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Judge rules yoga classes can continue at Encinitas schools

SAN DIEGO — A judge Monday ruled that yoga classes can continue at schools in the Encinitas Union School District.

Superior Court Judge John Meyer ruled that the district’s yoga program does not endorse any religion.

“From both a legal and common sense perspective, the judge got it right,” wrote Dave Peck with  YES! Yoga for Encinitas Schools.

School Yoga Class

Photo: Los Angeles Times

The district was sued by the National Center for Law and Policy on behalf of Stephen and Jennifer Sedlock, whose children attend one of the district’s nine schools. On its website, the nonprofit Christianity-based center said its focuses on the protection and promotion of religious freedom, the sanctity of life, traditional marriage, parental rights and other civil liberties.

The plaintiffs contended that Ashtanga yoga is religious in nature and that opting out costs students physical education time. They wanted the yoga program ended but did not ask for a financial judgment.

In his nearly two-hour ruling from the bench, Meyer said that even though yoga dates back to 1500 B.C. and has its roots in Hinduism, the EUSD came up with a curriculum for its 30-minute yoga classes that emphasizes respect, proper breathing and posture.

“There’s nothing religious about that,” the judge said.

During trial of the lawsuit, El Camino Creek Elementary’s principal, Carrie Brown, testified that the yoga class was one component of an enrichment program that also includes instruction in music, computers and karate. A couple of parents had their children opt out of the other elective courses, too, she said.

Another yoga teacher said “that what I am teaching is not religious,” Meyer noted.

According to the judge, a reasonable student would not objectively perceive the advancement of religion in the yoga classes.

Controversy over the program erupted last year as the district began to develop a health and wellness curriculum that includes yoga.

The program was funded by a $500,000 grant from the K.P. Jois Foundation, which promotes Ashtanga yoga, a fast-paced form of yoga of progressively more demanding poses with synchronized breathing.

Meyer, in his ruling, called the influence of the Jois Foundation on the EUSD “troublesome.”

EUSD Superintendent Timothy Baird testified that while children opting out of yoga receive less PE time than participating students, they still get at least the state-required minimum of PE minutes.

After Monday’s ruling, Baird said EUSD’s yoga program “is an excellent program for kids, and we are moving forward with our plans to have it in place next year.”

The plaintiffs said an appeal is likely.


18 Comments to “Judge rules yoga classes can continue at Encinitas schools”

    diana said:
    July 1, 2013 at 10:56 AM

    How about that, common sense wins the day.

    Guest said:
    July 1, 2013 at 11:37 AM

    What a concept, allowing kids a refreshing insight into mind body and soul.

    Oooops, that might be too much for some to handle.

    Michael Cienfuegos said:
    July 1, 2013 at 12:17 PM

    Just wondering who is going to pay for the legal fees for this trial.

    Jerald said:
    July 1, 2013 at 3:05 PM

    Thank God there is still sanity in the world.

    mark said:
    July 1, 2013 at 3:43 PM

    Oh Boy! you people are nuts and so is the Judge. You can teach it but you can't call it Yoga!

    Bowler's Desk San Diego News said:
    July 1, 2013 at 3:52 PM

    Reblogged this on San Diego News – Bowler's Desk and commented:
    Judge rules yoga classes can continue at Encinitas schools

    Amy said:
    July 1, 2013 at 6:22 PM

    Thanks Honorable Judge Meyer! Maybe next time Stephen and Jennifer Sedlock can donate their resources elsewhere, like the poor schools.

    Jane said:
    July 2, 2013 at 8:33 AM

    "Meyer, in his ruling, called the influence of the Jois Foundation on the EUSD “troublesome.” "

    Haven't been able to find a copy of the full ruling – it would have been nice for the media to post a link to it.

    The above quote is why the case isn't dead yet. The school took half a million dollars from a RELIGIOUS institution to teach something that has religious underpinnings. It doesn't matter how much you whitewash it. If it looks like a duck, walks, like a duck, and quacks like a duck…its a duck.

    The money is not just "troublesome" its ILLEGAL under the "Lemon test". While the Lemon case looked a money going to religious schools for the teaching of SECULAR (i.e. non-religious) subjects, the Court found the expenditure to be an unlawful entanglement. The reverse here is true, the school took money from a RELIGIOUS institution to teach a RELIGIOUS subject in a supposedly "secular" manner.

    The fact that the judge even mentioned the money is proof that the judge KNEW he came to the wrong decision. Religion should not be funding ANYTHING in public schools, it should especially not be funding things that are fundamentally religious in nature such as yoga.

    latha rajamani said:
    July 2, 2013 at 9:14 AM

    I cant believe such an inconsequential thing as Yoga which has its root in Hinduism can arise so much emotion.Hinduism as it is,is a very liberal religion and religion has nothing to do with Yoga.

    ELS said:
    July 2, 2013 at 9:20 AM

    It sounds like certain people could really benefit from learning to focus on their breathing. Unless, you know, that's against their religion.

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