War on Yoga: Lawsuit Filed to End School Yoga Program, Claiming It Is a Religious Practice
The Sedlocks allege the school district is not complying with the California constitution’s right to religious freedom. The lawsuit also calls the children participating in the program “religious guinea pigs.”
Encintas schools accepted a $533,000 grant for the yoga classes from the Jois Foundation, which the conservative legal firm that filed the lawsuit claims is a religious organization. The attorney who filed the suit called the relationship between the foundation and the school district “improperly cozy.”
Jois Yoga states on its website that it works as an “extension of the Ashtanga philosophy and practice.” The organization is based in Encinitas, where Ashtanga yoga was first introduced to the United States, according to the website.
The yoga group’s foundation is focused on “educating the whole child” by bringing yoga to schools, particularly in underserved communities.
School district Superintendent Timothy Baird said he’s shocked a lawsuit was filed against the district.
“We have not stripped religion out of it. We never put religion in it,” Baird said. “What we took out were cultural connections, so we don’t use Sanskrit words. But basically what you have kids doing is stretching, moving, breathing. That’s not religious.”
An FAQ on the program on the district’s website states: “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.”