Questioning the Definition of “Religion” as the Trial Begins

May 21, 2013
children practicing yoga seated on desksYesterday, the trial began in Encinitas, Calif. where two parents are challenging a yoga program in schools. The judge initiated the debate by asking, “what is religion?,” as reported by the UT San Diego. While no definitive answer was reached, the plaintiff’s expert witness, Candy Brown, continued to assert that “bodily practices” cannot be separated from the broader system of yoga, which she claimed is inherently religious in nature. Dean Broyles, attorney for the plaintiff, claimed that students in Encinitas were "spiritual guinea pigs," as reported in The Coast News, and warned that this yoga program was only a pilot of what could soon be many yoga in school programs.
The Encinitias Union School District (EUSD) argued that the yoga program in their classrooms is secular and does not contain any religious references. Superintendent Timothy Baird stated that the yoga curriculum was specifically designed for the school district and should be viewed independently of the Jois Foundation’s Ashtanga yoga. The Jois Foundation provided funding for the yoga program in Encinitas, and the plaintiff’s expert witness testimony delves into the history and context of Ashtanga yoga, in their attempt to characterize yoga as religious. Attorney for the defense, David Peck, suggested the evaluation of the program should be based on whether an average student would identify the program as religious, and stated that the "fanatical" view is irrelevant.

The decision will be up to Superior Court Judge John Meyer, who has mentioned previously that the trial will focus on the particular yoga program in Encinitas (and not yoga at large). We hope the defense comes through as the trial continues today. We will keep you posted.



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