A former student at a public high school in Chicago was awarded $150,000 in a settlement last month after she sued over a Transcendental Meditation program that she alleged violated her constitutional rights.
Mariyah Green, 21, sued the Chicago Board of Education in February over a Quiet Time program that was implemented in some urban public schools with the help of the University of Chicago and the David Lynch Foundation, which were also named in the lawsuit.
The Chicago Board of Education and the David Lynch Foundation will each pay $75,000, according to the judgment issued in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois on Oct. 23, her lawyers announced last week.
Green, a Christian, told The Christian Post that she had transferred from a charter school to Bogan Public High School during the 2018-2019 school year to play basketball and volleyball.
Before long, she said she found herself expected to participate in the Quiet Time program that implemented Transcendental Meditation and other practices that she believed violated her faith.
Transcendental Meditation, also known as "TM," was founded in India during the 1950s by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, a Hindu whose program has been variously described as both religious and non-religious. The movement exploded in worldwide popularity in the 1960s and 1970s after being endorsed by celebrities such as The Beatles.
In 2015, the University of Chicago's Crime Lab rolled out a multiyear study of Quiet Time, the David Lynch Foundation’s school program that implemented Transcendental Meditation, according to a 2016 article from Smithsonian Magazine. One of the largest randomized studies on meditation and children, the project involved 6,800 subjects in Chicago and New York and looked into the practice's effects on crime and violence, the magazine reported.
Green and her lawyers alleged to CP that the Quiet Time program expected students to chant a mantra and pay homage to Hindu deities in a "Puja" ceremony, which they claim was fundamentally "demonic" in its character, as well as a violation of Green's Christian beliefs and rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments.
Green, who was a minor at the time, told CP that an instructor would take students four or five at a time into a darkened room she characterized as "spooky." She remembered that the presence of candles and an image of a guru in front of an altar indicated to her "a weird scenario" that made her uncomfortable.
"It looked like a picture of some type of idol that I knew not to worship," she remembered.
Green said she never learned the meaning of the mantra she was given but noted that she was told not to tell others what it was, including her parents. She said the experience made her feel her "religion was being attacked," which pushed her to "go into prayer mode" and to seek members of her church to pray over her for spiritual protection.
"You just never know what the whole purpose was of the meditation, the way they wanted me to do it," she said.
John Mauck, an attorney who represented Green, maintained to CP that one of the practices in the Quiet Time consisted of "a three- or four-minute Sanskrit chant which is, in our opinion, a demonic conjuring of the Hindu deities."
He said other religious clients sued over Quiet Time for similar reasons because they were asked to "give some type of obeisance" to the image of the guru, such as kneeling before it or offering it an orange.
Green said that she was told kneeling before the image would improve her meditation experience, but that she avoided having to do so by saying she had an injury.
Green also claimed she was threatened with losing points off her participation grade if she declined to partake in the meditation program, which she noted threatened to impinge upon her ability to play the sports she transferred to the school for in the first place.
She further claimed that she was never given parental consent forms and that her family did not approve of what she was being expected to do when she told them about it.
Bill Goldstein, an attorney who represented the David Lynch Foundation in the lawsuit, stressed to CP that the settlement in Green's favor does not prove any of her allegations and that the settlement should not be "construed as an admission of liability, or that any damages were actually suffered by her."
"Those are unproven allegations," Goldstein told CP. "And those have been denied, and the court has never made any findings that they were accurate. The settlement was entered into in the interests of judicial economy and to put an end to this without everyone spending a lot of time and money in litigation."
Goldstein denied Green's claims that she was forced to participate in the program or suffer academic and athletic retaliation and claimed that she received parental consent to participate.
CPS, which ended the Quiet Time program in 2020, did not immediately respond to a request for comment from CP, but said in a statement to Chalkboard News that the district "is committed to the safety and well-being of our students, and works with external partners to implement various programs and strategies to promote student mental health and ensure social and emotional well-being."
“One of the programs CPS used was Quiet Time – a meditation-based social-emotional learning tool designed by the David Lynch Foundation, which develops programs to serve populations dealing with violence and trauma,” the CPS spokesperson continued.
“The District has always denied, and continues to deny, any liability as a result of Quiet Time, and there has not been any finding of liability in this case by a judge or a jury,” the spokesperson added.
Green, who is now training to be a police officer in Chicago, told CP that she "stayed prayed up" through the situation at her school, and that she hopes God will continue to use her to "spread the Gospel and also to help people."
"The weapons could form but they can't prosper. There is no way — even though the devil did have the intent to put something in my spirit with a mantra, or whatever the case was," she said. "But you know, we serve a different type of God, and He uses me all the time."
Jon Brown is a reporter for The Christian Post. Send news tips to email@example.com