The News Agency of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness

Constitutional Freedoms and Defining Religion

By: for The Huffington Post on June 28, 2013
Photo Credits:

"Arguments about what is and is not acceptable in public schools and other governmental setting often reflect a strategic use of the term 'religion.'"

An ongoing court case concerning the constitutionality of a yoga program in Encinitas, Calif., USA schools resumed today. The plaintiffs assert that the program is inherently religious and, therefore, prohibited by the California Constitution. Their expert witness, a religious studies scholar from Indiana University, testified that the program is clearly religious because it contains elements that connect historically with things that she associates with Hinduism, Buddhism, and Taoism and that those Hindu, Buddhist, and Taoist components cannot be effectively separated from the physical practices. Such an argument, if it becomes a precedent, could have significant implications (e.g., any reference to Santa Claus is obviously religious because it derives from a commonly recognized Christian figure, Saint Nicholas), something the presiding judge reportedly inferred. Beyond the specific legal issues, this case, along with others that focus on the freedom of and from religion, illustrates the strategic application of the term "religion."

Arguments about what is and is not acceptable in public schools and other governmental setting often reflect a strategic use of the term "religion." The Secular Coalition for America, for example, asserts, "There is no evidence that the yoga activities include any express spiritual content at all," while it opposes the phrase "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance recited in schools. Thus, they emphasize belief in God as defining prohibited religious practices, when those practices are enforced by school officials. This definition contrasts with the plaintiff assertions in the Encinitas case that religious content persists, even when references to god(s) are removed. On the opposite side,, a self-identified "Christian news service," accepts the plaintiff's assertions about the yoga program being religious. Elsehwhere, celebrates a Texas law that allows display of religious symbols and Hannukah and Christmas greetings in public schools, while rejecting complaints about the display in schools of the Ten Commandments. This site implies that those elements that fit with their sensibilities remain acceptable, while those elements that come from outside Christianity, like yoga, are not.

Read more:

[ constitution ] [ yoga ]