California Judge Rejects Claim That Yoga In Schools Is Religious Instruction


LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA, July 1, 2013 (LA Times): A San Diego Superior Court judge Monday rejected a claim by parents in the Encinitas elementary school system that teaching yoga in the schools is an improper attempt at religious indoctrination. The ruling by Judge John Meyer, who heard the case without a jury, means that the Encinitas Union School District can continue to teach yoga as part of its health and exercise curriculum.

Dean Broyles, attorney for the Escondido-based National Center for Law and Policy, had filed a lawsuit on behalf of an Encinitas family with two children in the school system seeking to have the program ousted as a violation of state law prohibiting the teaching of religion in public schools.

Broyles said having yoga in the schools “represents a serious breach of the public trust” and is a violation of state law that prohibits religious instruction in public schools. But Meyer said that he agreed with the school district’s explanation that it has taken out any references to Hinduism or Sanskrit from the program. Yoga, the judge said, is similar to other exercise programs like dodgeball. [It was noted and not objected to by both sides early in the trial that the judge himself practices yoga.]

Students receive two 30-minute yoga sessions each week. The yoga program is supported by a $533,000 grant from a local studio that teaches Ashtanga yoga. Encinitas Union School District Supt. Tim Baird has said that the program is worthwhile in teaching healthy exercise habits and stress reduction. “We are not instructing anyone in religious dogma,” Baird said. “Yoga is very mainstream.”

Yoga boosters noted that it is used at the San Diego Naval Medical Center to help military personnel wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan to recover from their injuries and regain their self-confidence.

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