The American Center for Law and Justice, a Conservative Christian watchdog group, has started a petition to stop Buddhist meditation practices in public schools. The petition had more than 53,000 signatures by late Sunday afternoon.
What is going on?
"We're being contacted by numerous parents of elementary school students from over a dozen states," reads the introduction for the group's petition. "Some students are required to participate in as many as three meditation sessions each school day. If they refuse, kids are forced to sit outside the classroom, like a punishment.
"The schools are using curriculums including but not limited to Inner Explorer, Mind Up, and Dialectic Behavior Therapy. An audio is played telling young students: 'We're all connected through nature. And we're all connected through the universe.' It tells them how to clear their minds, watch their memories and emotions float away on clouds, and connect with the universe.
"Indoctrinating young kids in public schools with Buddhist meditation is outright unconstitutional."
A "multifaceted legal campaign" will include representing parents, filing state open records requests and litigation, if necessary, according to the group.
One of the school curriculum programs, "Mind Up," is promoted by the foundation for actress Goldie Hawn, who has reportedly practiced Buddhism.
The website for the Inner Exploration program insists its teachings are secular and do not promote any religion. Its curriculum is designed to "develop self-awareness, self-control, resilience and compassion," according to the website. The programs are also billed as a way to help students control their behavior, reduce stress and improve concentration in school.
"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."
Still, meditation is often linked to Buddhism spiritual practices. It is also related to a wide range of New Age philosophies and shamanism, which can include communicating with the "spirit world."
Inner Exploration's website has a list of sample meditations aimed at students in pre-kindergarten through high school. One of the recordings encourages elementary school students to practice what they learn at home. The meditation opens with the sound of a "rainstick," an instrument that is sometimes used to help induce a trance-like state for shamanism. A one point, the narrator asks the elementary-age students to imagine their head "getting closer to the ceiling."
Some Christian leaders have spoken out against meditation and other practices, saying they are linked to the occult.
Pastor John Lindell James River Church in Ozark, Missouri, gave a sermon in November called "Haunted: Pursuing the Paranormal," that encouraged Christians to not practice yoga. Lindell has called "Hinduism 'demonic,' meditation 'spiritually dangerous' and yoga 'diametrically opposed to Christianity,'" Newsweek reported.
Students in several #US states are forced to participate in #Buddhist-based meditation. If a child refuses, he or she is moved to the hall as if being punished. These schools are indoctrinating kids. This cannot stand. We're demanding this end. Sign today. https://t.co/3dJNnSMLne pic.twitter.com/XHxLaeJZNN
— ACLJ (@ACLJ) December 12, 2018