Yoga in school does not violate First Amendment religious rights, a California appeals court ruled Friday. Some of you may remember the huge to-do and trial over yoga in the Encinitas Union School District, which ended in a triumph for the yoga program in the end. As a brief summary, a lawsuit was filed by conservative parents concerned about the “inherent” religiousness of yoga classes offered in the Encinitas school district provided by the Sonima Foundation (formerly the Jois Foundation) thanks to a generous three-year grant, which has grown since the trial and now totals $1.4 million.
The 2013 court ruling decided that yoga was OK for public school children, a big moment for school yoga programs. But immediately following, the parents’ attorney, Dean Broyles, vowed to appeal. Broyles made good on his promise and eventually the case was brought to court once again.
In a statement made during the proceedings, Broyles maintained that:
“The First Amendment’s Establishment Clause (popularly referred to as the ‘separation of church and state’) does not permit public school officials to teach formal religious rituals to children in public schools … EUSD’s yoga program is unconstitutional because it is teaching formal religious rituals …”
As the judges heard the case in mid-March, there was presumption that they could take months to deliver their ruling. However, it only took a few weeks and we’ve got our verdict. These yoga classes taught in school do not undermine religious freedom, the judges found in a 3-0 decision.
Via U-T San Diego:
“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,’” the court wrote in a 3-0 opinion.
Stephen and Jennifer Sedlock and their two children had brought the lawsuit claiming yoga promoted Hinduism and inhibited Christianity. They were disappointed with the ruling and considering their options.
“No other court in the past 50 years has allowed public school officials to lead children in formal religious rituals like the Hindu liturgy of praying to, bowing to, and worshipping the sun god,” attorney Dean Broyles said in a statement.
Paul V. Carelli IV, a lawyer for the district, said there were no rituals occurring in the classroom and no one was worshipping the sun or leading Hindu rites. The district said the practice is taught in a secular way to promote strength, flexibility and balance.
The yoga program provides twice-weekly, 30-minute yoga classes to the 5,600 students in the school district. Since its inception in 2011, 30 families have opted out.