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Are school yoga instructors teaching religion? Judge to rule

July 01, 2013|By Tony Perry
  • Jackie Bergeron instructs students in yoga in an Encinitas school.
Jackie Bergeron instructs students in yoga in an Encinitas school. (U-T San Diego )

If you're in the downward dog position, don't move: A San Diego County judge's decision is expected Monday on a lawsuit filed by parents against the practice of yoga in Encinitas elementary schools.

Judge John Meyer, who heard the case without a jury, has indicated he will issue his ruling Monday on whether yoga is an improper attempt at religious indoctrination or just an exercise program.

Having the program in the school district "represents a serious breach of the public trust" and is a violation of state law that prohibits religious instruction in public schools, said Dean Broyles, attorney for the Escondido-based National Center for Law and Policy.

Broyles filed the lawsuit on behalf of a couple with two children in the district. It seeks to have the court block the program, in which students receive two 30-minute yoga sessions each week. The yoga program is supported by a $533,000 grant from a local studio that teaches Ashtanga yoga.

Encinitas Union School District Supt. Tim Baird has said he is disappointed that a lawsuit was filed. Officials believe the program is worthwhile and does not represent religious indoctrination, he added.

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

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tony.perry@latimes.com

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