Editorial Opinion By R. W. Lobsinger
The Newkirk Herald Journal,
9 April 1992
In the 1970s, Maharishi Mehesh Yogi, the guru of Transcendental Meditation, managed to convince many schools, prisons, and even some facets of the US Military that his system of behavior control through TM would eliminate many of their deportment problems, including drug abuse.
Transcendental Meditation is a repackaged version of the ancient Hindu religion. Hindu is as venerable a religion as exists in the world. To repackage this religion and install it as mandatory activity in public schools, prisons, and military institutions, however, is a violation of the principle of separation of church and state. TM advocates claimed the repackaged version was not religion.
TM critics fell into two categories:
One group opposed TM on the basis that it was religious in nature and its use should not be mandated by government.
Another group simply said it didn't work and could even be unsafe. TM had little scientific evidence to counteract that claim.
Narconon, the licensee of the Church of Scientology's religious Purification Rundown and related courses, wishes to sell this repackaged Scientology program as a state authorized treatment for drug and alcohol abuse. Narconon's advocates claim the repackaged version is not religion. Narconon's critics fall into two groups:
Some oppose the certification of Narconon on the basis that it is religious in nature and should not be approved as state authorized treatment because it would violate the principle of separation of church and state.
Others oppose Narconon because they say it is unsafe and ineffective. Narconon can provide no credible independent scientific evidence to the contrary.
If, as a religious experience, one wishes to believe he can learn to levitate... or purge contaminates from his body through sweating in a sauna..., so be it. There is no scientific basis for either claim. As religion, there doesn't have to be. Shouldn't be.
But as public policy, approved and authorized by the state, there must be. And there isn't.
Ultimately, the courts decided that TM was indeed repackaged religion and the practice of establishing mandatory TM training in public facilities ceased in this country.
While Scientology seems to have a long way to go before it gains respect as a venerable religion, the principle remains the same in both cases. It will be interesting to see if the courts can dispense consistent opinions, or if they are just interested in slapping around obnoxious newsmen.