ENCINITAS, CALIFORNIA, February 20, 2013 (utsandiego.com): The National Center for Law & Policy, a nonprofit law firm, announced Wednesday that it has filed a lawsuit against the Encinitas Union School District over a district yoga program that the plaintiffs argue is a form of religious indoctrination.
Dean Broyles, the attorney who runs the center, said the lawsuit doesn't seek money from the district, but demands that it stop the yoga program, which he argues is based on religion and is a violation of the California constitution's religious freedom provisions.
The Encinitas school district introduced yoga at half of its campuses last year after receiving a $533,000 grant from the Jois Foundation, an Encinitas-based nonprofit that promotes childhood health and wellness through Ashtanga Yoga. The program expanded to all nine EUSD schools after the winter break. The grant is also supposed to fund a three-year study of the effect of yoga on students.
Some parents have said they oppose the program because Ashtanga Yoga is rooted in Hinduism, but many parents and district officials say the yoga lessons being taught in the district are just exercise and any religious elements have been stripped out.
"It's not religious," EUSD Superintendent Tim Baird said Wednesday. "To make something religious, you have to teach the religious doctrine and instruct the religious believes. You have to make the tie to the religion. Frankly, we're not doing that."
Broyles, however, argues that the practice of yoga cannot be separated from its religious roots. In the lawsuit, he argues that even if the practice is stripped of its spiritual language and instruction, yoga still would promote Hinduism.