Encinitas yoga trial: ‘Tired rhetoric’ vs. ‘precedent-setting litigation’

I suppose you could call this a tale of two courtrooms.

On Wednesday, the two sides in the ongoing legal case surrounding yoga’s being taught in Encinitas public schools — by the Ashtanga-related Sonima Foundation — were back in court. Their takes on the preceding differ, as you might suspect.

Up first, the supporters of the yoga program:

Dean Broyles, the attorney for the yoga opponents, was first up.  He had the burden of showing the trial court erred in finding the yoga program Constitutional.  And the appellate justices made very clear that he was fighting an uphill battle.  Mr. Broyles offered up his tired rhetoric about the school district picking “religious winners and losers”.  The justices largely ignored such bloated proclamations and instead peppered him with pointed questions about the activity taking place in the yoga classroom.  Since his clients had never even observed, let alone participated, in the yoga classes, Mr. Broyles was left to rely upon his expert’s opinion that religion was “pervasive” in those classes based on video evidence.  The justices seemed unimpressed.

Next up was the school district’s attorney, followed by CLG partner Dave Peck on behalf of YES!.  Mr. Peck reminded the justices that the trial judge found the opinions of Mr. Broyles’ religious expert to be highly biased and “not credible.”  The trial court also found that the EUSD curriculum was completely devoid of religion and that there was absolutely no evidence of religious or spiritual instruction in the yoga classrooms.  With respect to the video evidence relied upon by the opposing expert, Mr. Peck cited the trial court’s finding that the videos simply depicted children engaged in exercise and nothing more.  Mr. Peck urged the court to reject Mr. Broyles’ conspiracy theories and to allow the highly successful yoga program to continue.

And then the formal press release from the National Center for Law & Policy:

In court today, Dean Broyles argued that “to attempt to strip religion from objectively religious rituals, to try to separate the metaphysical from the physical, is a fool’s errand.” “Take for example a catholic mass, which involves standing and kneeling, bowing in prayer, making the sign of the cross, and taking communion (Eucharist). Would the Establishment Clause allow that a catholic mass is an acceptable replacement for P.E, if given in Latin or silently, and if relabeled ‘calisthenics’ or if its communion portion is called ‘snack time,’ or if the program were relabeled ‘EUSD Mass?’ Absolutely not! Neither should yoga’s formal Hindu rituals be taught in public schools.”

“If permitted, this will open up a religious Pandora ’s Box,” declared Broyles after the hearing. If the courts allow these Hindu liturgies to continue, we will see of flood of religious organizations mimicking the Sonima Foundation’s approach, attempting to purchase access to young impressionable public school students, while at the same time deceptively concealing their religious beliefs and practices.”

The thrust of our argument today was that, because the trial court failed to find that teaching children of a young age with tender consciences formal religious rituals in school-sponsored classes violates the Establishment clause, it erred as a matter of law and the appellate court is bound by well-established legal precedents to reverse and find the District’s yoga program is unconstitutional.

Broyle also said this, according to the release: “The District completely ignores the inconvenient truth that its students are bowing to, praying to, and worshipping the Hindu sun god in yoga classes, by being led through the Surya Namaskara.”

I suppose I’d question whether the “Hindu sun god” is really worshiped anymore in the way that argument suggests. I feel like it is sort of akin to Greek or Roman gods, as opposed to Siva or Krishna, or Ganesha. Of course, it isn’t that simple. If I were trying to indoctrinate kids in a new religion, I’d probably not focus on Surya, is what I’m saying.

Wednesday’s preceding was before a three-judge panel, who will decide the appeal within the next three months.

Update: UT San Diego coverage. Short version: Sounds like the judges were skeptical.

Posted by Steve

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Two Ashtangis write about their practice and their teachers.

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