Christians Lose Protest Over School Yoga Class

     SAN DIEGO (CN) – Schools in Encinitas, Calif., use yoga classes for fitness, not to indoctrinate elementary school students into Buddhism, a judge ruled.
     The new ruling resolves a February complaint Stephen and Jennifer Sedlock filed against Superintendent Timothy Baird and the trustees of the Encinitas Unified School District, on behalf of their children, J.S. and F.S.
     In addition to claiming that the district’s Ashtanga yoga program “unlawfully promotes and advances religion, including Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, and Western metaphysics,” the Sedlocks claimed that students who choose not to take yoga are bullied and harassed.
     The family says the classes conflict with her family’s Christian beliefs.
     In the face of the lawsuit, the school district insisted that its yoga classes have “absolutely no religious association” and are all about exercise.
     The Sedlocks wanted a San Diego judge to enjoin the school’s yoga program and declare the classes unconstitutional.
     Judge John Mayer found Monday that the schools are not endorsing one religion over another, though he did express some concern that the wealthy suburban district partnered on its program with California’s KP Jois Foundation.
     K. Pattabhi Jois developed Ashtanga yoga from the classical Indian yoga and imported it to the United States in 1975. He died in 2009.
     The Los Angeles Times reported that the Jois Foundation gave the school district a $500,000 grant to set up the yoga program.
     Noting that he found the Jois Foundation’s connection to the school “troublesome,” Mayer said Jois was on a “mission” to get yoga on the school curriculum.”
     The judge found nevertheless that the school district is “not in conspiracy with Jois and the district is not being duped.”
     He said the nine Encinitas campuses removed all cultural references to Hinduism, and use western terms, such as “crisscross applesauce,” to describe the common lotus yoga position.
     The Sedlocks relied on unreliable information culled from the Internet to support their claims, according to the ruling.
     “It’s almost like a trial by Wikipedia, which isn’t what this court does,” Meyer reportedly said at a hearing.
     The court relied on the Supreme Court ruling in Lemon v. Kurtzman to find the purpose of the classes is to advance student health and welfare.
     Meyer also found no motive by the schools to “advance” an Eastern religion, noting that the schools have “complete control over the curriculum and the teachers,” and a “complete separation from Jois.”
     “Yoga as it has developed in the last 20 years is rooted in American culture, not Indian culture,” Meyer said, according to Reuters. “It is a distinctly American cultural phenomenon. A reasonable student would not objectively perceive that Encinitas school district yoga advances or promotes religion.”
     The National Center for Law & Policy of Escondido argued for the plaintiffs. Jack Sleeth and Paul Carelli with Artiano Shinoff & Holtz of Los Angeles appeared for the schools.
     “I think it reveals a double-standard,” National Center president Dean Broyles told U-T San Diego. “If it were Christian-based and other parents complained, it would be out of schools. There is a consistent anti-Christian bias in cases like this that involve schools.”

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