Hinduism in Public Schools
Updated: Jul 30, 2020
Written by Jonathan M. Rosenthal
Is all meditation secular? Hardly. Stretching and calming the mind are great ways to relax and escape from regular distractions, but one form of meditation in particular is making a comeback and is secretly religious. Transcendental Meditation (TM) was founded by Maharishi Yogi in the 1950's and enjoyed an initial wave popularity in the late 1960's through endorsements from rock and roll celebrities like the Beatles and was featured in major publications such as Life, Newsweek, and Time magazines.
Although it has a veneer of western popularity with a new generation of celebrity endorsements, such as Oprah Winfrey, Jerry Seinfeld, Katy Perry, Hugh Jackman, Lady Gaga, Clint Eastwood, and Ellen DeGeneres, TM is a combination of Hindu worship and the deification of its founder, Maharishi Yogi. Before meditation, practitioners hold a “Puja” ceremony, which involves praying to Hindu deities in Sanskrit, an ancient Indian language. These prayers to Hindu deities are followed by the submissive statement, “I bow down.” The “Puja” ceremony also includes providing gift offerings, mostly flowers, to iconography displaying either TM’s founder, Maharishi Yogi, or a variety of Hindu gods. During meditation, practitioners repeat mantras that are references to Hindu deities.
Does TM sound like an appropriate practice for public schools? The Chicago Public Schools (CPS) and public-school districts across the country have been adopting TM into their curriculums. In fact, many CPS students have been unwittingly coerced into participating in Hindu-based religious worship.
In the federal case titled Malnak v. Yogi , a group of plaintiffs challenged the implementation of TM in New Jersey public schools. Although the defendants argued that TM was purely secular, the court held and established that the practice of TM in public schools was a violation of the Establishment Clause (prohibiting the government from implementing or favoring a particular religion). TM was soundly defeated and exposed for its religious nature.
But time passes and new generations emerge who have forgotten the lessons of history. TM is attempting a comeback and its advocates are hoping that the Malnak defeat has been forgotten.
Recently, CPS, with help from the David Lynch Foundation and the University of Chicago, instituted TM as an official part of the curriculum in at least seven schools under the public-relation-minded name “Quiet Time.” The David Lynch Foundation is a non-for-profit corporation that seeks to implement TM in public schools across the country and provides guidelines and instructors. The University of Chicago’s Crime Labs department sought to use students as research subjects to learn whether TM helps lower crime or promote health.
Implementation of the “Quiet Time” program was accomplished under the debunked deception that TM is not religious. CPS children were unknowingly coerced into calling out to Hindu deities by repeating their mantras while meditating twice a day at school. To make matters worse, TM instructors warned CPS students not to discuss their “Quiet Time” experiences with others, including their parents, and that failing to uphold their oaths to secrecy would render the practice of TM ineffective.
But they did not count on followers of Jesus living out 1 Peter 5:8, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” Faithful Christians including students, parents, and teachers recognized the roaring lion prowling around vulnerable CPS children. They tried to make their voices heard by exposing the “Quiet Time” program for its Hindu-based religiosity and expressing their opposition to the program to CPS administrators. When it was clear that there was no progress being made, they reached out to Mauck & Baker to explore legal remedies and formed an anonymous association called “Separation of Hinduism from our Schools” to seek a court order enjoining CPS, the David Lynch Foundation, and the University of Chicago from implementing TM in Illinois public schools.
Mauck & Baker sought to learn more details about the “Quiet Time” program and TM through means of investigation such as Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. In addition to pre-litigation investigations, the Mauck & Baker team engaged in spiritual battle armed with prayer.
A few months later, CPS decided to terminate the “Quiet Time” program.
However, while that is a great victory, there is nothing to stop CPS from eventually reintroducing TM into its public schools in the future. Thus, through Mauck & Baker, the association of plaintiffs are continuing with litigation in federal court to pursue permanently enjoining CPS, the David Lynch Foundation and the University of Chicago from implementing TM in public schools in the future.
You can follow our progress by joining our newsletter; just email firstname.lastname@example.org. If you or someone you know has been unwittingly subjected to Transcendental Meditation in a public school setting, please give us a call at 312-726-1243.
 440 F. Supp. 1284 (D.N.J. 1977)