Lawsuit filed against Jois-funded yoga program in Encinitas schools

Just when you thought the brouhaha over the Jois Foundation’s yoga program in Encinitas schools was gone …

The opponents in this whole deal, the National Center for Law & Policy, announced Wednesday that they have filed a lawsuit against the Encinitas Union School District seeking an end to the yoga program.

Here are the key parts of the news release:

SAN DIEGO, CA — Attorneys for the National Center For Law & Policy (NCLP) filed a civil rights lawsuit in San Diego Superior Court today against the Encinitas Union School District (EUSD). The lawsuit seeks a writ of mandate and injunctive relief to order EUSD to comply with the California constitution’s religious freedom provisions and a state education statue requiring EUSD to provide a mandatory minimum number of physical education minutes. The NCLP represents petitioners and plaintiffs Stephen and Jennifer Sedlock and their minor children, who are students in the district. The lawsuit is the result of EUSD’s decision to accept $533,000 from the Jois Foundation in exchange for providing the religiously-based organization access to its young and impressible students to test and prove the feasibility of Jois’ “health and wellness” Ashtanga yoga curriculum. According to Harvard educated religious studies Professor Candy Gunther Brown, Ph.D., who wrote a declaration supporting the complaint, EUSD’s Ashtanga yoga program is inherently and pervasively religious, having its roots firmly planted in Hindu, Buddhist, Taoist, and Western Metaphysical religious beliefs and practices. As such, the program violates California constitutional provisions prohibiting government religious preference and religious discrimination (article I, § 4), prohibiting use of state resources to support religion (article XVI, § 5), and forbidding employing government resources to promote religion in public schools (article IX, § 8).

“EUSD’s Ashtanga yoga program represents a serious breach of the public trust,” declared attorney Dean Broyles. “Compliance with the clear requirements of law is not optional or discretionary. 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. The program is extremely divisive and has unfortunately led to the harassment, discrimination, bullying, and segregation of children who, for good reasons, opt out of the program. EUSD’s Ashtanga yoga program represents a prime example of precisely why in America we wisely forbid the government from picking religious winners and losers, especially when you have a captive audience of very young and impressionable children as we do in our public schools.”“EUSD’s ‘model’ yoga program sets a very dangerous precedent. No matter how starved our school districts are for money, we must not allow our public servants to ‘sell’ our precious children to the highest bidder to be used as religious ‘guinea pigs’ to fulfill the self-serving marketing purposes of a religiously motivated organization. Religious freedom is not for sale. EUSD’s improperly cozy relationship with the Jois Foundation has entangled the district in an unnecessary and avoidable religious controversy and has caused considerable damage and negative fallout in the community. EUSD had more than three months of warnings to make the right call and suspend the illegal program voluntarily, yet has negligently failed to act. The EUSD Trustees have persistently closed their eyes to the transparently religious nature of the program, determining to take the money and run with it. They have shown little concern or respect for families who were religiously burdened by the program and appropriately objected to religious beliefs and practices being illegally promoted in the public schools. And the EUSD Trustees and Superintendent have done nothing to solve the major problem that Children who opt out of Ashtanga yoga for religious and other reasons and who are not receiving the state mandated 200 minutes of PE every 10 days. Sadly after learning that the program violated the law, rather than doing the right thing and immediately suspending the program, EUSD’s Superintendent and Trustees engaged in months of delay and inaction. Meanwhile, Superintendent Baird repeated the misleading ‘mantra’ to the public and the press that EUSD had “stripped” the program of religion or that it was not “religious.”

The lawsuit does not seek money damages; but rather seeks to immediately suspend EUSD’s divisive Ashtanga yoga program and restore traditional physical education to the district.

Both KPBC in San Diego and the U-T also are reporting the news.

The issue for the opponents of the program seems to boil down to their belief that it “violates California laws protecting religious freedom and prevents students who opt out from meeting the mandatory number of physical education minutes required under the state education code.” This has been the fundamental sticking point the whole time.

Keep in mind, the Jois folks will be speaking at the Confluence next week on the topic of teaching yoga to kids. Will this affect their participation or alter what they might be able to say? Who knows.

Check out our background on this story right here.

Posted by Steve

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Two Ashtangis write about their practice and their teachers.

3 thoughts on “Lawsuit filed against Jois-funded yoga program in Encinitas schools”

  1. This is so stupid, but not suprising. If there’s one thing religious people, especially Christians, are good at, then it’s a witch hunt. And yoga offers freedom of thought, of course no Christian would want that. Let’s just file a suit against something that could really help children feel good and then focus on electing another creepy old man who spreads beliefs from the stone age.

  2. Yoga is totally religious in tradition. Asana is part of yoga. Calling the practice Yoga by definition is religious. They should have called it calisthenics and not mentioned Yoga then there wouldn’t have been a problem. To say that teaching children Asana practice, meditation, breath control, mentioning yoga does not lead to further investigation would not lead to Hinduism is ridiculous. It’s like saying the Lords prayer will not lead to further investigation into Christianity. I don’t believe it would convert all of these children into Hindus but it would expose them to it and some children might want to practice Hinduism like some children would want to practice christianity if they had to say the lords prayer every morning before school. Yoga exists in Hinduism and not in any other religion by that name. There are practices similar to yoga in all traditions but they are not included in the school syllabus either. I’d say let it go and make sure children have a well rounded physical education program installed in their daily school schedule and if parents want to take their children to Yoga, church, synagogue, what ever your spiritual practice then do so out of school hours.

    1. Again I want to say i am all for yoga in schools but it is religious. Being Jewish it bothers me that christmas is practiced so widely in schools in a non religious manner yet its totally religious. There are many contradictions to this argument because we live in a predominantly christian society.

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