Conservative Christian watchdog group The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) has launched a petition to stop “forced Buddhist meditation” in schools.
The group claims children in public schools across the U.S. are being “indoctrinated” by “Buddhist-based mindfulness methods in an “outright unconstitutional” practice. But companies behind the programs say their techniques can help improve self-awareness and self-control.
“We’re launching a multifaceted legal campaign including representing parents of these students, sending demand letters, state FOIA requests, and if necessary, litigation,” the petition reads.
Launched Wednesday, it has garnered almost 50,000 signatures on the evangelical group’s website as of 7.30 a.m. ET Saturday.
The group accuses schools in at least 12 states of “forcing” students to listen to mindfulness audio tapes, including those produced by Inner Explorer, Mind Up, and Dialectic Behavior Therapy.
Inner Exploration says its secular curriculum is designed to provide students with skills like self-awareness, resilience and self-control, for example.
Although meditation is linked to Buddhism spiritual practices, the programs provided by schools are secular. “Mindfulness is not a religion,” Inner Exploration’s website states. “It is a set of simple attention practices that promote full awareness of the present moment. These attention practices allow students to develop the capacity to sustain focus.”
Psychologists have used mindfulness techniques since the 1970s, but its popularity has soared in recent years with the rise of commercial meditation programs.
Mindfulness-based stress reduction techniques were developed by researchers at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center. Used to help students improve their focus and concentration, their wider benefits are the subject of ongoing clinical investigation.
But ACLJ view the mindfulness-based stress reduction techniques used in some schools as a danger to children. The organization condemned audio recordings it claims say, “ We’re all connected through nature. And we’re all connected through the universe.”
Jay Sekulow, chief counsel at ACLJ and personal attorney to President Donald Trump recently criticized the use of mindfulness in schools on his radio program, Jay Sekulow Live, Buddhist website Lion’s Roar reported.
“We’ve got millions of people listening to this broadcast,” said Sekulow, per Lion’s Roar. “Find out what’s going on in your kids’ schools… We will contact the school board on your behalf, dispatch lawyers as necessary.”
Missouri megachurch pastor John Lindell similarly blasted yoga for its “demonic” Hindu roots in November. He added the “spiritually dangerous” practice was “ “diametrically opposed to Christianity.”
The church faced fierce criticism from instructors and even Christians who practiced yoga. Local teachers said Lindell’s teachings had hindered their ability to make a living.