Parents who are upset over the introduction of yoga lessons – funded by a private foundation that promotes yoga – into their children’s school curriculum have filed a lawsuit to bring them to a halt.
The lawsuit, filed recently in San Diego Superior Court by attorney Dean Broyles, contends that the twice weekly, 30-minute classes are inherently religious and thus violate the separation between church and state.
The plaintiffs, Stephen and Jennifer Sedlock, whose children are students in the Encinitas Union School District, are seeking no monetary damages, but merely for the program to be suspended.
The lawsuit notes Harvard-educated religious studies professor Candy Gunter Brown’s findings that the school’s yoga program is religious in nature, having its roots in Hindu, Buddhist and Taoist beliefs.
In a report from Fox News, Broyles stated that the yoga program goes too far.
“EUSD’s Ashtanga yoga program represents a serious breach of the public trust,” Broyles said. “Compliance with the clear requirements of law is not optional or discretionary. This is frankly the clearest case of the state trampling on the religious freedom rights of citizens that I have personally witnessed in my 18 years of practice as a constitutional attorney.”
According to Broyles, his clients took legal action after the district refused to take their complaints into account.
District Superintendent Timothy Baird said he supported the integration of yoga into the school’s curriculum, noting he had not seen the lawsuit and couldn’t directly comment on it.
“We’re not teaching religion,” he said to Fox. “We teach a very mainstream physical fitness program that happens to incorporate yoga into it. It’s part of our overall wellness program. The vast majority of students and parents support it.”
The yoga lessons are funded by a $533,000 three-year grant to the district from the Jois Foundation, a nonprofit group that promotes Asthanga yoga. The school district is believed to be the first in the country with full-time yoga instructors in all of its schools.
While the lawsuit only names the Sedlock family, Broyles suggested that numerous other families across the school district feel the same way.
According to Broyles, children who have opted out of the program have been bullied. He also noted that students who opt out are missing out on 60 of the 100 weekly minutes of physical activity required by the state, since they usually sit and read during yoga instruction.
Teaching yoga in public schools has become more prevalent in recent years. From rural West Virginia to urban schools in Brooklyn, instructors are appearing on school campuses. But most are after-school programs and not part of the day-to-day curriculum.
However, the New York Times just weeks ago reported that yoga can be dangerous for men, because they proportionally report more frequent injuries, strokes, fractures and dead nerves than women receive from the activity.
And the Daily Mail documented several years ago that the chief exorcist for the Vatican condemned yoga.
Don Gabriele Amorth said in the report, “Practicing yoga brings evil as does reading Harry Potter. They may both seem innocuous, but they both deal with magic and that leads to evil.
“Yoga is the devil’s work,” he said. “You think you are doing it for stretching your mind and body, but it leads to Hinduism. All these oriental religions are based on the false belief of reincarnation.”
He continued, “Satan is always hidden and the thing he desires more than anything is for people to believe he does not exist. He studies each and every one of us and our tendencies towards good and evil and then he tempts us.”
The report also cited Giorgio Furlan, who runs the Yoga Academy in Rome, saying, “There are some paths of yoga which do lead toward Hinduism but other paths are more philosophical but there is no direct link with religion and certainly no link with satanism.”
Concerned individuals may contact the Encinitas Union School District by calling (760)944-4300 or by emailing comments and concerns.