Several Organizations Sued for Facilitating Hindu Religious Practice in Public Schools
Updated: Aug 4, 2020
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Chicago Public Schools, University of Chicago, and David Lynch Foundation Sued for Implementing Hindu Religious Practices in Public Education
August 3, 2020 -- CHICAGO, IL -- Several Chicago parents, teachers, and students have filed a lawsuit against Chicago Public Schools (CPS), the David Lynch Foundation, and the University of Chicago for violating the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution, and the Illinois Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
The plaintiffs in the lawsuit are represented by two unincorporated associations: Separation of Hinduism from Our Schools, which includes CPS substitute teacher Dasia Skinner, and parent Darryl Williams, and Civil Liberties for Urban Believers, a group of anonymous churches.
The lawsuit seeks to prevent the Defendants from implementing a Hindu-based religious practice called Transcendental Meditation (TM®) via the “Quiet Time” program within Chicago Public Schools ever again.
In a 2019 Chicago Tribune article, a student at Bogan Computer Technical High School testified that during “Quiet Time,” instructors “chanted in a foreign language” and “threw rice, seasonings, and oranges in a pan in front of a picture of a man,” and that students were told to participate in this ritual as well.
Many students and faculty who witnessed “Quiet Time” described it as teaching prayer or religious worship, a blatant violation of the Free Exercise and Establishment Clauses, which prohibit the promotion or teaching of a single religion by school administration in public education. Yet, by rebranding Transcendental Meditation as “Quiet Time,” religious practices based in Hinduism easily snuck their way into multiple Chicago Public Schools.
“The students were instructed to keep all information about the ‘Puja’ initiation ritual a secret from anyone else including their parents,” said teacher Dasia Skinner, a plaintiff with the association Separation of Hinduism from Our Schools, in her official declaration. “Students told me that the TM instructors warned them that what happened in the ‘Quiet Time’ room was supposed to stay in the ‘Quiet Time’ room.”
“Quiet Time” is funded by the David Lynch Foundation, an organization dedicated to teaching Transcendental Meditation to children and adults for their health and wellness. However, Transcendental Meditation is not simply secular meditation, but spiritual in nature, making it unsuitable for teaching in public school.
Although The David Lynch Foundation has claimed TM is not a religion, it explicitly involves Hindu ceremonies, rituals, and mantras.
The University of Chicago, which has been researching the effects of TM on violence reduction, originally approached CPS in order to implement and study the results of the “Quiet Time” program in a public school setting.