US judge rules against Christians on yoga in school

(Photo: REUTERS/Jamie Fine)Yoga students hold a pose during an afternoon class at "Om Factory" yoga studio in New York, in this picture taken August 7, 2009. U.S. yogis are being asked to regulate more than their breathing - and they are fighting back. About 50 yogis gathered in New York recently to discuss hiring a lobbyist and raise funds to fight a state proposal to require certification of yoga teacher training programs -- a move they say would unfairly cost them money.

A California judge has dismissed a lawsuit by a Christian couple which sought to remove yoga from public schools because they said it was religious in nature.

Stephen and Jennifer Sedlock had filed the suit last year, claiming that the teaching of yoga in their children's public school violated the U.S. Constitution's provisions for the separation of church and state.

Judge John Meyer of San Diego County Superior Court disagreed with the couple, ruling that the yoga practiced in the Encinitas Union School District was secular in nature, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune newspaper.

The Sedlocks, parents of two children, were represented by attorney Dean Broyles, the president of the National Center for Law & Policy.

"I think it reveals a double-standard," Broyles said after the decision was announced. "If it were Christian-based and other parents complained, it would be out of schools. There is a consistent anti-Christian bias in cases like this that involve schools."

Meyer did say that yoga could be religious, but that the school district had removed all references to its cultural roots. For example, the lotus position is called the "crisscross applesauce" pose.

"Yoga as it has developed in the last 20 years is rooted in American culture, not Indian culture," said San Diego Superior Court Judge John Meyer, according to the Christian Post.

"It is a distinctly American cultural phenomenon. A reasonable student would not objectively perceive that Encinitas school district yoga advances or promotes religion."

In 2012, Broyles had told the New York Times that the Encinitas Union School District was teaching "Hindu religious beliefs and practices in the public schools through this Ashtanga yoga program."

The plaintiffs had relied on the expert of testimony of Candy Gunther Brown, an associate professor of religious studies at Indiana University.

She had testified that Ashtanga was the most religious form of yoga.

Meyer called the evidence a "trial by Wikipedia",noting that it appeared to him that the plaintiffs had located their information from the Internet.

The yoga classes in the Encinitas Union School District are thought to be unique in that they are part of the regular school day. Yoga is offered in schools around the U.S., but normally as part of an after-school program.

The classes are funded from a grant from a private foundation.

Yoga has been a controversial subject among Christians. Some practice it in Christian yoga groups.

Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, created controversy in 2010 when he reviewed a book by a yoga practitioner on its cultural history.

"When Christians practice yoga, "he said, "they must either deny the reality of what yoga represent or fail to see the contradictions between their Christian commitments and their embrace of yoga.

"The bare fact is that yoga is a spiritual discipline by which the adherent is trained to use the body as a vehicle for achieving consciousness of the divine. Christians are called to look to Christ for all that we need and to obey Christ through obeying his Word."

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