Tuesday, January 15, 2013

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Yoga Challenged in US as Religious Practice

by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths

(Althouse) Yoga in Public Schools – An Establishment (Government Supporting Religion) Clause Problem

Yoga programs have been popping up in U.S. public schools, funded and presented by a Hindu religious foundation.  Recently they’ve come under fire by parents claiming their children are being taught religious practices in public schools – an action illegal in the United States (it’s illegal for any U.S. government institution, a school in this case, to fund or promote the practice of any religion)…

The kids are stretching, readying their minds for learning, don't you know? But here's one mother's report:

"They were being taught to thank the sun for their lives and the warmth that it brought, the life that it brought to the earth and they were told to do that right before they did their sun salutation exercise"...
The woman… was able to take her son out of the classes — which is an appropriate accommodation but insufficient to solve an Establishment Clause violation. (In the old prayer-in-school cases, excusing the students who chose not to pray did not suffice.)

The school's program was richly funded by the K.P. Jois Foundation, whose Hindu founders connected yoga to their religion.

"It's stated in the curriculum that it's meant to shape the way that they view the world, it's meant to shape the way that they make life decisions," Eady says. "It's meant to shape the way that they regulate their emotions and the way that they view themselves."

"And then the question becomes — if it is religious, which it is, who decides when enough religion has been stripped out of the program to make it legal?" [says …chief counsel of the …National Center for Law and Policy]. "I mean, that's the problem when you introduce religion into the curriculum and actually immerse and marinate children in the program."...

"It is the stated goal of both the Jois Foundation and the district itself to prove scientifically that Ashtanga yoga works for kids here in the district and then export it nationally," Broyles says.

The Jois Foundation has a director… says the values taught in the program aren't specifically Hindu. But making religion generic doesn't solve your problem. Consult the original Warren Court school-prayer case, Engel v. Vitale, which involved a prayer concocted by the state that stripped out all denominational specificity.

My position…is that the government should not use schools for exercises that reach into the spiritual aspect of the child's mind. Quite aside from whether courts would see an Establishment Clause violation, it should be rejected as a policy choice. Even where you have trouble deciding whether something is religion or not, if it's a religion substitute, operating like religion, you should be revolted by the government intruding into the sphere that belongs to the individual, parents, and private organizations. And on this ground, I would object to all sorts of indoctrination and idol-worship.

Public schools must be committed to teaching real substance of the secular kind. Think: math and science.

Imagine if a Christian foundation were handing out huge grants to public schools to adopt a program based on its values, with generic prayer-like incantations led by the teacher….

(The full article at Althouse.)

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