Closing arguments in yoga lawsuit set for Tuesday

SAN DIEGO (CNS) – Closing arguments are scheduled today in the case of a
couple who sued the Encinitas Union School District to stop yoga instruction,
which they contend has religious overtones.

In the final day of testimony Monday, an elementary school principal in
the district testified that she saw no religious overtones in yoga classes
taught on her campus.

Carrie Brown of El Camino Creek Elementary School said she saw only
“stretching and breathing” when she observed the yoga class, over which a
couple has sued the district because of its alleged religious influences.
The lawsuit was filed by the National Center for Law and Policy on
behalf of Stephen and Jennifer Sedlock, whose children attend one of the
district's nine schools.

On its website, the nonprofit Christianity-based center said its focuses
on the protection and promotion of religious freedom, the sanctity of life,
traditional marriage, parental rights and other civil liberties.

The plaintiffs contends that Ashtanga yoga is religious in nature and
that opting out costs students physical education time. They want the yoga
program ended but have not asked for a financial judgment.

Brown testified that the yoga class was one component of an enrichment
program that also includes instruction in music, computers and karate. A couple
of parents had their children opt out of the other elective courses, too, she
said.

Controversy over the program erupted last year as the district began to
develop a health and wellness curriculum that includes yoga.

The program was funded by a $500,000 grant from the K.P. Jois
Foundation, which promotes Ashtanga yoga, a fast-paced form of yoga of
progressively more demanding poses with synchronized breathing.

The trial began May 20 and was expected to last two to three days in the
courtroom of Superior Court Judge John Meyer. On the third day, the trial
went on hiatus, with both parties saying they wanted to call additional
witnesses before making their closing arguments — with Monday marking the
resumption of testimony.

The parties have agreed to have Meyer decide the issue, so there is no
jury.

David Miyashiro, the district's assistant superintendent for education,
said he instituted a yoga program at Paul Ecke Central Elementary School three
years ago when he filled in for a principal on maternity leave. He said the
school needed another enrichment program, and it proved popular with the kids.

“It was active, engaging,” Miyashiro said. “The kids came home and
talked about it.”

Last year, he and other district officials developed a more
comprehensive “health and wellness” program for students that included yoga,
instruction on organic gardening, stress reduction and character development,
he said.

Superintendent Timothy Baird testified in the previous part of the trial
that while children opting out of yoga receive less PE time than
participating students, they still get at least the state-required minimum of
PE minutes.

Categories: KUSI