A former student in Chicago has won a lawsuit after the Chicago Public Schools district allegedly compelled her to participate in a meditation program that she claimed violated her Christian beliefs and her First and 14th Amendment rights.
Several years ago, Mariyah Green, a devout Christian who is now 21, had been attending a charter high school in Chicago but transferred to Bogan High School in 2018 to play basketball and other sports. While Green was a student at Bogan, a CPS school, she was required to participate in a program called Quiet Time.
A statement from a CPS spokesperson described Quiet Time as “a meditation-based social-emotional learning tool … which develops programs to serve populations dealing with violence and trauma,” but Green claimed instead that it involved chants and rituals that constituted “a thinly veiled Hinduistic religious program” that she considered “demonic.”
According to Green, the Quiet Time teacher often led students in a series of meditation mantras, all the while insisting that the mantras were just a bunch of “meaningless words.” Not satisfied with that explanation, Green researched the mantras for herself and discovered that they included “the names of Hindu Gods,” the lawsuit said.
Green felt even more uneasy about the mantras when the teacher advised students not to tell anyone, not even their parents, about them, the lawsuit claimed. “You just never know what the whole purpose was of the meditation, the way they wanted me to do it,” Green told the Christian Post.
In addition to the mantras, Green claimed that students were forced to participate in an initiation ceremony called Puja. Green described to the Christian Post that, during Puja, small groups of students were taken into a dark, “spooky” room filled with candles and an altar with the image of a guru placed on top of it.
“CPS students were regularly asked by the instructors to participate in the ‘Puja’ by placing various items before the image of Guru Dev or to kneel before that image,” the lawsuit said.
Green had serious misgivings about the reportedly required Puja exercises, especially the call to kneel, which Green sees as an act of worship. “The only time I kneel was when I was at the altar at church when I’m praying and I’m kneeling down for God because that was a way that we was taught, but not the kneeling to that idol. It was inappropriate,” she told the New York Post.
Green said she didn’t want to participate but believed that the exercises were factored into her grade, and a low grade would impact her ability to play basketball. “I just knew it wasn’t right. So that’s what made me take the initiative and go home to tell my parent and my auntie, who was my pastor at the time, that I didn’t feel comfortable with what they was enforcing on me at school,” she told the New York Post.
Green filed the lawsuit back in May, and a few weeks ago, U.S. District Judge Matthew Kennelly ruled in her favor, awarding her $150,000 in damages and legal fees. Both the Chicago Board of Education and the David Lynch Foundation, which developed the Quiet Time program, were named as defendants, and each defendant is expected to bear half the cost of Green’s damages.
However, a spokesperson for CPS called the judge’s ruling a “voluntary resolution between the parties akin to a settlement” and denied that the ruling found the district liable. “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 statement from the CPS spokesperson continued.
Bill Goldstein, an attorney for the David Lynch Foundation, expressed similar sentiments. “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 said. Therefore, he added, the ruling should not be “construed as an admission of liability, or that any damages were actually suffered by [Green].”
Green graduated from Bogan in 2020, the same year that the Quiet Time program was discontinued. She is now seeking a career in law enforcement.
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