Christian Student Wins $150K in Lawsuit Against Coercive School Meditation Program
In a recent legal victory, a federal judge awarded $150,000 in damages and legal fees to Mariyah Green, a Christian and former student at Bogan High School in Chicago. Green filed a lawsuit against Chicago Public Schools, alleging that she was coerced into participating in a meditation program that she deemed to be a “thinly veiled Hinduistic religious program.”
U.S. District Judge Matthew Kennelly ruled in favor of Green, stating that she felt compelled to engage in “Hinduistic rituals” during the Quiet Time meditation program at her high school, despite her Christian beliefs. According to Green’s attorney, John Mauck, the program required students to make obeisance to Hindu deities, an act incompatible with Green’s Christian faith.
Green, who transferred to Bogan High School for its basketball program, believed that participation in the meditation program was necessary for her grades and feared academic consequences if she did not participate. The program, intended to reduce stress in students’ lives, was developed by the David Lynch Foundation and involved an initiation ceremony called “Puja,” an expression of gratitude to the practice’s deceased founders.
The lawsuit alleged that instructors chanted Sanskrit words during Puja without explaining their meaning, recognizing the power of Hindu deities and inviting them to channel their powers. Green claimed that the program took place during school hours, and when she discovered its religious nature, she informed other students and teachers.
In response to the judge’s decision, a spokesperson for Chicago Public Schools stated that the meditation program had been discontinued in 2020. The district maintained that Quiet Time did not violate any student’s constitutional rights and characterized the judge’s decision as a voluntary resolution between the parties.
The Chicago Board of Education and the David Lynch Foundation were both named in the lawsuit. The district is responsible for paying $75,000, with an equal amount attributed to the foundation. The foundation, which did not immediately respond to requests for comment, claimed on its website that the meditation program aimed to reduce stress and improve graduation rates.
Green’s allegations included the claim that she felt alone and angry when her concerns were dismissed, and she was allegedly not given the option to opt out of the program. Mauck, her attorney, characterized the meditation program as an egregious abuse of Mariyah’s religious rights and expressed gratitude to the court for recognizing the constitutional issues at stake.
In essence, this case underscores the importance of respecting students’ religious beliefs in educational programs and the potential legal consequences when those rights are violated. The judge’s ruling serves as a recognition of the critical constitutional issues involved in this matter.