Paul Ecke Central Elementary School in Encinitas, CA is a public school that offers yoga classes to its students.  However, parents of the students attending the Encinitas Elementary School feel that offering yoga in a public school promotes Hindu religious beliefs.  Moreover, they feel that yoga is not being offered for mere stretching purposes.  One concerned mother stated, “they’re using this as a tool for many things beyond just stretching.”  Some of these parents are certainly not pleased with the schools decision to offer yoga classes.

According to a source, Dean Broyles, the president of the National Center for Law and Policy claims, “there is a transparent promotion of Hindu religious beliefs and practices in the public schools through this Ashtanga yoga program.”  However, the Schools superintendent claims, “if your faith is such that you believe that simply by doing the gorilla pose, you’re invoking the Hindu gods, then by all means your child can be doing something else.”

The First Amendment

The First Amendment states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof...”

The Establishment Clause

The Establishment Clause is a bar to the government endorsing or favoring one religion over another.  Many courts use the Lemon Test, established after the United States Supreme Court case Lemon v. Kurtzman, to determine whether a First Amendment violation has occurred.  The test looks at whether there is a secular government purpose, whether the primary effect advances religion, and whether there is excessive government entanglement between state and religion.  For example, if the purpose or the effect of the yoga classes is to endorse Hindu religious beliefs then there may be an Establishment Clause violation.

I personally wish my elementary school offered yoga classes.  That way I wouldn’t have to pay $20 per class to learn the downward dog.

How do you feel about Yoga being taught in public schools?  Do you think it promotes Hindu beliefs?