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The Fourth District Court of Appeal delivers a 3-0 ruling last week that upholds a lower court’s ruling that the Encinitas Union School District’s yoga program does not violate the state Constitution’s separation of church and state. File photo
The Fourth District Court of Appeal delivers a 3-0 ruling last week that upholds a lower court’s ruling that the Encinitas Union School District’s yoga program does not violate the state Constitution’s separation of church and state. File photo
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Appeals court sends clear message: Yoga ‘isn’t religious’

REGION — The State Court of Appeal has sent an clear message about Encinitas Union School District’s yoga program to the family and organization that challenged it: it isn’t religious.

The Fourth District Court of Appeal last week delivered a 3-0 ruling that upholds a lower court’s ruling that the K-6 school district’s yoga program does not violate the state Constitution’s separation of church and state.

“After a careful review of the extensive evidence presented in the trial court concerning the nature of the particular yoga program at issue in this case, we conclude that the program is secular in purpose, does not have the primary effect of advancing or inhibiting religion, and does not excessively entangle the school district in religion,” Associate Justice Cynthia Aaron wrote in the unanimous opinion.  ”Accordingly, we conclude that the trial court properly determined that the district’s yoga program does not violate our state constitution.”

The appeal’s court ruling upholds Superior Court Judge John Meyer’s decision in 2013 in favor of the school district at the group Yoga for Encinitas Students – known as YES! – that the district’s program did not endorse Hinduism over other religion and did not create a violation of the so-called “establishment” clause of the constitution.

“We are thankful that this episode has ended, even though we anticipated the outcome, it is nice to be on this side of it,” Encinitas Union School District superintendent Timothy Baird said. “It doesn’t change anything in the way we are delivering the program. We are appreciative that the appeals court found in our favor.”

The case, Sedlock v. Baird, was filed by the National Center for Law and Policy, a conservative rights law group, on behalf of the parents of two El Camino Creek students, who said that the district’s yoga program was an endorsement of Hindu religious beliefs promoted in Ashtanga yoga and indoctrinated students with those beliefs.

The three-judge appeal panel refuted each of the arguments made by the conservative law group, concluding that the yoga class had a primary secular purpose — physical fitness — that it did not advance or inhibit a particular religion and did not foster an excessive government entanglement with religion.

The court acknowledged that the origin of yoga was religious, but noted that so are other forms of physical fitness that have become mainstream practices, including karate, kung fu and other martial arts.

But the district’s yoga program, which the school district argued had been stripped of all vestiges of religious symbolism, was not religious in nature, the court concluded.

“To be sure, if the District’s program instructed children that through yoga they would become one with God and that yoga could help end the karmic cycle of reincarnation…we have little doubt that the program would violate the establishment clause,” Aaron wrote in the ruling.  ”However, nowhere in the District’s curriculum is there mention of any of the eight limbs of Ashtanga, and there is certainly no mention of the final limb (union with the divine). Indeed, as described above, there is no evidence of any religious indoctrination in any of the written curriculum or in the evidence related to the teaching methods employed in actual District yoga classes.”

Following the court’s ruling, one Hindu organization called on all school districts to adopt yoga into their physical fitness programs.

“If Encinitas Union School District could successfully teach yoga, why not other California school districts could do it similarly?” said Rajan Zed, president of the Universal Society of Hinduism.

School district officials thanked the law firms, both on the district’s side and with YES, that defended the district free of charge.

“This would have been a very expensive case to defend, especially when it reached the appeals phase,” Baird said. “We are very thankful to both law firms representing the district.”


Swami Param April 23, 2015 at 5:37 am

New-Agers love to steal from different religions and pretend it all belongs to them.

