School Yoga Classes Under Fire

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Parents consider lawsuit over fears of religious ties connected to yoga

    (NECN/AP) - A group of parents is bent out of shape by free yoga classes at schools in a San Diego County 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 email to district Superintendent Tim Baird, Broyles called the yoga program unconstitutional and said he may take unspecified legal action unless the classes stop.

    Harvard Sociologist Hilary Levey Friedman shared the following:

    It is true that certain forms or yoga are quite religious, and that yoga is rooted in Eastern religious traditions like Hinduism, Buddhism, among others. Yoga can promote spirituality, along with physical fitness and health, but that spirituality isn't necessarily incompatible with other religious doctrines and beliefs.

    This is not the only case of schools and religion making the news-the middle school cheerleaders in Texas who display religious signs sued to be able to leave them up; parents in this case support the religious displays and the school administrators oppose them.

    Benefits of yoga:

    One of the biggest concerns related to children today is obesity and, on a related note, the lack of physical fitness in many kids' lives.  As many schools have dropped gym classes and recess for a variety of reasons (including funding and the need for more classroom instruction in an era of high-stakes testing) kids are no longer as active at school.

    Also, in part thanks to those high stakes tests some studies indicate that children are experiencing a great deal of stress. Yoga is known to help calm and promote relaxation.

    What is perhaps most confusing about the situation is that with so many school programs being cut due to budget crunches, this foundation comes in and offers an in-school activity to school free of charge.  Parents are rejecting a free class for their kids, which may discourage other foundations in the future.

    Hilary's thoughts on the matter:

    "While I am not a lawyer it seems unlikely a case could be made that these classes are mixing church and state.  Criticizing yoga as a religious form seems extreme, especially in the context of American society.

    "It's possible that parents are also upset that these classes are taking away from classroom instruction time, but because of the reasons mentioned above (childhood obesity, the need to expose children to non-academic classes, relaxation in an era of high stakes testing, etc.) these classes seem like a welcome addition.

    "I'm sure if these California parents reject the classes there are many parents who would be happy to enroll their children-likely many in New England!

    (Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)