Is Yoga Religious? An Indian Court Mulls Mandatory School Exercises
NEW DELHI, INDIA, October 28, 2013 (Religion News): The Supreme Court of India is weighing whether yoga has a religious element, as it decides if public schools may teach the ancient discipline in the country where it originated.
India’s school policy considers yoga an integral component of physical education. But the court has expressed caution, and is considering arguments that yoga has a religious component.
“Can we be asking all the schools to have one period for yoga classes every day when certain minority institutions may have reservations against it?” the court asked Oct. 18, referring to Christian and Muslim groups.
The issue is affecting other countries too. In July, a California judge ruled that the teaching of yoga in public schools does not establish a government interest in religion. The decision came after parents sued the Encinitas Union School District to stop yoga classes introduced to elementary schoolchildren in the upscale suburb just north of San Diego.
India’s two petitioners want the court to direct all schools run or funded by the federal government to include yoga as a subject in the first through eighth grades. They cite the 2005 National Curriculum Framework, which says yoga is vital for health and physical education.
But some Christian and Muslim leaders oppose the move. “Yoga, as it is currently practiced in India, is not merely a physical exercise. It has a strong component of faith to it,” said John Dayal, a Christian leader and member of the National Monitoring Committee for Minority Education.
Of India’s 1.2 billion people, 80 percent are Hindu, 13 percent are Muslim and 2 percent are Christian.