Suit claims grade school yoga classes are inherently religious

Constitutional Law

Suit claims grade school yoga classes are inherently religious

Feb 21, 2013, 12:33 pm CST

A suit filed Wednesday in San Diego superior court claims grade school yoga classes are inherently religious and a violation of the California Constitution.

The suit, filed on behalf of a couple with students in the district, claims the classes in Encinitas schools violate state constitutional provisions regarding religious freedom and state physical education requirements, according to a press release (PDF). The parents are represented by the National Center for Law & Policy.

In a declaration filed in support of the suit, a religious studies professor says the Ashtanga yoga program is inherently and pervasively religious. Students who opt out of the program do not receive 200 minutes of physical education every 10 days as mandated by the state, the press release says. The Associated Press and the Los Angeles Times blog L.A. Now have coverage.

The suit seeks an end to the yoga program rather than money damages. The program is funded with a $533,000 from the nonprofit Jois Foundation. According to a prior press release (PDF) by the National Center for Law & Policy, “the stated goal of the Jois Foundation is to promote the ‘gospel’ of Ashtanga (Hindu beliefs and practices), a deeply religious form of yoga, worldwide.”

L.A. Now spoke to the superintendent of the Encinitas Union School District, Tim Baird, who said he was disappointed a suit had been filed. Baird said the program is intended to teach students about the benefits of exercise and healthy eating.

“We are not teaching religion, we are not instructing anyone in religious dogma,” said Baird. “Yoga is very mainstream.”

Prior coverage: “Parents Claim Grade School Yoga Classes Are First Amendment Violation”

Updated at 10 a.m. to include information from a second press release and to link to Associated Press coverage.

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