We’re big fans of yoga here at MommyNoire, so we were pretty surprised to hear that parents of two elementary school students are suing the Encinitas Unified School District for offering it. According to Reuters, the parents feel the program promotes Hinduism, therefore violating separation of church and state. They also feel there aren’t sufficient physical education options available for children who exercise their right to opt out, and when they do opt out, they get bullied. They are not seeking any monetary compensation.
The parents filing the suit are specifically concerned the namaste greeting, posters they feel details Hindu beliefs and certain poses they say worship Hindu deities.
The school district, located near San Diego, began offering Ashtanga yoga classes in September as part of their physical education program, thanks to a $533,000 grant from the Jois Foundation. Their program dedicates 60 of the 100 weekly minutes of phys ed to yoga.
The National Center on Law and Policy filed the suit on behalf of the parents. One lawyer says the schools’ yoga program is rooted in religious practices and therefore illegal for a public school; he also recounted a tale of a little girl who was told her parents were stupid for prohibiting her from participating in yoga. The school’s lawyers argue they worked closely with parents when developing their program and that they are not forcing children to believe anything. The primary focus is helping children focus in class and reap the numerous health benefits of yoga.