the parents of encinatas vs yoga: surfer law firm offers free legal services to school district

Fifth-grade students participate in yoga class (photo by Hayne Palmour IV,

A law firm in Encinatas, California has stepped forward to offer pro bono legal services in the event that parents actually do sue the Encinatas Union School District over yoga classes in public elementary schools, reports the North County Times.

After this yoga drama made headlines across the continent, Encinitas-based Coast Law Group emailed district Superintendent Tim Baird earlier this week. The law group focuses on environmental preservation and public interest matters – and appears to be run by a bunch of surfer lawyers. Some of Coast Law Group’s other clients include surfer brands O’Neill and Rusty, and non-profits SurfAid International and Surfrider Association.

Anyway, surfer lawyers are awesome and this is a very nice gesture. Although the yoga organization behind the initiative, the Jois Yoga Foundation – founded by Sonia Jones, the wife of hedge fund billionaire – could probably afford the legal fees and help support the school district.

This interesting story has been developing over the past few weeks. Things came to a head earlier this month when a group of parents concerned about “religious indoctrination” in the yoga classes first complained to the school board and then threatened legal action. The yoga classes are in half of the school district’s nine elementary schools, with plans to expand into the remaining schools in January.

Interesting enough, the anti-yoga parents are being represented by the “explicitly Christian” National Center for Law & Policy. The Friendly Atheist blog on dug up this interesting little fact. From the NCLP website:

Our nations’ founders believed that our rights and liberties are not manufactured by men, but are established by our Creator. The attorneys at the National Center For Law & Policy believe that we are duty and honor bound to oppose and resist all who would seek to take away those blessings of liberty which God has so mercifully endowed…

The National Center for Law & Policy is dedicated to preserving and reclaiming religious freedom. Sometimes we work alone, but whenever possible, we work with and coordinate efforts with other like-minded organizations in the cause of freedom. We are motivated in our endeavors by our faith to keep the doors open for the spread of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Lots of people have been presuming that the dissenting parents were Christian, but the Friendly Atheist was the first to actually Google the law firm representing them.

Bonus: have you ever wondered what atheists think about yoga? The comments section on the Friendly Atheist blog post gives a little insight. Here are some of the gems:

I still wouldn’t want my kids taught about “energy” flowing through their bodies that they can somehow perceive and control!  It’s meaningless garbage!

As a fellow atheist, I completely disagree with you on this one and am on the side of the Christians. Virtually all Yoga is based on the belief in universal energy (Qi, Chi, Prana, etc…), a metaphysical concept which has as much proof as any God man has created. Not only is this a religious concept, it is dangerous pseudoscience… The issue I have is that you cannot remove the metaphysical (religious) aspects from Yoga, if you do its just stretching. There is no need to have this in any public school.

I’ve taken many a yoga class over the years and I KNOW how it’s usually taught (filled with mystical energy woo nonsense crap).  I would NOT want that taught to my KID!  Yoga for adults is a different thing ENTIRELY.


  1. It is all very interesting. I do think that yoga teaches about energy flowing through the body, etc. (although not that that’s meaningless garbage). In that sense, the parents are right that there is a component that is not strictly secular in the same sense as gymnastics. Yet even there, when you think into it more deeply, the issues are complicated. Schools necessarily instill social values and bodily disciplines (or at least attempt to). Which do we want to have them institutionalize, and which do we consider off-limits?

    The problem, of course, is that in a country as culturally divided as the U.S., there is no “we” that could possibly come to agreement on these questions. That is in part why schools have always had a significant degree of local control and autonomy – different communities want to socialize their children in different ways, and up to a point, that’s completely legitimate and even important.

    Again, however, on some many issues we’re past that point – for example, I do not think it’s OK for public schools to skip teaching evolution because they’re controlled by conservative Christians who don’t believe in it. Yet that is definitely happening in some areas.

    Bottom line is that I think that if enough parents want to keep yoga out of their school, it should stay out until such time as some new local movement emerges to bring it back. Definitely it is not something that I would want to have forced on anybody.

  2. Nothing like a little yoga to bring the Christian Right and atheists together. I love it! 😉 Seriously, though, I think that’s the point. It seems silly at one level, but at another level, it is probably better. I wish we could have a more serious discussion rather than using words like pseudoscience and bringing the NCLP into the mix, but we live in a culture that just happens to love extremism rather than dialogue. And that is unfortunate. This is actually a very serious legal issue, and an interesting one, but everyone, the lawyers included, seem to be making a mockery of every aspect of it.

  3. Good they are doing it. Such a crazy story, but sadly not as surprising as it should be.