May 23, 2024

Lawsuit Alleges Religious Coercion Through Meditation in Chicago Public Schools

Hindu Press International
May 20, 2024

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS, May 13, 2024 (RNS): Kaya Hudgins was a 16-year-old sophomore at a southwest-side Chicago public high school when her teachers announced a new mandatory program called “Quiet Time,” a twice-daily Transcendental Meditation practice designed to “decrease stress and the effects of trauma” for students living in high-crime neighborhoods. “I didn’t think much of it,” said Hudgins, now 21 and living in Texas. “I thought that, you know, it would just be basic meditation. I had no clue about what Hinduism was or what it was about.” To be “initiated” into the Quiet Time practice, Hudgins recalls, she and her classmates were taken individually to a small room, told to place an offering of fruit at an altar with a man’s photograph and brass cups of camphor, incense and rice, and made to repeat the Sanskrit words a representative uttered. At the end, the representative whispered a unique, one-word mantra into her ear, according to Hudgins, and told her not to repeat it to anyone. The man in the photograph, she would later find out, was Brahmananda Saraswati, or Guru Dev: the master of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the Hindu guru who started the global TM movement in 1955.

This “ceremony of gratitude” as it was put forth by the David Lynch Foundation, the organization behind the $3 million Quiet Time program, resembles a form of Hindu puja, or worship ritual. This practice was “deceptively marketed to public schools as non-religious,” according to Hudgins’ attorney, John Mauck, and serves as the basis of an ongoing lawsuit against the David Lynch Foundation and the Board of Education of the City of Chicago for violating the establishment clause of the First Amendment. Hudgins’ case, which was filed in January of last year and is pending a court date, was granted class action status by a federal judge last month, meaning anyone who reached the age of 18 on or after Jan. 13, 2021, and who was a student between 2015-2019 could have a standing in the lawsuit. During those four years, the David Lynch Foundation and University of Chicago’s Urban Labs, a social and behavioral research initiative on community violence, were testing the Quiet Time study in five Chicago public schools.

More at source.

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