It’s not school prayer, it’s meditation

Fourth graders at Public School 212 in Queens practice mindful exercises in the classroom. Credit: Lindsay Morris,  New York Times

Meditation and mindfulness exercises start the day at some New York City schools, reports the New York Times. Advocates say it reduces stress, though “evidence is thin.”

Chancellor Carmen Fariña, visited a fourth-grade classroom in Queens where children sat cross-legged on the floor.

“Please let your eyes close,” said a small boy named Davinder, from his spot on the linoleum.

Davinder gently struck a shallow bronze bowl. Gong! “Take three mindful breaths,” he said, and the room fell silent.

At the Brooklyn Urban Garden Charter School in Windsor Terrace, 15 minutes are set aside at the beginning and end of every school day, when students must either meditate or sit quietly at their desks, reports the Times.MINDFULNESS-1-articleLarge

Public School 212 in Jackson Heights, Queens has “converted a large closet in a subbasement into a room devoted to mindfulness, complete with dim illumination and a string of rainbow Christmas-tree lights, allowing users to switch off the harsh fluorescent light overhead.”

The David Lynch Foundation, started by the director of “Blue Velvet,” funds transcendental meditation training at schools — and at banks, hedge funds and media companies.

“Remove the pesky “God” character, and you’re good to go,” writes Ann Althouse, who thinks the meditation exercises sound a lot like school prayer.

School bans atheist’s editorial on religion

Administrators, teachers and coaches promote “pro-Christian” beliefs at school events, wrote Krystal Myers, an atheist, in the Lenoir City High School (Tennessee) school newspaper. But school officials pulled the honor student’s editorial, claiming it would be “disruptive,” reports the Knoxville News Sentinel.

Schools Director Wayne Miller said the school district is not violating the law.

Prayers at athletic events are student-led. School board meetings do begin with a prayer, but there are usually no students present, he said.

One teacher wears T-shirts that depict the crucifix, Myers wrote. Other teachers often use Bible verses for the “Quote of the day” written on classroom boards.  Coaches encourage team prayer before competitions. “As the captain of the swim team, I feel I have to be a part of it.”

Myers also cited Lee vs. Wiseman, a U.S. Supreme Court decision based on a case where a parent tried to stop a rabbi from speaking at a middle school graduation. The court ruled in a 5-4 decision that the inclusion of clergy who offer prayers at official public school ceremonies violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

“The school’s rule creates subtle and indirect coercion (students must stand respectfully and silently), forcing students to act in ways which establish a state religion,” the ruling said.

 If Myers editorial had run in the school newspaper — she’s the editor — would the Christians have rioted? I doubt it.

 

Prayer and math lab

On Community College Spotlight:  Students have a right to “non-disruptive” prayer on campus, including in a shared faculty office,  and Tennessee colleges use computer labs — not classes — to teach remedial math, reading and other courses.