Yoga in school doesn’t bend rules on free­dom of reli­gion: US court


Yoga taught in a public school is not a gate­way to Hin­duism and doesn’t vi­o­late the re­li­gious rights of stu­dents or their par­ents, a Cal­i­for­nia ap­peals court ruled Fri­day.

An ap­peal court in San Diego up­held a lower court rul­ing that tossed out a fam­ily’s law­suit that tried to block Encini­tas Union School Dis­trict from teach­ing yoga as an al­ter­na­tive to tra­di­tional gym classes.

“While the prac­tice of yoga may be re­li­gious in some con­texts, yoga classes as taught in the dis­trict are, as the trial court de­ter- mined, ‘de­void of any re­li­gious, mys­ti­cal, or spir­i­tual trap­pings,’” the court wrote in a 3-0 opin­ion.

Stephen and Jen­nifer Sedlock and their two chil­dren had brought the law­suit claim­ing yoga pro­moted Hin­duism and in­hib­ited Chris­tian­ity. They were dis­ap­pointed with the rul­ing and con­sid­er­ing their op­tions.

“No other court in the past 50 years has al­lowed public school of­fi­cials to lead chil­dren in for­mal re­li­gious rit­u­als like the Hindu liturgy of pray­ing to, bow­ing to, and wor­ship­ping the sun god,” at­tor­ney Dean Broyles said in a state­ment.

Paul V. Carelli IV, a lawyer for the dis­trict, said there were no rit­u­als oc­cur­ring in the class­room and no one was wor­ship­ping the sun or lead­ing Hindu rites. The dis­trict said the prac­tice is taught in a secular way to pro­mote strength, flex­i­bil­ity and bal­ance.

Yoga is now taught at schools across the U.S., but the dis­trict is be­lieved to be the first with full­time yoga teach­ers at all schools.

A three-year grant from the K.P. Jois Foun­da­tion, a non­profit group that pro­motes Ash­tanga yoga, pro­vides twice- weekly, 30-minute classes to the dis­trict’s 5,600 stu­dents.

About 30 fam­i­lies opted out of the classes be­gun in 2011.

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