If a child gets a yoga lesson in the classroom, is that child practicing Hinduism? According to a San Diego group of parents, yes. Here’s the story from the San Francisco Chronicle:
A group of parents in Encinitas, California fear the answer to this rather curious question is yes. They’re afraid that yoga lessons taught in the school district are a form of religious indoctrination, and are threatening to sue the school board if the classes aren’t pulled.
Encinitas, San Diego County — – A group of parents is threatening to bring legal action over free yoga classes at schools in this beachside community, fearing they are indoctrinating youngsters in eastern religion.
“There’s a deep concern that the Encinitas Union School District is using taxpayer resources to promote Ashtanga yoga and Hinduism, a religion system of beliefs and practices,” the parents’ attorney, Dean Broyles, told the North County Times.
In an Oct. 12 e-mail to district Superintendent Tim Baird, Broyles called the yoga program unconstitutional and said he may take unspecified legal action unless the classes stop.
The lessons are funded by a $533,000, three-year grant from the Jois Foundation, a nonprofit group that promotes Ashtanga yoga. Some schools began classes last month and others will begin holding them in January.
The classes involve traditional Eastern breathing techniques and poses. The district chooses teachers and sets the curriculum while the foundation trains the teachers.
The district has removed any religious content from the twice-weekly classes, Baird said.
“They really would like to think that, but I don’t think that, in actuality, it has been done,” said Mary Eady, who removed her son from the classes. “There’s really a lot of unease among a lot of parents.”
The superintendent said only a few parents have pulled their children from the yoga classes, and he does not expect district trustees to cancel the program.
“Our goal is that kids get a really healthy workout, that they get a chance to relax and reduce stress, and yoga’s perfect for that,” Baird said.
Jois Foundation Director Eugene Ruffin denied that the group is religious and said the board of directors includes people from various faiths.
“These therapies are headed toward trying to find solutions for some of the stress that these children find themselves in,” he said. “We’re trying to solve problems.”