Proselytizing via a Downward-Facing Dog

Opinion Column

Carlton Fletcher

Carlton Fletcher

That’s me in the corner, losing my religion.


I laughed first when I read the story last week about the parents in Encinitas, Calif., who would not let their kids participate in physical education classes in which yoga was being taught.

The reason? Teachers in the community just north of San Diego are trying to force an Eastern religion on their kids, some parents claimed.


The same way the lunch ladies at the Encinitas Unified School District are trying to force approval of illegal immigration on students by serving watered-down tacos in the lunchroom. Or the local Volkswagen plant is actually promoting Nazism by selling V-Dub Beetles.

A lawyer (of course, there had to be lawyers involved) for the parents of two kids who opted out of the yoga instruction said, “There is a consistent anti-Christian bias in these cases and a pro-Eastern or strange religion bias.”

Taking into account this is California, where “strange” religions — and strange just about anything else you want to name — abound, I’ll give the barrister a little leeway. But, dude, it doesn’t get much stranger than going to court to try and prove religious persecution over a Downward-Facing Dog or a Warrior Pose.

If bending your body into pretzel-inspired positions is a religious experience, count me among the unconverted. If I attempted a Half Lord of the Fishes at this point in my life, I’d probably end up in traction or stuck in such a way only surgery would straighten me back out.

Sure, elements of yoga have origins in the Hindu religion, but anyone who thinks seeking better health through the activity is proselytizing is the kind of person who would send money to Oral Roberts after the old huckster saw a 900-foot Jesus or drink some of Jim Jones’s “special” Kool-Aid on the pathway to enlightenment.

Saying that teaching yoga is promoting Eastern religion is about like saying passing a bottle of $3 Boone’s Farm strawberry wine is a precursor to communion. Or wrapping your hair in a towel after washing it is a pathway activity to Islam.

I know the economy’s bad out there, and there are no doubt dozens of out-of-work lawyers looking for that one outrageous case that can generate enough publicity to get them in the papers and on TV (or at least on YouTube). I just can’t help wondering how such cases are viewed by the attorney fraternity (and/or sorority, lest we imply female law school grads can’t be as absurd as their male counterparts).

I’d like to think the filers of such frivolous cases are subject to the ridicule and taunts of their colleagues in the profession at lawyer dinner parties, their embarrassment growing with each not-quite-concealed snicker that follows in their wake. However, I’d be willing to bet there are probably more congratulatory pats on the back among the practitioners of their art. ... “Hey, Dean-o, way to think outside the ... ahem ... jury box on that yoga thing. (Laughter all around.) I’m considering using something similar in a case that just landed in my lap.

“You wouldn’t go after me for copyright infringement if I argued that foot-washing is a tenet of the Baptist religion and anyone participating in such an act — or, to extrapolate, anyone with clean feet .... the old ‘implied foot-washing argument’ — should pay royalties would you?”

More lawyer laughter.

I guess it’s not fair to make light of these officers of the court who are, after all, merely carrying out their lawyerly duties. Besides, wishing harm on them might bring to mind Passover, and there’s grounds for another court injunction.

Email Metro Editor Carlton Fletcher at carlton.fletcher@albanyherald.com.