Kerry April 20, 2015 at 6:25 am

Yoga is a major part of Hinduism , it does not separate the two ,the Hindu teaching is always woven in very slightly , there are a lot of clueless people out there that think yoga is just stretching, anything goes in the schools nowadays I guess , except the true teachings of Jesus , you either teach about all religions or none but you can’t pick and choose what fits into your community

Pratima Balkaran April 19, 2015 at 7:31 am

I am speaking out as a Hindu and someone who has been practicing Hinduism and adhering to the religion since I was a young child. Today I am in my early forties and is a truly a sad day for Hindus and Hinduism to see the insult, theft, and arrogance/ignorance beseeched by so many individuals who cannot make (or refused to)the simple connection that Yoga is Hinduism and all about the Hindu religion. The confusion lies in defining/accepting the truth and as Swami Param suggested,”simply look up those sanskrit terminolgy and one will see the connected roots to Hinduism. Hatha Yoga, as it should authoritatively be defined, and not just Yoga, refers to the Hindu devotional asanas (postures)in reverence to the respective Hindu Deities. Hatha Yoga is a practice in Hinduism that is geared towards yoking or unifying the individual soul with the Jiva Atmana (Divine Soul). These asanas, as they are precariously portrayed, advertised, and made into a million dollar industry around the world today, were not the intended purpose for and by which they were revealed by Hindu saints and sages. These are sacred ancient practices that were and is meant for a “purely religiious/spiritual awakening!” Sadly to say, the courts have failed to do the ethical/right thing and serve injustice…once again!!!

Swami Param April 17, 2015 at 5:52 am

Note of clarification: E.D. makes the satirical comment “I represent the one true, superior and authentic version of religious truth.” Talk about an extremist view. No one is saying that the Hindu/Yoga religion is “the one true…religion.” Hinduism is a way; not the only way; but a way for sure. Everyone seems to need an education in comparative religions. Respecting the various religions, means just that.

Swami Param April 16, 2015 at 6:10 am

To those who refuse to look at facts, facts will appear to be extreme. Here is the test: Simply look up the words “Sanskrit” and “Yoga” in a dictionary; encyclopedia; books on comparative religions; books on Hinduism and books on non-Hindu religions. It is easy to discredit when one is too lazy to do their homework.

Anyone who wants to have discussion (especially the so-called “yoga teachers”) please e-mail me [email protected]

swami param April 14, 2015 at 5:31 am

E.D. Someone needs not only an education but also a lesson in respect. “Who gets to define….yoga?” “Obviously” the courts and other arrogant individuals. The purpose of going to school is to not only learn but also realize there are those who have superior knowledge.

Yoga is a Sanskrit/Hindu word and, actually, has nothing to do with the physical body but the spirit or soul body. In Hinduism, we do have Hindu devotional postures, called “Hatha Yoga.” The purpose of Hatha Yoga is to connect to one’s Soul and Hindu Deities.

Of course, anyone can stretch and relax but that is not (Hatha) Yoga. Redefining our sacred Hindu/Yogas is the mark of arrogant bullies. The children are also being abused for they will perhaps uncover that fact that Yoga=Hinduism; or, they may simply adopt the attitude of their parents who seem to think it is ok to steal from others.

Encinitas Dad April 15, 2015 at 1:31 pm

“I represent the one true, superior, and authentic version of religious truth.”

–Every Discredited Extremist, Ever.

Swami Param April 12, 2015 at 7:05 am

E.D. says: “Sometimes things that have their roots in religious percepts over time become disconnected and secular.” That is also the M.O. of communism and all arrogant invaders. Note, the state has taken control. Therefore, this “new-age yoga” will be subject to all state regulations and control.

A rational person will not confuse “sometimes” will all the time. Also, simply because one recognizes the religious nature of a practice, does not automatically mean one becomes a member of a religion. That is truly an extremist and silly notion.

All we (Hindus) are saying is to please recognize that fact that Hatha Yoga (the proper title) is Hinduism. Divorcing Hatha Yoga from Hinduism is teaching the children to be deceptive, dishonest and disrespectful. Why not be honest and simply hold stretching and relaxation exercises and leave Hatha Yoga to those who consciously choose to study the Hindu religion?

Encinitas Dad April 12, 2015 at 7:49 am


Who gets to define what is and is not “proper” yoga?

Sounds like you have appointed yourself and anyone who agrees with your opinions. I bet if you asked most people participating in Yoga in the US if their intent is religious in nature, they would say no. I bet a solid majority of the instructors teaching yoga view it as a calming exercise routine. Nothing more.

By throwing around words like “proper,” “true,” and “real,” you try to put one minority form of yoga practice (yours) above any others, which must by definition be improper, false, and fake.

You are repeating a refrain that has led to many wars and atrocities, by claiming to have a superior vision.

Live and let live. You do your thing; I’ll do mine. And my let my kid stretch and relax her mind in school. That part is really none of your business.

