Is teaching yoga in public schools a violation of the separation of church and state? The Encinitas Union School District is launching what is believed to be the country’s largest public school yoga program, but the district already faces the threat of a lawsuit.
Parents opposed to the yoga program say they believe their children could be indoctrinated into eastern religion, and that yoga is not just a regular P.E. exercise. The yoga program began in several Encinitas schools in September, and will reach the rest of the district in January.
Full-time yoga instructors will teach 30-minute classes to about 5,000 students – the size of the Encinitas program is revolutionary – other public school yoga programs are limited to after school classes or are unique to individual schools and classes.
Those who support the yoga curriculum argue that yoga is a great way to increase strength and flexibility, and that it can help with stress and focus. Even though instructors have omitted any references to eastern religions, some parents still say that the yoga classes are “inherently spiritual,” and go against their religious beliefs.
Is yoga a religious practice? Where is the line between spirituality and religion? Is a curriculum centered on spiritual meditation appropriate in public schools?
Wehtahnah Tucker, lawyer and EncinitasPatch freelance reporter who was in the school board meeting on December 4th
Russell Case, director, Jois Foundation, Encinitas, a nonprofit that is funding the grant for the school district’s program
Dean Broyles, president and chief counsel of the National Center for Law and Policy, which handles constitutional law cases regarding free speech, religious freedom and parental rights. He’s the attorney for the parents’ group opposing the Encinitas yoga program