"There's a deep concern the Encinitas Union School District is using taxpayer resources to promote Ashtanga yoga and Hinduism, a religion system of beliefs and practices," said attorney Dean Broyles, who called the yoga program unconstitutional in an email to school district superintendent Tim Baird and warned of "a legal course of action" if the district does not end it.
Students in half the schools in the district began the program in September with a $533,000 grant from the Jois Foundation, a non-profit organization that promotes Ashtanga yoga worldwide, the Escondido North County Times said Monday, adding the argument over the program centers on whether the yoga is inherently religious.
For some parents, yoga serves as religious expression or a way for Hindu deities to enter practitioners' bodies, the newspaper said.
District school officials see yoga as part of a health improvement program, and Baird said any religious aspects have been removed. Students in all grade levels practice yoga for 30 minutes, twice a week, he said.
"Yoga is a worldwide exercise regime utilized by people of many different faiths. Yoga is part of our mainstream culture," said Baird, noting only a few parents at each school have removed their children from yoga classes and the vast majority of people support the program.
Broyles, president of The National Center for Law & Family, a non-profit law firm whose website claims it focuses on "the protection and promotion of religious liberty, the sanctity of life and traditional marriage," called the underwriters of the the program an "evangelistic yoga foundation."