Pupils Sue School Over Hindu Prayer Indoctrination

Former Chicago Public School students have been granted class action status by a federal judge to pursue their case alleging that a school forced students to participate in Transcendental Meditation and Hindu practices against their will.

Attorneys at Mauck & Baker, who are representing a student named Kaya Hudgins and other similarly affected students, filed a lawsuit alleging that students were required to participate in the “Quiet Time” program which was sponsored by the David Lynch Foundation and which taught Transcendental Meditation and incorporated Hindu religious rituals.

In her Declaration, Hudgins described how she was forced to participate in the Quiet Time program.

“A Chicago Public Schools teacher told me and my entire class to sign a consent form to participate in Quiet Time,” Hudgins wrote. “My entire class and I signed the consent because we felt pressure to sign. Our teacher told us that we would get in trouble and be sent to the dean if we did not consent. The teacher also told us that not signing the consent would affect our academics. We also received the same kind of pressure to participate in the Quiet Time program on a regular basis.”

Hudgins was 16 years old at the time.

“Additionally, I, like many of my classmates, signed a nondisclosure not to tell anyone, including our parents, about the program,” added Hudgins. “My classmates and I were particularly warned by a David Lynch Foundation representative not to tell our parents if our parents were ‘religious.’”

Hudgins also described being escorted into an uncomfortably private one-on-one Hindu “Puja” worship ceremony in a darkened room, with chanting and a variety of religious paraphernalia. During instruction about meditation the adult woman who was alone with her whispered a “mantra” into her ear and told Hudgins not to disclose the mantra to anyone. However, Hudgins revealed that she and her classmates discussed their mantras with each other.

“Eventually I researched on the internet many of our mantras and they turned out to be the names of Hindu gods,” reported Hudgins. “My classmates and I were very hurt to learn how the school and the instructor had us participating in a religious practice without our knowledge.”

Hudgins explained how the meditation sessions, a required part of the Quiet Time curriculum, “felt like hypnosis or being in a trance.” Despite the fact that these situations felt “abnormal,” according to Hudgins, she took part because she was informed that not participating would negatively affect her grades and her academic record.

Additionally, Hudgins recounted how students were rewarded with pizza for promoting Transcendental Meditation, which her instructor referred to as “following orders,” and how one friend was offered $100 by program coordinators to participate and promote Quiet Time.

“I complained a few times to my teacher about not wanting to participate in the Quiet Time program,” Hudgins said. “Once, my teacher sent me to the dean’s office because I was questioning why we had to participate in the program. I felt angry and hurt because the school did not care whether or not I wanted to participate.”

Now 21 years old, Hudgins, who was a practicing Muslim at the time, recalled that she was supposed to pray five times a day. “Although the school made me take time away from class to practice in Transcendental Meditation, it would not allow me to take time away from class for those five daily prayers.”

This is not the first time the Quiet Time program in Chicago Public Schools has been hauled into court. Less than a year ago, a judge awarded a Christian student named Mariyah Green $150,000 in damages after she sued alleging coercion on the part of the school in participating in the Quiet Time meditation program despite her Christian beliefs.

“Mariyah Green’s Christian faith and her dedication to Jesus Christ makes worship of others, such as these idols, unthinkable,” her attorney, John Mauck, said.

According to a report in the Chicago Sun Times, Green felt pressured to participate in the Quiet Time program because she was told it would count toward her grades. Because she had transferred to the school specifically for its basketball program, she didn’t want to risk being kicked off the team for bad grades.

In the new case, District Judge Matthew Kennelly granted class action status for all students who participated in the Quiet Time program in Chicago Public Schools during the academic calendar for Fall 2015 through Spring 2019 and reached age eighteen on or after January 13, 2021.

“Not only were these minor school children coerced by Chicago Public School teacher into signing a document they had no business signing,” said John Mauck, a partner at Mauck and Baker, “They were duped into practicing Hindu rituals and Transcendental Meditation during class time and instructed to hide their mandated participation in them from their parents.”

They are asking the court to hold the Board of Education of the City of Chicago and the David Lynch Foundation fully accountable for depriving these students of their Constitutional rights.

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