U.S. Court of Appeals Rules Against TM Movement

Spiritual Counterfeits Project, February 6, 1979

On February 2, the United States Court of Appeals for the third circuit, sitting in Philadelphia, affirmed a lower court’s ruling that had declared Transcendental Meditation (TM) to be religious in nature.

The U.S. District Court in New Jersey, Judge Meanor presiding, had delivered the original decision in the case Malnak versus Maharishi Mahesh Yogi on October 19, 1977. In his 80-page opinion, Judge Meanor had ruled that the teaching of TM and SCI (“Science of Creative Intelligence,” TM philosophy) in the public schools violated the establishment clause of the first amendment of the U.S. Constitution. That is, the principle of “separation of church and staten had been violated, since taxpayers’ money had been used to support the religious teachings and practices of the TM movement.

The defeated Maharishi and his TM movement argued that Judge Meanor did not have all the facts straight, so they proceeded to take the case to the U.S. Court of Appeals in Philadelphia.

When oral arguments were heard before the Court of Appeals on December 11, 1978, counsel for the TM movement advanced the argument that TM and SCI should be permitted entrance into the public schools as a “true science.” The Court directly questioned this concept. The presiding judge quoted the following from TM’s ceremony of initiation:

“Guru in the glory of Brahma, Guru in the glory of Vishnu, Guru in the glory of the great Lord shiva, Guru in the glory of the personified transcendental fullness of Brahman, to Him, to Shri Guru Dev adorned with glory, I bow down.”

The judge then asked, “What’s scientific about that?”

Instead of responding directly, Maharishi’s lawyer referred to an affidavit which stated that such ceremonies were sometimes used for “secular” occasions in India. The court later remarked that the effect of that affidavit was to “take a cow and put a sign on it that says ‘horse’!”

There were no further proceedings until the Court of Appeals panel, consisting of three judges, gave its ruling on February 2. In addition to the Court’s judgment upholding the lower court’s decision against TM, a 34-page concurring opinion was given by one of the judges. The concurring opinion discusses some of the legal questions involved in this case regarding the definition of religion, and declares that TM is a “religion” (not merely religious in nature).

If Maharishi and the TM people decide to pursue the matter further, they will have to ask the U.S. Supreme Court for permission to bring an appeal there. The message from the courts, however, has been clear: TM is religious. Federal, state, and local officials can be expected to heed the courts’ judgments and refuse any requests by the TM people to use taxpayers’ dollars for TM programs.

The original plaintiffs in this action were a group of New Jersey parents and taxpayers, together with the Spiritual Counterfeits Project, an organization based in Berkeley, California. All of these parties were represented on the appeal. Additional defendants before the lower court included the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare, the New Jersey Department of Education, and the several local school boards. None of these governmental defendants joined with Maharishi’s TM movement in his appeal.

Counsel for the respondents (the original plaintiffs) was Julius B. Poppinga of the Newark, New Jersey lawfirm of McCarter and English.

Copies of the lower court’s opinion, which analyzed the TM program in detail, are available from the Spiritual Counterfeits Project, Box 4308, Berkeley, California 94704.

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