Teaching yoga not a violation of establishment clause

Last week, I wrote about an affluent suburban school district in California that was being sued by some Christian parents because yoga sessions were being scheduled as part of their physical education curriculum and they felt that this was a subtle way of indoctrinating their children with non-Christian religious teachings.

I said that as far as I could see they were likely going to lose because the school district’s policy did not seem, as least as far as the facts presented in newspaper articles were concerned, to violate the three prongs (purpose, effect, and entanglement) of the Lemon test and/or the endorsement test that are the measures normally used to see if a violation of the Establishment Clause has occurred.

And sure enough, that is just what happened. The judge in the case used the Lemon test and found that no violation had occurred.

In his opinion, San Diego Superior Court Judge John Meyer explained that although yoga is rooted in religion, it has a legitimate secular purpose in the district’s physical education program. He also said the practice, contrary to parents’ complaints, does not advance or inhibit religion.

Finally, Meyer said although he had some concerns about the K.P. Jois Foundation, an organization launched in 2011 that awarded the district a $533,720 grant to start the program, the district’s yoga curriculum does not create any kind of excessive government entanglement with religion. That’s because it is the schools — and not the foundation — that are ultimately responsible for supervising the yoga instructors, Meyer said.

Of course, the Christian parents see this ruling as another example of the rampant anti-Christian bias that pervades the US and are going to appeal in order to protect America from paganism and godlessness.

“It’s absolutely incredible, but it’s not surprising,” said Sian Welch, who pulled her daughter out of the yoga classes offered at Capri Elementary School in Encinitas. Welch said she believed the judge’s decision was at least partly influenced by the money involved in funding the program and by an anti-Christian bias.

“We will have a society very soon where Christians will be the weirdest people,” said Welch, though she said she has no plans to pull her daughter out of the school district. “They will just be touted as crazy.”

Well, Ms. Welch, that’s the risk you take when you believe in weird things.


  1. says

    The “sun salutation” is the only thing that keeps my cranky back anywhere near normal.

    I do a series of those in the morning, along with some half-moons, and I’m good to go. If not…ouch!

    Praise Krishna for sending yoga to me…

  2. AsqJames says

    “We will have a society very soon where Christians will be the weirdest people,”

    Or possibly where only the weirdest people will be Christians? We can only hope.

  3. Chiroptera says

    “We will have a society very soon where Christians will be the weirdest people,” said Welch…

    Ha ha! Too late!

  4. CaitieCat says

    One of the really cool things about the Wii Fit board is its ability to use the board’s sensors to demonstrate balance visually, and this was used in a really good way to make a yoga program within the software that teaches the poses one after the other. The feedback element is (for me, anyway) a really good way to get the balance right, and led me to quickly recognize the muscle groups I was using in achieving balance. Combined with my good fortune in having a strong proprioceptive sense made the thing amazingly useful in helping me learn a lot more about how to do yoga well.

    And nowhere in the thing did it have any Hinduism. It used the greeting from Sanskrit which has become common among all Indians, “Namaste”. That’s the closest it got. By that measure, we should also be banning algebra from school, as it’s clearly based in a diabolical Muslin (sic) plot to introduce homofascist shari’a, what with that Arabic-derived name. Also, Roman numerals shall henceforth be the only ones allowed, to avoid the shari’a of using those Arabic ones (which are ALSO HINDU OMFIPU LIKE ZERO!).

    Stupid, stupid people.

  5. Guess Who? says

    I came to yoga a decade ago after a knee injury sidelined me. I started with a gentle, restorative class that surprised me in how effective it was in building core strength and maintaining muscle mass without aggravating the knee injury. Since then I’ve taken a number of different styles of yoga from a number of different teachers, and not a single class has been in any way religious.

    Furthermore, unlike most gym classes that feature tedious team sports with a couple of hot-shots hogging all the equipment and time, team sports that most adults will never participate in again, yoga can be practiced by anyone with floorspace to stand on, and can be adapted to any level of fitness. People in nursing homes do chair-based yoga; super-fit people do any one of a number of styles of yoga; busy adults can do yoga five or ten minutes at a time as it fits into their day. Isn’t the point of school gym classes to introduce students to physical activity and (hopefully) engage them in something they’ll enjoy the rest of their lives?

  6. Mano Singham says

    Although I do not practice yoga or any other form of exercise because I am so lazy, from what I have seen yoga seems about the most benign and beneficial forms of exercise, if done properly. I understand that there are some extreme forms of it that are not advisable but some people always want to push the boundaries.

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