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Legal fight against yoga in Encinitas schools is finished

Legal battle fight against yoga is finished but effort to "educate" parents continues, lawyer says

The legal battle to block the teaching of yoga in Encinitas public schools in northern San Diego County is finished, the lawyer who led the unsuccessful fight said Thursday.

Dean Broyles, attorney for the Escondido-based National Center for Law and Policy, said that while his clients do not plan to appeal, the effort to "educate parents" about the religious intent of yoga will continue.

"[We] fully expect to be engaged in future efforts to stop the deceptive religious indoctrination of our children by the state," Broyles said.

In April, a three-judge panel of the 4th District Court of Appeal upheld a decision by the San Diego County Superior Court that, while yoga has religious overtones, the program run by the Encinitas program is "devoid of any religious, mystical or spiritual trappings."

Tim Baird, superintendent of the K-6 district,  says the program is part of an effort to teach students the benefits of exercise and healthful eating.

"We are not teaching religion, we are not instructing anyone in religious dogma," Baird said. "Yoga is very mainstream."

Under a three-year grant from a foundation which promotes Ashtanga yoga, yoga exercises are taught in twice-weekly, 30-minute classes.

The parents of two students had sued, alleging that the yoga program promotes Hinduism while the district discourages any display of Christianity.

The school district hired the yoga instructors and controlled the curriculum, the appeals court said. Parents can have their children opted out of the yoga instruction.

Broyles said one result of the lawsuit has been that "more and more parents opt their children out of the yoga classes after learning the truth."

The program, he said, has children worshiping the Hindu sun god Surya, an accusation that district officials deny. Yoga supporters, he noted, consider yoga to be "spiritually transformative."

Even in calling an end to the legal fight, Broyles criticized the "deceptive" explanation of Baird and other district officials and their alleged refusal to consider the concerns of parents. 

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