Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Does White House Fitness Council's Encouragement of Yoga Violate Establishment Clause?

The President's Council on Sports, Fitness and Nutrition promotes the White House's efforts to get American's to adopt healthy lifestyles. One of the Council's efforts is PALA+, part of the President's Challenge, which includes the Yoga PALA Challenge. Encouraging participation, the Yoga PALA Challenge website says:
Yoga has become a universal language of spiritual exercise in the United States, crossing many lines of religion and cultures. Everyday millions of people practice yoga to improve their health and overall well-being. That’s why we’re encouraging everyone to take part in PALA+, so show your support for yoga and answer the challenge!
However, according to an article from the Wall Street Journal yesterday, some argue that this promotion of yoga crosses the line of permissible church-state relationships. An attorney representing families who are challenging the teaching of yoga in the Encintas California Union School District (see prior posting) says that use of government funds to promote yoga violates the Establishment Clause.  He argues that yoga poses are worshipful acknowledgements of Hindu deities. He adds: "because yoga is based in Eastern mysticism, which is not well understood, many tend to try to disingenuously downplay its religious aspects."