TM in Public Schools?
The TM program in the New Jersey public schools was found to be in violation of the separation of church and state and TM programs in New Jersey public schools were shut down. The TM organization appealed the decision to a higher court and lost the appeal.
Malnak v. Yogi, 440 F. Supp. 1284 (D.N.J. 1977)
U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey - 440 F. Supp. 1284 (D.N.J. 1977)
October 20, 1977
Although defendants have submitted well over 1500 pages of briefs, affidavits, and deposition testimony in opposing plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment, defendants have failed to raise the slightest doubt as to the facts or as to the religious nature of the teachings of the Science of Creative Intelligence and the puja. The teaching of the SCI/TM course in New Jersey public high schools violates the establishment clause of the first amendment, and its teaching must be enjoined. https://law.justia.com/cases/federal/district-courts/FSupp/440/1284/1817490/
Letters to Educators
I understand you are considering that students in your care be initiated into the practice of Transcendental Meditation. I would like to share my story with you.
When I first signed in agreement for my son to learn Transcendental Meditation as part of his "health" class at a San Francisco public high school, the permission slip (which was NOT generated by the school, or even kept on file on campus), claimed to be scientifically proven, and non-religious. After asking how the class was progressing, I was surprised and concerned to hear from my son that small groups of students, 2 or 3 at a time, were being taken out of class by a person who was not the teacher, and barely known by them.
Determined to find out what was happening to his fellows, I dug through page after "google" page of slick, self-promotion and exaggerated claims, (including the ultimate ability to levitate and other "magic" powers). When I finally persisted beyond the advertising, (all of this later being confirmed by the principal in front of a witness, and in writing), I discovered that the students were being taken to a small, darkened room (in the case of my son's school, with the windows papered over), put in front of a candle-lit altar with a picture of a guru on it, given a tray of offerings, invited to bow, while a person not an SFUSD accredited teacher sang prayers in Sanskrit. Moreover, I discovered that the students were being given the tantric names of Hindu gods to repeat (easily recognizable with the smallest amount of research from lists compiled by former practitioners). You might wonder why this was not described in the permission slip, or how asking parents to sign it might constitute informed consent. A little reading into the rare, but extremely harmful reaction to meditation that some describe might make you wonder why this was also not mentioned.
In addition, and most importantly, I was absolutely appalled to hear that the students were being told to keep their personal mantras secret from everyone, including their own parents. I hope you would agree that it should be obvious to any educator that minors should never, never be taught by any adult to keep secrets from anyone, especially their parents. It seems to me that any responsible person condoning this clearly puts their legal and moral authority under serious jeopardy. A risk even more absurd considering that the students reputedly get the same word, based on age and gender.
In a meeting with school administrators, I was utterly shocked to hear them report how they had been "told that none of this constituted religion". I later discovered that the District lawyers had never been informed about any aspects of the initiation ritual, except for the mantras, which they had been told were "meaningless words". Moreover, the administrators at my son's school claimed that when they brought up the lawsuit of "Malnak versus Yogi", which set legal precedence defining these practices as based in religion, and therefore unconstitutional in a public school, this was denied. I would suggest that this case would be well worthy of your careful consideration.
After I, and other parents, expressed profound concern about what was going on, our confidence in the discernment and judgment of school administrators was severely, perhaps irrevocably shaken. I know of at least one student who was ostensibly disturbed by the experience, and was left with confusion, doubt and diminished trust in the administrators who allowed this experience to happen to him.
Despite much hype in the press, TM in San Francisco public schools has been far from successful. Of the 6 that tried it, 5 terminated for a variety of reasons. At my son's school, it was ended after only a few months. Of approximately 34 teachers, only 2 voted to continue it, after discussion based, in part, on whether or not it was "all, or in part, religious", and that there would be strenuous and public objection from some parents. According to an informal conversation with the assistant principal at the one remaining school, poor participation and "goofing off" make it hard to continue. In addition, informal discussions with union leaders suggest many potential problems with staff contracts, participation in something highly controversial being a requisite of their employment.
Lastly, when my objections became known, I received a frightening and intimidating letter from an office of high-powered, expensive campaign lawyers. Under such circumstances, hard indeed to preserve the trust of families and students.
I don't believe that you, or any single person, or entity, in my own described experience, have any thing other than the well being of the students at heart, or anything other than good intention.
Is it possible to teach "self-guided relaxation" in a truly secular fashion in ways that do not risk the well being of your students? Clearly, yes. And at little, or zero cost. I suggest you consider them.
You must, of course, consider all viewpoints before you make your own decisions on this subject. Please note that all aspects of my personal story can be supported with documentary and testimonial evidence.
Thank-you for your time, and I hope that my story has been helpful to you.
A former San Francisco public school parent.
Letter to San Rafael School Board - or -
How TM Lures the Young and Vulnerable
The David Lynch Foundation retracted their 2006 grant to Terra Linda High School within two days of receiving their copy of this letter which was circulated to the San Rafael School Board, the Marin Independent Journal, key offices of the David Lynch Foundation and Transcendental Meditation Movement. Relevant links, in green or blue, are embedded within the online letter.