick, as the class worksheet explains.

“What type of luck does your doll bring?” says the worksheet, which instructs the students to create the doll using the outline of a mask and then to “write about your Kachina doll’s powers.”

Benjamin and Amie Mutti practice the Messianic Jewish faith, according to which creating idols is a grave violation of God’s Commandments.

A website on Native American culture explains that “Kachina dolls are made in the image of various kachina spirits which the Hopi worship” and that Hopi children “are taught to regard the kachinas with a deep religious awe.”

READ: Parents sue California over curriculum requiring children to ‘chant’ to ‘Aztec gods’

“Clearly, they are not toys,” noted Amie Mutti to the Lexington School Board.

“In our faith tradition, the Scriptures say not to make any graven image or likeness of anything in heaven above or earth below. Not only are we not to make idols, our faith tradition says we are not to bring idols into our homes. After the students completed their project, they were told by the teacher to take their dolls home,” said Mutti.

“The Mutti family is very active in our congregation,” Rabbi William Hallbrook told CBN News. “Our faith community adheres to a Hebrew phrase, ‘Ein keloheinu,’ that states, ‘there is no god like our GOD.’ So you can see when innocent children are coerced to create dolls made in the likeness of spirits, this is in direct conflict with our Biblical faith tradition. This pagan ritual is an attack on our faith and has no place in public schools.”

The Muttis did not learn about the assignment until a month after it took place.

“Parents were never notified beforehand about this in-class project,” Mutti protested to the school board, pointing out that students were not given an opportunity to “opt out” of the assignment.

The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) wrote a letter to the school board on behalf of the parents arguing that the lesson plan was a “clear constitutional violation.”

“It is well settled that religious speech is protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution, even when that speech is taking place on the public school campus,” wrote John Monaghan, Senior Litigation Counsel for the ACLJ. “Thus, where students are coerced, however, into verbally affirming the truth of something that violates the student’s religious convictions, a First Amendment claim may be successful.”

The letter pointed out that about 100 years ago, the Supreme Court ruled that “parents have a fundamental liberty interest under the Fourteenth Amendment in the care, upbringing, control, and education of their children,” meaning, according to the ACLJ, that parents have a right to a say in how their children educated.

The ACLJ went on to note:

[W]here students are coerced… into verbally affirming the truth of something that violates the student’s religious convictions, a First Amendment claim may be successful. For example, in Wood v. Bd. of Educ., No. GJH-16-00239, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 136512 (D. Md. Sep. 30, 2016), the court held that the Plaintiff stated a First Amendment claim where she alleged that the school required her daughter to profess the five pillars of Islam and to write out faith statements of the religion.

The minutes from the school board meeting indicate that the school board president, Mr. Robert Whitney, told the Muttis that the Board and Superintendent would “review the information and get back to them on the issue.” According to Frontlines Ohio, neither the school board nor the superintendent has responded to the parents or the ACLJ.

LifeSiteNews reached out to the school board president, Mr. Whitney, but has not received a response as of publishing.


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