Last Friday, the California Fourth District Court of Appeals upheld an earlier court ruling that teaching yoga in school does not violate the constitution.
The case in question stems from a suit that was filed after the Encinitas Union School District introduced yoga classes in 2012. Some local parents claimed that the class was indoctrinating students in Hinduism, thus violated their Christian beliefs and the students’ constitutional rights.
The district, however, was actually pretty conscientious about ensuring the secular nature of the program, and the parents in question were, let’s say, stretching the truth with their claims about indoctrination.
District officials said before the program started, instructors removed images of yoga Sanskrit and changed the names of poses. But Monday plaintiffs argued that this wasn’t the case.
“We expressed our concern again after hearing about our 7-year-old daughter at class talking about Sanskrit names for her limbs that she was taught in school,” said Stephen Sedlock, who, along with his wife, is suing the school district.
He also said he became worried after reading an article that suggested yoga may not be safe for children. His wife, Jennifer, said the yoga program went against the first and second commandment of the Bible, which dictate “I am the Lord your God,” and “you shall have no other gods before me.”
During cross examination, the plaintiffs revealed that their daughter has never participated in a yoga class at the school. Instead, she learned Sanskrit in art class — not yoga.
The classes are not mandatory, and seem to be, as implemented by the district, strictly exercise-focused. Therefore, the district argued, they were not violating the separation of church and state by teaching a secular yoga class.
The Court of Appeals concurred.
“We conclude that the program is secular… (and) does not have the primary effect of advancing or inhibiting religion, and does not excessively entangle the school district in religion,” the three-member appeals court panel said in its ruling Friday.
The Sedlocks are still considering their options, but, should they choose to pursue it further, the outcome seems a forgone conclusion. With secular yoga classes happening all over the country on any given day, it’s pretty hard to maintain that yoga, as an exercise, is necessarily religious, particularly when the district has worked to ensure the program’s secular nature.
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