In a recent legal settlement, a former student at a public high school in Chicago has been awarded $150,000 after suing over her objections to a Transcendental Meditation program. The program, known as “Quiet Time,” was implemented in select urban public schools with the assistance of the University of Chicago and the David Lynch Foundation, both of which were also named in the lawsuit.
Settlement Reached with the Chicago Board of Education and David Lynch Foundation
The settlement, which was reached last month, involves a payment of $75,000 each from the Chicago Board of Education and the David Lynch Foundation. This outcome was determined in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois on October 23, and it was officially announced by the plaintiff’s lawyers last week.
The plaintiff, Mariyah Green, a Christian, filed her lawsuit against the Chicago Board of Education in February, alleging that the Quiet Time Meditation program violated her constitutional rights. She explained that she had transferred to Bogan Public High School during the 2018-2019 school year to participate in basketball and volleyball.
However, Green soon found herself compelled to take part in the Quiet Time program, which incorporated Transcendental Meditation and other practices that she believed contradicted her religious faith.
Transcendental Meditation, often referred to as “TM,” was founded in India during the 1950s by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, a Hindu spiritual leader. The Meditation program has been described both as religious and non-religious. It gained worldwide popularity during the 1960s and 1970s, partly due to endorsements from celebrities like The Beatles.
In 2015, the University of Chicago’s Crime Lab initiated a multiyear study of the Quiet Time Meditation program, which is backed by the David Lynch Foundation. The Meditation program introduced Transcendental Meditation into schools and aimed to assess its effects on crime and violence. The study involved 6,800 subjects in Chicago and New York and examined the impact of meditation on student behavior.
Lawsuit Alleged Violation of Constitutional Rights and “Demonic” Practices
Green and her legal representatives alleged that the Quiet Time Meditation program required students to chant a mantra and participate in a “Puja” ceremony, which they deemed to be “demonic” and contrary to Green’s Christian beliefs and her constitutional rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments. As a minor at the time, Green described how an instructor would take small groups of students into a dimly lit room, which she found unsettling. The presence of candles and an image of a guru in front of an altar contributed to her discomfort. She viewed the image as an idol that she was not meant to worship.
Although Green never learned the meaning of the mantra she was instructed to recite, she was explicitly told not to disclose it to others, including her parents. The experience led her to believe that her religious convictions were under attack, prompting her to seek protection through prayer and support from members of her church.
According to John Mauck, an attorney who represented Green, one of the practices in the Quiet Time program involved a Sanskrit chant lasting three to four minutes. Mauck characterized it as a “demonic conjuring of the Hindu deities.” He explained that other religious clients had filed similar lawsuits against the program because they were asked to show reverence to the guru’s image, such as by kneeling before it or offering offerings.
Green asserted that she was threatened with a lower participation grade if she refused to take part in the meditation program, which could have negatively impacted her ability to play sports, her primary reason for transferring to the school.
She further contended that she was never provided with parental consent forms, and her family did not endorse her participation in the program when she informed them about it.
Bill Goldstein, an attorney representing the David Lynch Foundation, clarified that the settlement should not be interpreted as an admission of liability. He stressed that the allegations made by Green have not been proven, and the court has not made any findings supporting her claims. Goldstein emphasized that the settlement was reached to save time and resources spent on litigation.
The Chicago Public Schools (CPS) terminated the Quiet Time program in 2020. In response to inquiries, CPS expressed its commitment to student well-being and mental health but did not specifically address the lawsuit. The district maintained that there has been no finding of liability in this case by a judge or jury.
Today, Green is training to become a police officer in Chicago, relying on her faith to overcome challenges. She hopes to continue spreading her beliefs and helping others, emphasizing that her spirituality remains unshaken despite the program’s attempt to introduce her to unfamiliar practices.