Encinitas Dad April 10, 2015 at 11:08 am

Our current calendar system is called the Gregorian or Christian calendar. It was created because the older Julian model had allowed Easter to drift relative to the Vernal Equinox. It was deemed critical that the celebration of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ be held on an accurate and repeatable date tied to the Equinox. Therefore, our use of the Gregorian Calendar has deep and direct connections to the worship of Jesus Christ, our one and only lord and savior.

If your child writes the date at the top of their homework, they are unconsciously accepting a subversive form of indoctrination.

See how silly that sounds?

Sometimes things that have their roots in religious precepts over time become disconnected and secular. Today is April 10, 2015. Stating that doesn’t make me a Christian.

Jim Heidrick April 9, 2015 at 5:18 pm

“To be sure, if the District’s program instructed children that through yoga they would become one with God and that yoga could help end the karmic cycle of reincarnation”

Of course judge, most people know that yoga doesn’t help one become one God, and that it’s a counterfeit representation of how a person establishes and achieves oneness with God. That happens through faith in Christ, to the glory of the Father, in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Just sayin’…

L.G. Marshall April 11, 2015 at 1:57 pm

Respectfully disagree. Christians never become ‘one with God’. Humans are distinct from God. God is the Creator, and Man is the creation. Christians have fellowship with God.

Swami Param April 9, 2015 at 7:35 am

In other words, the court has made a totalitarian and bigoted ruling not only against Hinduism but also religion in general (note the phrase: “religious trappings” in the ruling).

What a disgrace to education, to respect for the Hindu religion and to the children. All one has to do is the least bit of research to uncover that fact that Yoga is a Sanskrit/Hindu word meaning “to yoke to one’s Soul and Soul Source/Brahman”). Hindus achieve this Spiritual Union through the various Hindu/Yogas (and the prefix is important).

One of the Hindu/Yogas is appropriately titled “Hatha Yoga” and these are devotional postures within a Hindu context. Actually, of all the real Yogas, Hatha is suppose to be the most secret because of the tendency for naïve individuals to distort into a cult of the body. To simply misuse the Hindu word “yoga” to mean an exercise routine is as ignorant and arrogant as claiming Baptism or Genuflecting to be “underwater therapy and deep knee bends,” respectively.

Why not simply be honest, respectful and title the class “stretching and relaxation?” Why the insistence on the misuse of “yoga?” Beside being totally inaccurate, is there a hidden agenda? Not so hidden when one knows who was Jois and what is (real) Astanga Yoga. And, what is the point of referencing guys like Rajan Zed to endorse a secular yoga when he is representing a Hindu organization? It all makes no logical sense.

Are these spurious yoga teachers going to completely avoid all Sanskrit terms like “Namaste,” “Karma,” etc.? Are all these secular “teachers” now going to be subject to state taxes,regulations etc.? You watch they will rebel.

This ruling is a very sad day for honesty and respect and reminiscent of all historical and arrogant invasions and bigoted policies handed down by the courts.

Swami Param

Leslie G. Marshall April 9, 2015 at 2:21 pm

Thank you Swami Param. Very well said. My question is …what happened to telling the truth in court? Apparently, the Judge made up his own ‘truth’.

Yoga has an intrinsic belief system that permeates all of it. Other American past times i.e., football, baseball, auto racing, ping pong, etc., do not have an intrinsic belief system built into them. Yoga, an ( ancient) past time, is meant to further one’s consciousness, impart knowledge, foster detachment from the world & spur spiritual growth. That is not the purpose of Physical Ed in America, nor should it be.

It’s disrespectful of the Court, in essence to say, “…We are going to teach your 6 year old these things, about Oneness, Acceptance, Openness, Boundary Erasing, Reverence for Nature, whether you like it or not. We know better than you. You must accept Yoga Values 101 without complaint OR you will pay dearly. “

Mark Scoular April 9, 2015 at 2:26 pm

Interesting. You appear to be as off kilter as the people that filed the suit. It just goes to show that all zealots have the same narcissistic tendancies.

Swami Param April 10, 2015 at 7:20 am

Very easy to discredit with no facts to back the bravado. Any reasonable individual can uncover the facts that Yoga is Hinduism.

Comments are closed.