Yoga case is over

Lawyers won’t appeal State Appeals Court ruling

ENCINITAS — The long-running legal battle over Encinitas Union School District’s yoga program is over, as the law firm suing the district announced it would not appeal its legal defeat to the State Supreme Court.

The school district prevailed both at the lower court in 2013 and at the Fourth District Court of Appeal in April, when the appellate panel ruled 3-0 that the school district’s yoga program did not violate the state constitution’s separation of church and state.

The National Center for Law and Policy, which had represented the Encinitas family at the center of the controversy, issued a statement on June 11 that it would pursue no further legal action in the case.

The National Center filed the suit on behalf of Sedlock family, who had two children at El Camino Creek elementary. The Sedlocks said that the district’s yoga program was an endorsement of Hindu religious beliefs promoted in Ashtanga yoga and indoctrinated students with those beliefs.

“Attorneys for the Sedlocks successfully convinced both the trial court and the appellate justices that yoga, including Ashtanga yoga is religious,” the firm said in the statement. “However, the Encinitas Union School District (EUSD) prevailed in their argument that they had changed or removed enough of the religious elements from their yoga program, so that the physical education classes were purportedly not unlawfully promoting religion in the public schools.”

The case, Sedlock v. Baird, had created a national discussion over the past few years about the place of yoga, which has its roots in Hinduism, in the public school setting.

Yoga has gained popularity in physical education programs due to its practical applications in stretching and physical dexterity. National Center representatives said this popularity posed a challenge to overcome.

“This was a very tough call to make under the circumstances,” said Dean Broyles, the firm’s president. “We knew from the beginning this case would be an uphill battle because yoga is so popular and so many people believe the pervasive myth that yoga’s ‘physical’ practice can be neatly separated from the metaphysical or religious elements of Hinduism.”

Broyles said the National Center, despite its legal losses, would continue to inform parents about yoga, which he referred to as “the deceptive religious indoctrination of our children by the state.”

“This is not the end of our broader principled campaign to tell the truth about yoga,” he said.

The appeal’s court ruling in April upheld 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.

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.

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