Yoga program in Encinitas Union School District appealed

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ENCINITAS, Calif. -- A case that sparked national conversation about whether or not yoga was inherently religious, and therefore not appropriate for the classroom, is being appealed.

“Today the appellate court looked at whether yoga practiced in the school is religious in any way," said Encinitas attorney David Peck.

Peck has been working pro bono on behalf of parents who formed the group “Yes! Yoga for Encinitas Students.” He fought and won a lawsuit in 2013 brought by a family that claimed the yoga curriculum was religious.

“It was clear there is no religion the curriculum," Peck said. "There isn’t religion in the classroom. Students aren’t leaving with any kind of indoctrination. So I am confident our victory will be upheld."

In his ruling, San Diego Superior Court Judge John Meyer found that yoga was rooted in Hindu and other religions, but the Encinitas Union School Districts ‘brand’ of yoga only promoted physical fitness and well-being. The program not only stayed, but expanded last year.

“She comes home and shows us the poses she can do and hold,” said Mark Deweese, the father of an Encinitas elementary school student. "It goes with her gymnastic class she’s taking.”

The vast majority of parents say they welcome the program and have only seen a positive effect on their children, but that’s not stopping attorney Dean Broyles, founder and chief counsel for the National Center for Law & Policy, from arguing in his appeal that the program is unconstitutional.

In a statement to FOX 5, Broyles wrote in part:

“The district’s position is essentially that Hindu worship rituals can be taught in public school classrooms as long as school officials successfully conceal the objective religiosity of these Hindu liturgies from young impressionable students and their families.”

Arguing before a panel of three appellate court judges, Peck believes Broyles is putting all yoga on trial – not just yoga in the classroom.

“His position seems to be that yoga is inherently religious, which is absurd when you look around Encinitas,” Peck said. “We have CorePower Yoga, Hip Hop Yoga and Paddle Board Yoga! Hard to image that any of those brands of yoga are religious.”

The panel of three judges has 90 days to make their decision. If they rule in favor of the Encinitas Union School District again, the next step for Boyles is to petition the California Supreme Court.

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