Human beings fear what we do not understand. That’s simply a fact of life. Most functional adults understand this, and a great many of us, when faced with things we do not understand, seek to understand… instead of fearfully and thoughtlessly retaliating. Not so for a San Diego couple who is suing their child’s school for providing yoga classes. Why? They’re opposed to their child being made a “religious guinea pig,” and claim that the yoga classes are “inherently and pervasively religious.”
Republicans have taken this opportunity to offer us a sample of astounding hypocrisy, as evidenced by Dean Broyles, an attorney with the right-wing “legal defense organization” called the National Center for Law and Policy. This organization is representing the parents in their lawsuit. He stated that, “This is frankly the clearest case of the state trampling on the religious freedom rights of citizens that I have personally witnessed in my 18 years of practice as a constitutional attorney,” despite the fact that yoga is practiced across the country non-religiously and, in most venues, has nothing at all to do with any of the eastern religions associated with the creation or tradition of yoga.
In fact, the school, on its website, makes sure to state the fact:
“There is no discussion of spiritualism, mysticism, religion in any context. The students simply perform the physical components of movement and breathing related to mainstream yoga.”
If you’re still somehow upset about the use of the program, you still have a way out; children are not being forced to participate in the class. That means they could have just pulled their kid. Instead, they have initiated a lawsuit that has an eventual goal of shutting down the program completely and, in their own words, will “restore traditional physical education to the district.”
Another interesting point of this is that the representing attorneys, the National Center for Law and Policy, represent the exact sort of interests that are normally faulted for trying to get religion in schools. In fact, some of the things that this organization has fought for in the past are on-campus Bible studies and moments of prayer; the argument to validate these practices on school grounds is that other students aren’t forced to participate and there is no school endorsement of those activities. In this case, with yoga being a physical exercise, saying it violates your religious freedom is simply silly.
In the National Center for Law and Policy’s press release on subject, the following is stated:
The lawsuit is the result of EUSD’s decision to accept $533,000 from the Jois Foundation in exchange for providing the religiously-based organization access to its young and impressible students to test and prove the feasibility of Jois’ “health and wellness” Ashtanga yoga curriculum. According to Harvard educated religious studies Professor Candy Gunther Brown, Ph.D., who wrote a declaration supporting the complaint, EUSD’s Ashtanga yoga program is inherently and pervasively religious, having its roots firmly planted in Hindu, Buddhist, Taoist, and Western Metaphysical religious beliefs and practices. As such, the program violates California constitutional provisions prohibiting government religious preference and religious discrimination (article I, § 4), prohibiting use of state resources to support religion (article XVI, § 5), and forbidding employing government resources to promote religion in public schools (article IX, § 8).
“EUSD’s Ashtanga yoga program represents a serious breach of the public trust,” declared attorney Dean Broyles. “Compliance with the clear requirements of law is not optional or discretionary. This is frankly the clearest case of the state trampling on the religious freedom rights of citizens that I have personally witnessed in my 18 years of practice as a constitutional attorney. The program is extremely divisive and has unfortunately led to the harassment, discrimination, bullying, and segregation of children who, for good reasons, opt out of the program. EUSD’s Ashtanga yoga program represents a prime example of precisely why in America we wisely forbid the government from picking religious winners and losers, especially when you have a captive audience of very young and impressionable children as we do in our public schools.” [sic on everything]
It’s very dangerous to teach our kids to exercise, after all.
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