The National Center for Law & Policy, the law firm that brought the lawsuit against the Encinitas Union School District, has followed through with its promise to appeal the ruling in that original case that found the yoga program didn’t violate First Amendment rights to religious freedom — and it’s done so in some pretty strong terms.
Below is the full press release:
SAN DIEGO, CA —On October 30, 2013, attorneys with the National Center for Law & Policy filed a
notice of appeal in the public school yoga case that has made significant waves in America’s growing
yoga community, has attracted international media attention, and has launched a national conversation
regarding whether yoga is religious and belongs in public schools. At issue is the very existence of a
foundational American value–religious freedom. Specifically here, whether the Encinitas Union School
District’s Ashtanga yoga program for kindergarten through sixth grade students endorses or promotes
religion in violation of the California Constitution’s religious “no-preference” provision and the Federal
First Amendment’s Establishment Clause.
San Diego Superior Court Judge John S. Meyer stunned many yoga supporters when he announced in his
July 1, 2013 ruling that yoga, including Ashtanga yoga, is religious. Yet Judge Meyer also quite
inexplicably found that the Encinitas School District did not violate the Establishment Clauses of the U.S.
or California Constitutions when the District hired yoga instructors to teach yoga to District students in
District schools during school hours as part of the District’s official curriculum. Meyer found that EUSD
had somehow stripped enough religious content out of the program so that the hypothetical “reasonable
observer” student would not perceive that religion was being promoted by EUSD.
However, on September 23, 2013, after a hearing on the Sedlock’s formal objections to the July 1 ruling,
Judge Meyer issued a revised Statement of Decision which acknowledged that EUSD’s yoga poses are in
fact “identical” to those taught by Ashtanga yoga and its now deceased Indian guru P.K. Jois. Evidently,
in spite of Judge Meyer’s stated grave concerns about Jois Foundation’s mission to promote Ashtanga
yoga to public school children and Ashtanga devotee Jen Brown’s transparent conflict of interest as a Jois
Foundation employee and EUSD yoga teacher, these red flags were not enough to cause Judge Meyer to
find “excessive government entanglement with religion” and suspend the religious yoga program.
“Judge Meyer agreed with historical realities as well as the consensus of religious studies scholars when
he found that yoga is pervasively religious,” declared NCLP President Dean Broyles. “Ritual physical
practices purportedly leading to ‘union with the Divine’ are obviously religious. The Jois Foundation has
the transparent religious agenda of promoting Ashtanga yoga, which is based in Hindu religious beliefs
and practices. Jois, now deceptively rebranded as the Sonima Foundation, purchased direct access to a
captive audience of young and impressionable children by paying EUSD now nearly two million dollars
to beta test its religious Ashtanga program on kids and jointly develop a religious yoga curriculum with
the District. Once it ‘scientifically’ proves its program ‘works,’ the stated goal is to push Ashtanga
nationwide in all public schools.”
“It is not the job of government to pick religious winners and losers. We must not allow the cultural elites
to decide by fiat which politically correct religions, such as Hinduism or Islam, are acceptable for the state
to promote to our children with our taxpayer resources, and which religions are not acceptable, such as
Christianity. Our children are not religious guinea pigs and should never be subjected to such misguided
religious experimentation by the State.”
“A reasonable observing student who is informed about the government practice at issue, here yoga,
would clearly understand that EUSD is promoting religion.” In fact since the advent of EUSD’s yoga
program students have actually made and continue to make religious associations with the practice of
yoga such chanting “om” in yoga class and spontaneously assuming the lotus position off campus while
closing their eyes and meditating. I am quite certain this case would have been decided very differently if
this were a Christian based P.E. program. This whole debacle is shameful and the EUSD Superintendent
and Board of Trustees should be embarrassed that this egregious breach of public trust has occurred on
their watch with their approval.”
“We are confident that our likelihood of success on appeal is great if the court neutrally applies well-
established First Amendment legal principles to EUSD’s religious yoga program,” stated Broyles.
You didn’t think we were done with this, did you?
Posted by Steve