The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), a conservative Christian watchdog group, has launched a campaign meant to put an end to “forced Buddhist meditation” in schools, Newsweek reports.
“We’re launching a multifaceted legal campaign including representing parents of these students, sending demand letters, state FOIA requests, and if necessary, litigation,” the group said.
According to the ACLJ — which has also launched a petition gathering 50,000 signatures thus far — children across the United States are being “indoctrinated” by “unconstitutional” practices of meditation and mindfulness.
According to the conservative group, public schools in at least 12 American states are “forcing” students to listen to meditation tapes. Most of the tapes children are “forced” to listen to are reportedly produced by Dialectic Behavior Therapy, Mind Up, and Inner Explorer.
“We’re all connected through nature. And we’re all connected through the universe,” the organization said, condemning the practice.
Newsweek notes that meditation and mindfulness techniques, although linked to Buddhism, have been used by psychologists worldwide for more than 40 years.
But the initiative does not come out of nowhere, it seems. At least partially, the ACLJ appears linked to the Trump administration: President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Jay Sekulow. Sekulow, who is chief counsel at the American Center for Law and Justice, recently criticized the practice in an episode of his radio show. The lawyer urged parents to “find out what’s going on” in their children’s schools, vowing to help.
“We will contact the school board on your behalf, dispatch lawyers as necessary,” Sekulow reportedly said.
According to Huffington Post, the U.S. Supreme Court has, since the 1960s, found it unconstitutional for public schools to teach religious practices. Proponents of teaching meditation and mindfulness in public schools claim that Western societies have managed to “secularize” the practice.
According to Education Dive, research has shown that practicing mindfulness and meditation at schools benefits behavior and learning. In a New York state elementary school, for instance, both student learning and behavior improved following the school’s decision to implement a 30-minute meditation session.
Some schools, according to the same publication, have replaced detention with mediation, in an effort to help students deal with their emotions and approach difficult situations with a positive attitude. But it is not only students that have benefited from the practice, teachers have benefited as well.
“The core value of teaching students to calm themselves and to self-regulate their emotions can provide benefits to the classroom environment and learning,” Education Dive concludes, noting that meditation and mindfulness have nevertheless been criticized. Some cite religious implications as reason for criticism, while others note that the techniques may be too passive.