Legal fight ends over yoga in EUSD schools

A group that sought to terminate the Encinitas Union School District’s yoga program recently announced it won’t appeal a ruling, ending a 2 1/2-year legal fight.

In April, a three-judge panel of the 4th District Court of Appeal upheld a decision from a San Diego Superior Court judge who found that district yoga encourages physical and mental wellness, not any religious doctrine.

The National Center for Law and Policy, which argues that yoga teaches Hinduism and is unconstitutional, stated in a press release last week it won’t pursue further litigation.

“We knew from the beginning this case would be an uphill battle because yoga is so popular and so many people believe the pervasive myth that yoga’s physical practice can be neatly separated from the metaphysical or religious elements of Hinduism,” said Dean Broyles, president of the center.

Broyles said district yoga includes devotional sun worship, saying that should “not be treated any more favorably than Bible reading or prayer.”

Although the legal challenge is over, Broyles said the center would continue to educate parents about the “deceptive religious indoctrination of our children by the state.”

In its April ruling, the three-judge panel wrote, “We conclude that the program is secular in purpose, does not have the primary effect of advancing or inhibiting religion, and does not excessively entangle the school district in religion.”

The ruling goes on to say that the overwhelming evidence demonstrates the program was started for physical and mental health reasons.

Yoga was introduced in fall 2012 at five district schools. The district’s four remaining schools started six months later. Concerned parents can opt their kids out of the yoga classes.

A grant through the Sonima Foundation, previously known as the Jois Foundation, has funded the program. With the Encinitas school district as a template, the Sonima Foundation has brought yoga to more schools across the nation.

It’s believed the lawsuit was the first challenge of a school yoga program on constitutional grounds.

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