2019-08-19 TM in the Public Schools

Transcendental Meditation in the Public Schools

In 1979 the first issue of the first publication produced by International Cultic Studies Association (then called American Family Foundation) reported on an important legal case concerning Transcendental Meditation (TM) in the public schools.

History appears to be repeating itself as controversy swirls about attempts to teach TM in the public schools, most recently in Chicago.

TM-Free Blog has reported in depth, giving links to newspaper stories and videotaped testimony of high school students.

As reported on here at the TM-Free Blog a few days ago, on July 26 (2019) the Chicago Tribune reported on the appearance of a Chicago high school student and teacher at a Board of Education meeting, objecting to an ongoing program by the David Lynch Foundation (DLF) and the University of Chicago that introduced Transcendental Meditation (TM) into Bogan High School. Shortly after their appearance before the Board of Education, that student, along with another recent graduate of the school, and a parent spoke of even more disturbing experiences with school teachers, personnel, and meditation teachers who were part of the TM program in their high school, in two Facebook videos.

The blog article then goes on to describe the experiences of high school students, stating in one section:

Amontae also repeated what Dasia said during the Board meeting: "they said not to explain what was done in that room while the door was closed to anyone," and then added, “just to be part of the program the best that I could, participate, and I would be rewarded for it."

Dasia asked, what what type of rewards did students get for participating in the Quiet Time program? “Bribe rewards, pizza, candy, other stuff like that," he replied.

Amontae “spoke of the castigation he received for not continuing with the program and speaking up against it, and how that motivated him to do his own research and to work to have the program removed from his school.”

The blog later says that the tactics observed are not new.

Those of us who are familiar with the tactics and methods that have been used to promote Transcendental Meditation for almost the last half century have been quite familiar with these sorts of allegations, which have as their root, the unwillingness of the founder of TM and his followers to simply come clean about the nature, origin and goals of their organizations, including the David Lynch Foundation. For a very long time, they’ve demonstrated a clear unwillingness to respect basic expectations of disclosure and informed consent when dealing with prospective meditators. They misrepresent the state of scientific research into their claims and the efficacy of their technique, and at one time, they’ve even advertised an outrageous hoax to gain attention - that people could levitate, become invisible, or gain knowledge of almost anything, instantly, simply by practicing their techniques.

Allegations of misrepresentation appear to be a common theme in these reports and the 1979 Advisor report, which described a court’s conclusion that TM was religious,.

Transcendental Meditation (TM) officials have decided not to appeal to the Supreme Court ruling of a lower court that declares TM to be religious in nature, and that teaching TM in high school constitutes establishment of religion in violation of the First Amendment.

On June 6, the time expired to make an appeal to the nation’s highest court to reverse the decision. According to Julius B. Poppinga, counsel for the plaintiffs, the ruling that the practice and teaching of TM is religious in nature is binding on all Federal Courts in the Third District and is “highly persuasive” on all other Federal Courts. There should now be no U.S. sponsorship of TM at any level except where it is treated as a religion, for example, in the Armed Forces or in prison programs, Poppinga said.

Action had been brought by a group of New Jersey parents and taxpayers, together with the Spiritual Counterfeits Project, an organization based in Berkeley, California, to enjoin teaching of a course called the Science of Creative Intelligence-Transcendental Meditation in New Jersey public High Schools. The U.S. District Court, issued the injunction and the defendants, the Maharishi Mahesh YOGI, Spiritual Regeneration Movement Foundation, officials of the Board of Education of several cities in New Jersey, and other defendants including officials of the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare, appealed. In affirming the injunction the Court of Appeals stated in its decision February 2, that SCI/TM is religious activity and that the teaching SCI/TM in public schools is prohibited by the First Amendment.

In its opinion the court stated, “the course under examination here was offered as an elective at five high schools during the 1975-76 academic year and was taught four or five days a week by teachers specially trained by the World Plan Executive Council-United States, an organization whose objective is to disseminate the teachings SCI/TM throughout the United States. The textbook used was developed by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the founder of the Science of Creative Intelligence. It teaches that “pure creative intelligence” is the basis of life, and that through the process of Transcendental Meditation students can perceive the full potential of their lives.

“Essential to the practice of Transcendental Meditation is the ‘mantra’; a mantra is the sound aid used while meditating. Each meditator has its own personal mantra which is never to be revealed to any other person. It is by concentrating on the mantra that one receives the beneficial effects said to result from Transcendental Meditation.”

“To acquire his mantra, a meditator must attend a ceremony called a ‘puja.’ Every student who participated in the SCI/TM course was required to attend a puja as part of the course.”

“A puja was performed by the teacher for each student individually; it was conducted off school premises on a Sunday; and the student was required to bring some fruit, flowers and a white handkerchief. During the puja the student stood or sat in front of a table while the teacher said a chant and made offerings to a deified ‘Guru Dev.’ Each puja lasted between one and two hours.”

The opinion concluded, “We agree with the district court’s finding that “the SCI/TM course was religious in nature. Careful examination of the textbook, the expert testimony elicited, and the uncontested facts concerning the puja convince us that religious activity was involved and that there was no reversible error in the district court’s determination.” (TM Termed Religious, The Advisor, 1979, Vol. 1, No. 1, p. 5).

It seems that the conclusion of the court in the 1979 case is as relevant today as it was then: