"They were being taught to thank the sun for their lives and the warmth that it brought, the life that it brought to the earth and they were told to do that right before they did their sun salutation exercise"...The woman, Mary Eady, was able to take her son out of the classes — which is an appropriate accommodation but insufficient to solve an Establishment Clause violation. (In the old prayer-in-school cases, excusing the students who chose not to pray did not suffice.)
The school's program was richly funded by the K.P. Jois Foundation, whose Hindu founders connected yoga to their religion.
"It's stated in the curriculum that it's meant to shape the way that they view the world, it's meant to shape the way that they make life decisions," Eady says. "It's meant to shape the way that they regulate their emotions and the way that they view themselves."
"And then the question becomes — if it is religious, which it is, who decides when enough religion has been stripped out of the program to make it legal?" [says Dean Broyles, president and chief counsel of the Escondido-based National Center for Law and Policy]. "I mean, that's the problem when you introduce religion into the curriculum and actually immerse and marinate children in the program."...
"It is the stated goal of both the Jois Foundation and the district itself to prove scientifically that Ashtanga yoga works for kids here in the district and then export it nationally," Broyles says.The Jois Foundation has a director, Eugene Ruffin, who is himself Catholic and who says the values taught in the program aren't specifically Hindu. But making religion generic doesn't solve your problem. Consult the original Warren Court school-prayer case, Engel v. Vitale, which involved a prayer concocted by the state that stripped out all denominational specificity.
My position — explained here in the context of Kwanzaa — is that the government should not use schools for exercises that reach into the spiritual aspect of the child's mind. Quite aside from whether courts would see an Establishment Clause violation, it should be rejected as a policy choice. Even where you have trouble deciding whether something is religion or not, if it's a religion substitute, operating like religion, you should be revolted by the government intruding into the sphere that belongs to the individual, parents, and private organizations. And on this ground, I would object to all sorts of indoctrination and idol-worship. Public schools must be committed to teaching real substance of the secular kind. Think: math and science.
ADDED: Imagine if a Christian foundation were handing out huge grants to public schools to adopt a program based on its values, with generic prayer-like incantations led by the teacher. Would NPR and its devotees be nodding calmly at how nice it was?
ALSO: NPR quotes the mother's attempt at paraphrasing the prayer-like incantation. I'd like to see the actual text that the school uses! Here's some material at the Jois website, but it doesn't show the text I'm looking for.