Who Took the "T" Out Of "TM"?
Many have stated that the Federal Government has barred the practice of TM (Transcendental Meditation) from the public classroom because its religious nature is a violation of the Constitution.
However, has the practice of meditation actually been so banned for constitutional reasons?
In the late 1970's the U.S. Supreme Court did finally bar one brand of TM, a course in "Science of Creative Intelligence" (or SCI) from the public classrooms of New Jersey (see 592 Federal Reporter, 2nd Series, "Malnak v. Yogi," 1979, p. 197ff).
Why? Because SCI was clearly propagating its "religious" ideas [Hinduistic] under the guise of a so-called "scientific method" or reducing stress by means of meditative chanting. This chanting involves repeating verbally a sound over and over again so that the mediator will be able to alter his state of consciousness.
However, even though SCI's course in meditation was barred from the public classroom as being religious, and thus, could not be supported by Federal funds because of a violation of church/state relations, have other similar forms of meditative practice thus been barred?
Christians are seeing the influence of Christianity waning in the public school systems while at the same time the influences of the New Age movement are trying to fill the resulting gap. Thus, it is certainly discouraging to hear many of the evaluations concerning TM (meditative chanting) from those connected with the judicial branch of this nation's government.
For example: Is Transcendental Meditation (the practice of meditative chanting) necessarily "religious" according to the lower court decision which first banned SCI from the public classroom?
The original court decision to ban SCI from the New Jersey public schools (see "Malnak v. Yogi, 1977, 440 Federal Supplement, p. 1284) seems to advance the possibility that there can be a distinction between SCI and TM (the former would claim to bring, "the mediator into direct contact with a... pure creative intelligence...," while the latter would claim to simply "bring about certain physiological and psychological changes in the mediator," (footnote 26, p. 1324).
A 1979 Seton Hall Law Review article mentions this "distinction": "Thus, the question whether TM, taught without SCI or the puja [ceremony], would constitute an establishment of religion if taught in a public school, remains unanswered." A footnote in this same article also claimed: "The court appeared to note that TM may be taught separately. See 440 F. Supp. at 1324, n. 26" (Seton Hall Law Review, 1979, p. 628).
An article in the 1979-80 Duquesne Law Review (Vol. 18) states: "The implications of the very narrow ruling in Malnak are therefore limited to other instances of teaching SCI/TM in public schools, and will be of little assistance in establishment clause situations involving an allegedly religious activity other than SCI/TM," (p. 337).
An article in the Minnesota Law Review stated: "For a program teaching TM alone [only the practice of chanting, with no overt connection to SCI], the constitutional outcome is not so clear," (June 1978, Vol. 62, p. 947).
The Supreme Court opinion states clearly:
"Although Transcendental Meditation by itself might be defended - as appellants sought to do in this appeal - as primarily a relaxation or concentration technique with no ultimate significance, the New Jersey course at issue here was not a course in TM alone, but a course in Science of Creative Intelligence," (592 F. 2nd, 1979, p. 213).
So, it is probably incorrect for us to state categorically that, "the practice of TM has been barred from the public classroom for religious reasons."
It appears that each and every case of this kind of intrusion into the public school arena is going to have to be fought out in the court system until and unless the government is able to come up with a more comprehensive definition of "religion" and a tighter regulation of New Age practices within the public schools.