Support San Diego School District’s Teaching of Yoga as Exercise

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Target: National Center for Law and Policy in Escondido

Goal: Stand in solidarity with the teaching of yoga as exercise in a San Diego school district and affirm that the teaching of yoga does not violate religious freedoms.

Stephen and Jennifer Sedlock have filed a lawsuit against the Encinitas Union School District, arguing that the district’s teaching of yoga classes as part of physical education constitutes a violation of their children’s religious freedoms. Children in these physical education classes actually have the option not to participate in the yoga program in the first place. Participation in the yoga exercises is entirely optional and at the discretion of children and their parents. It is unreasonable to argue that an optional exercise program is a violation of the ideal of no state-sponsored religion.

Furthermore, the yoga program is not religious in nature to begin with. According to school district Superintendent Timothy Baird: “We have not stripped religion out of it. We never put religion in it. 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.”

Although no one denies that yoga is a practice which derives from Hindu philosophy, many cultural practices have been accepted as fitting just as neatly into the secular world despite their religious origins. In the case of yoga, adapting these philosophically-derived exercises for secular purposes is not pushing a religious agenda. It is simply pushing good health through methods of breathing and relaxation techniques which are known to have strong physical and mental benefits.

But that’s not what opponents of the school district’s yoga program are saying. Attorney Dean Broyles of the National Center for Law and Policy argues: “This is frankly the clearest case of the state trampling on the religious freedom rights of citizens that I have personally witnessed in my 18 years of practice as a constitutional attorney” and comments that the program sets a “dangerous precedent” as a breach of public trust. Broyles’s remarks clearly constitute a hyperbole of the highest order, especially considering that children throughout the nation are still frequently exhorted by their schools to participate in school-led Christian prayer, an activity in which the school does promote a particular religion and philosophy towards students.

Sign this petition to stand with the Encinitas Union School District against these irrational fearmongering claims.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear National Center for Law and Policy,

In the suit against the Encinitas Union School District, your attorney, Dean Broyles, is contending that this case constitutes a dangerous affront to parents’ religious liberties. This is patently false on multiple levels. First of all, the yoga program receiving criticism is an optional program. There is nothing unconstitutional about purely optional elements to public schools. If this were unconstitutional, then students themselves would be unable to set up their own student chapters of religious clubs in school. However, this is manifestly not the case, as most schools do have clubs for religious organizations.

Even if you were to answer that this is permissible because such clubs are led by the students themselves, whereas the Encinitas Union School District administration is “promoting” yoga, the other objection to such a claim is that yoga exercises can easily be (and are, in this case) divorced from religion or religious philosophy. While it is true that yoga emerged out of Hindu religion and philosophy, the techniques themselves are exercise and breathing methods. These can be useful to anyone, including non-believers. In fact, many people utilize yoga who are in no way spiritually affiliated with Hinduism or any other religion.

It is beyond disingenuous to push false claims about how this school district is creating a tremendous danger to parents’ constitutional protections.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

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