Principal Paul Humpa

School officials at a district in Illinois yanked a Buddhist practice from their English classrooms after a civil rights watchdog, the Rutherford Institute, wrote a letter questioning the practice.

The situation developed at Prairie Ridge High School in Crystal Lake, where a parent had become alarmed by classroom instruction in Transcendental Meditation that included having students to lie on their backs with their palms to the floor and “become one with the earth.”

John Whitehead, president of the institute, expressed concern in the letter over the apparent violations of the Establishment Clause’s prohibition against government endorsement of a particular religion.

School officials responded by making changes in the class, he told WND today.

“Although school officials can teach about religion, they cannot indoctrinate students in specific religious beliefs,” said Whitehead. “This is a victory for religious freedom.”

Officials at the school referred WND to the district office for comment, but officials there did not respond.

Whitehead told WND that he sees these kinds of cases periodically, along with the other side of the issue: the repeated attacks on students who simply want to follow their Christian beliefs.

“We have a case about a student who wanted to hand out a tract [but was forbidden],” he said. “All of a sudden it’s super-taboo.”

He said while he sees districts going so far as to provide prayer rooms for Muslim students, yet they discriminate against Christians or Jews.

Whitehead suggested schools should include instruction about all religions – treating them equally.

“We live in a religiously diverse society,” he said.

The Prairie Ridge conflict developed after Doug Mann, the parent of a ninth-grade student in the district, reported his child was asked to participate in a Transcendental Meditation exercise in an honors English class.

“The exercises were in connection with the study of the transcendental movement in literature. According to Mann, the teacher asked students to, among other things, assume the lotus position, conduct meditative chants, and lie on their backs with their palms to the floor in order to ‘become one with the earth,'” the institute reported.

When the parent voiced objections to these practices as inconsistent with his family’s religious beliefs, he was told by the teacher that there was no problem because students were allowed to opt out of the classroom activity.

But Rutherford’s letter noted that federal courts have held that transcendental meditation is a religion and that school instruction in Transcendental Meditation violates the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause.

His letter also explained offering a chance to opt-out didn’t create an exception for the school from the First Amendment’s requirements.

The school agreed, deciding that its requirements for class events featuring TM would be revised.

It’s been in just the last few weeks that WND has reported on the “special animosity” Christians experience in the court system and from judges, as well as a new round of persecution being forecast for Christians.

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