| the San Diego court ruled: “While the practice of yoga may be religious in some contexts, yoga classes as taught in the district are, as the trial court determined, ‘devoid of any religious, mystical, or spiritual trappings.’”
A San Diego court has said that yoga classes taught at an elementary school do not violate students' right to religious freedom, after parents complained Hindu and Buddhist doctrines were being promoted.
Los Angeles, April 4:
A U.S. court has ruled that Yoga classes in an elementary school in California do not endorse Hinduism or violate students’ right to religious freedom and are “devoid of any religious or mystical trappings“.
A three-member appeals court in San Diego gave its unanimous ruling yesterday on a lawsuit filed by parents, who complained that Hindu and Buddhist doctrines were being promoted at an Encinitas district school by imparting Ashtanga Yoga.
A three-year grant from a non-profit group promoting Ashtanga yoga, provides twice-weekly, 30-minute classes to the district’s 5,600 students.
They argued the school yoga programme was inherently spiritual and, therefore, unconstitutional.
According to court documents, the court had to determine whether the school district’s institution of the Yoga programme as a component of its physical education curriculum “constitutes an impermissible establishment of religion in violation of the California Constitution“.
Upholding a lower court ruling, the San Diego court ruled: “While the practice of yoga may be religious in some contexts, yoga classes as taught in the district are, as the trial court determined, ‘devoid of any religious, mystical, or spiritual trappings.’”
Yoga, the 5,000-year-old Indian physical, mental and spiritual practice that aims to transform body and mind, is being taught at schools across the U.S.
The court also viewed videos of excerpts of the Yoga classes that were being taught as an alternative to the traditional gym classes.
“We conclude that the programme is secular in purpose, does not have the primary effect of advancing or inhibiting religion, and does not excessively entangle the school district in religion.
“Accordingly, we conclude that the trial court properly determined that the district’s yoga programme does not violate our state constitution,” justice Cynthia Aaron wrote.
Stephen and Jennifer Sedlock and their two children, who had brought the lawsuit, said they were disappointed with the ruling and are considering other options.
Attorney Dean Broyles, who represented the parents in the lawsuit, said in an email to U-T San Diego: “No other court in the past 50 years has allowed public schools to lead children in formal religious rituals like the Hindu liturgy of praying to, bowing to, and worshipping the sun god.”
The UN adopted an India-led resolution declaring June 21 as ‘International Day of Yoga’ in December last year, less than three months after Prime Minister Narendra Modi proposed the idea.
The resolution was overwhelmingly co-sponsored and adopted in the world body, recognising that “Yoga provides a holistic approach to health and well-being”.