Back in October I wrote about a school district in Encinitas that had incorporated yoga exercises as part of its physical fitness curriculum thanks to a $500,000 donation from the K.P. Jois Foundation, which is an organization that promotes the Ashtanga style of yoga . Shortly thereafter, the superintendent got a call from attorney Dean Broyles at the National Center for Law and Policy (see the above link for more details), claiming that the program was “unconstitutional” because it was promoting Hinduism.
Despite reassurances by school district officials that the program instituted in the school was just a regimen of breathing, meditation, and stretching to promote physical fitness, coordination, and a little mental focus, Broyles took the district to court to get the program removed.
ENCINITAS, Calif. – The Encinitas Union School District is not teaching religion through its yoga classes for students, even though yoga is a religious activity, a judge ruled Monday.
In his nearly two-hour ruling from the bench, Meyer said that even though yoga dates back to 1500 B.C. and has its roots in Hinduism, the EUSD came up with a curriculum for its 30-minute yoga classes that emphasizes respect, proper breathing and posture.
“There’s nothing religious about that,” the judge said.
Basically, the evidence presented during the case supported the claims made by the school. Yoga may have its roots in religion, but the physical health benefits of yoga can stand on their own merits.
I’m honestly not sure what the ruling would have been if, along with the exercise program, there were just some expository description of some of the history and religious background behind yoga and the poses they used … but my guess is that they didn’t want to take any chances and just left it out to be safe.
According to the judge, a reasonable student would not objectively perceive the advancement of religion in the yoga classes.
Some parents were genuinely worried that by adopting the yoga poses, they were inviting Hindu deities inside of them. Others compared the treatment their children received after being pulled from the class similar to what occurred in Nazi Germany. Most of them were just worried about their children being indoctrinated into another religion before they were finished doing it themselves.
In other words … I honestly don’t think the kids are the ones we should be worrying about.