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Washington State University Compliance and Civil Rights

CCR Guidelines for Mindfulness Programs

WSU Compliance and Civil Rights – Guidance for Mindfulness Programs

With the rise in popularity of mindfulness programs in the corporate world, government agencies, and higher education, CCR has developed this guidance to help WSU departments understand the principles underpinning the laws and regulations that state agencies are required to follow in regards to religious programs and religious symbols. Although mindfulness programs are not inherently religious there are many mindfulness programs that stem from religious traditions. It is important for WSU departments to carefully consider how certain aspects of a program or particular symbols may be interpreted by some as religious in nature. Therefore, we offer this information as a guide for the appropriate implementation of mindfulness programs to ensure that all of our students, employees, and visitors experience a welcoming and inclusive environment at WSU.

WSU is committed to inclusiveness and respect for a wide range of cultural customs. CCR encourages individuals and departments to be thoughtful and respectful of the beliefs, traditions, and comfort level of others with regard to its programs.

Principles informing WSU’s Guidance for Mindfulness Programs:

  1. WSU is a state agency, and may not advance or endorse religion, non‐religion, or one religion over another.
  2. WSU respects the rights of individuals to the free exercise of their beliefs.

WSU must ensure that both of these principals are met. Specifically:

  1. Employees may display religious symbols in private work areas, however they may not do so in public or shared work spaces. Such expressions must clearly be personal, private, and not appear to be public.
  2. Religious symbols should not be displayed in areas where they may reasonably be seen as expressions of the institution rather than an individual.
  3. WSU shall not sponsor nor provide direct financial support for the display of religious symbols.
  4. WSU mindfulness programs shall not include specific religious symbols, religious texts, or customs/traditions that have a clearly religious history.
  5. Aspects of a mindfulness program that may have some connection to a historically religious custom/tradition that now have a contemporary societal understanding as having a clearly secular purpose may be acceptable, but should be given due consideration to how this particular aspect may impact WSU students, employees, and other program participants, and how to ensure that this aspect is implemented in a manner that clearly distinguishes it as secular and not religious in nature.
  6. Ensure that you understand any specific terminology used in a mindfulness program. Language should describe broad concepts of mindfulness and not ascribe to specific religious terms or customs.
  7. Please contact WSU Compliance and Civil Rights (509-335-8288) or ccr@wsu.edu with specific questions.

Inclusive Strategies

  1. Use a collaborative process to gather feedback from diverse perspectives on department plans for a mindfulness program.
  2. Respect an individual’s decision to not participate.
  3. Focus communications about mindfulness programs on the scientific research into health and workplace benefits and by using images that are not associated with religious traditions. Remember that images that seem neutral to some may be experienced as religious by others with different traditions.
  4. Consider how efforts support and enhance the university’s values and goals with regard to diversity, equity, and inclusion.