Does teaching mindfulness violate the First Amendment?

I am concerned about “mindfulness” being taught at Liberty Elementary and Middle Schools. The school board’s policy regarding “Teaching About Religion,” #4313, Section 4000-”Instruction” reads as follows:

“The proper role that religion plays in the public schools is its educational value rather than its observance or celebration... it’s not the purpose of the schools to convert, proselytize, or favor one religion or to exclude religion... the Board of Education encourages factual and objective teaching about religion....”

My concern is that the Liberty School District is observing and celebrating, proselytizing and favoring religion, and has not encouraged factual and objective teaching in regards to mindfulness.

Research on “mindfulness” makes clear that it embraces Buddhism. Its founder, Jon Kabat-Zinn, a practicing Buddhist, says that “as soon as you say secular mindfulness, you’re abstracting the sacred out of it.” He also says, “because of its impact on mainstream medicine and neuroscience and health care, it would move out into society... [it] is something at the heart of Buddhist practice—it’s not like I made up ‘mindfulness’ in 1979.”

According to the Mayo Clinic, mindfulness is a form of meditation (www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/mindfulness-exercise). It is considered a therapy and associated with Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy. Are our students practicing religion, under the guise of mindfulness, and are they under a therapeutic study without parental consent?

With its roots in religious tradition, teaching mindfulness in public schools violates the separation of church and state.

Since the 1960s, the U.S. Supreme Court has found it unconstitutional for public schools to teach religious practices. But mindfulness—a Buddhist religious practice—is promoted by schools nationwide. Some mindfulness instructors like to avoid telling students, teachers and parents about its religious and philosophical roots, so they use the science aspect in their pitches. Is there something to hide? Something to propagate? A hidden agenda? An ulterior motive?

Mindfulness is the seventh step of the Buddhist Noble Eight-fold Path. According to “Mindfulness Goes to Kindergarten,” by Marcia Montenegro (bit.ly/2EGQS0nI), it is a “stealth Buddhism,” which means secular classes use “different vocabulary,” getting children to engage in the practice “whether they like it or not” so they may enroll in explicitly Buddhist classes. Goldie Hawn refers to her internationally disseminated MindUP curriculum as a “script.” She says the classroom must use mindfulness “under a different name.” Thus, we have the “mindful minute,” “MindUP,” “zoning out,” “Core Practice,” and “brain breaks.” (See “School Scene,” Sullivan County Democrat, Section L, Nov. 3, 2017.)

In conclusion, mindfulness is a Trojan horse for disseminating to others, knowing or unknowing, Buddhist religious practices; which is in violation of the Liberty School Board’s policy on religion. Even though students are not doing a full-on mindfulness meditation, they are being introduced to it. Children are vulnerable and are unable to critique or assess such Eastern beliefs. Parents need to monitor carefully what is going on in their child’s classroom.

I would encourage practitioners, teachers, administrators, students, parents and others to further investigate the religion of mindfulness and conclude that it has no place in the public school system. As such, the school board needs to desist its practices. If legislated mindfulness meditation is permitted by teachers as an exception to the rule, then what is to stop them from forcing students to engage in mandatory hypnosis, transcendental meditation, Yoga, Zen and other religious prayers and practices?

Mindfulness is a religious belief, a Buddhist belief, and if continued, then equal time should be given to other religious practices.

[Rich Ienuso is a substitute teacher at the Liberty Middle and High Schools and pastor at the Lighthouse Ministries Church in Liberty, NY. This is taken from a presentation to the Liberty board of education.]

 

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