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Parents Appeal Decision That Turns Yoga into State Religion

encinitas school districtParents of students in a California school district who objected to the teaching of yoga in school are appealing a ruling by a judge who declared yoga to be "religious", but allowed it to be taught anyway, effectively making it into a state religion.

World Net Daily is reporting on the case which involves the Sedlock family whose children attend school in the Encinitas Union School District (EUSD). Students in their school were being forced to attend Ashtanga yoga classes during school time. Because yoga is based in the Hindu religion, the parents sued to have it stopped, but lost when a judge ruled last summer that even though it's religious, it can still be taught. The basis of the state's argument is that the Hindu meditation and worship has no more spiritual influence on the children than football.

“This school district has essentially adopted a state religion and is forcing it upon our young children by requiring this class to be taken,” said Brad Dacus, president of Pacific Justice Institute, one of the groups that are filing briefs with the state’s Court of Appeal for the Fourth Appellate District.

“These actions violate the fundamental right of parents to raise their children according to their beliefs, and they disregard the Constitution that this nation was founded upon.”

The EUSD disagrees and claims they have stripped all of the religious aspects of the faith from their yoga, which they refer to as "EUSD Yoga" even though the physical postures - which are positions of worship to Hindu gods - remain intact. A lower court first ruled that the practice was sufficiently stripped of religious context, then reversed itself in a revised Statement of Decision which acknowledged that EUSD’s yoga poses are “identical” to those taught by the Jois Foundation [now known as Sonima], an Ashtanga yoga organization, and its now deceased Indian guru P.K. Jois.

At that time, the judge stated his grave concern about the mission of the Jois Foundation, which is to promote Ashtanga yoga, which is considered to be a modern version of the very religious classical Indian yoga. The group specifically aims its missionary appeal at children and U.S. public schools.

After reading the judge's decision, it's almost stunning that he would allow the classes to continue even when he learned that the EUSD yoga teacher, Jen Brown, was also a Jois Foundation employee, which constitutes a serious conflict of interest.

He was also aware that the Foundation paid the EUSD school district two million dollars to "beta test" its program on children.

The new appeal challenges the decision and asks the court the decide if the district is advancing or endorsing a form of yoga that has already been found to be religious in nature by a lower court, or whether the district succeeded in stripping it of its religious roots.

“Public schools may certainly objectively teach about religion because religion is historically and culturally important. And students are free to express their personal religious beliefs … But the state itself is not constitutionally permitted to endorse or promote religion or religious practices at school sponsored events," said Dean Broyles, president of the National Center for Law and Policy, who is defending the Sedlock family. “This prohibition would certainly include bowing to the sun god.”

In fact, Ashtanga yoga supporters themselves have admitted that " . . . the mere ‘physical practice’ of yoga … leads practitioners to ‘become one with god … whether they want it or not," Broyles confirms.

The practice has already led many children into Hindu practices such as chanting "om" in class, a practice meant to invite Brahman and all the gods of the Hindu pantheon to enter the practitioner and thus speed up the process of enlightenment.

The children have also been spotted off-campus posing themselves in the lotus position with eyes closed in meditation.

"I am quite certain this case would have been decided very differently if this were a Christian based P.E. program," Broyles said.

He is charging that by partnering with Sonima, the EUSD school district “has violated the First Amendment and has committed an egregious breach of the public trust.”