Case in appeals court to stop mandatory Ashtanga yoga teachings
A legal case over a public school in California that has students “bowing to the sun god” is looming in an appeals court, where a team of lawyers advocating for student and parental rights is challenging the Encinitas Union School District’s Ashtanga yoga program.
It has broad implications, and it’s getting attention not just in the United States but worldwide.
Austria, for example, recently removed a similar teaching from its classes because it conflicts with students’ Catholic beliefs, and the Indian Supreme Court is examining whether the Ashtanga yoga philosophy “would discriminate against the Muslim and Christian minorities.”
“At its core, this case is about the American constitutional ideal of religious freedom,” explained Dean Broyles, who runs the the National Center for Law & Policy, which is fighting the school district’s yoga campaign.
The case is now before the California Court of Appeals in San Diego.
Broyles has been joined by Brad Dacus of the Pacific Justice Institute.
“This school district has essentially adopted a state religion and is forcing it upon our young children by requiring this class to be taken,” Dacus said. “These actions violate the fundamental right of parents to raise their children according to their beliefs, and they disregard the Constitution that this nation was founded upon.”
Also filing briefs in opposition to the yoga program were the World Faith Foundation and the Church State Council, while the California School Boards organization and the Yoga Alliance have lined up behind the school.
“No court in the past 50 years has permitted public school officials during regular classroom instruction to lead students to actively participate in devotional religious activities or practices like Ashtanga yoga’s Surya Namaskara,” Broyles said.
“Public schools may certainly teach about religion because religion is historically and culturally important. But the state is not constitutionally permitted to endorse or promote religion or religious practices,” he said.
“Courts are especially sensitive to the coercive pressures involved when the government, because education is compulsory and supported by tax dollars, leads young impressionable children with tender consciences through group liturgical/ritual religious exercises or activities including bowing to the sun god,” said Broyles.
Encinitis district officials declined to respond to WND requests for comment. A spokeswoman told WND a statement might be available later.
The case was brought by the Sedlock family, whose children were being subjected to the training of Ashtanga yoga, which was being provided to the school under a contract with a religious group that promotes the benefits of the meditation and worship.
The case is against the Encinitas Union School District, whose officials argue they have removed religious aspects of the faith activity even though a lower court found that some of the activities in the school, such as sitting and bowing, were identical to the religious “version.”
Written by BOB UNRUH
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