California court rules school yoga classes not religious

California court rules school yoga classes not religious

[JURIST] The California Fourth District Court of Appeal [official website] on Friday upheld [opinion, PDF] yoga classes in public schools, holding that such classes do not violate religious rights of students or their parents. Families of children enrolled in the Encinitas Union School District sued the school, alleging that yoga classes provide a gateway to Hinduism, and are an “impermissible establishment of religion” in violation of the California Constitution [text]. Representatives of the school district contended that yoga was taught in a way that separated it from religion. The court unanimously agreed with the school district, explaining that, “[w]hile the practice of yoga may be religious in some contexts, yoga classes as taught in the district are… devoid of any religious, mystical, or spiritual trappings.”

Encinitas introduced [Reuters report] yoga as a pilot program to one of its nine elementary schools in 2011, resulting in just 40 to 45 of the 5,000 students being pulled out of the class by their parents. Yoga is taught in many other schools in the US, but the Encinitas Union School District is reportedly the first of the school districts to offer [Al Jazeera report] classes on a full-time basis.