In my previous post on the recently filed lawsuit to prohibit yoga classes in the Encinitas public schools, I promised this one would elaborate a reasonable counter-position. I'm sorry to report, however, that this project - which I still want to do! - is being put off once again. Because once I started digging a little deeper into what's behind this National Center for Law and Policy lawsuit, I got hit by a stunning avalanche of information.
Before launching into what I discovered about the backstory behind the Encinitas case, however, I want to just note that it's remarkably ironic that the expert witness for the prosecution, Dr. Candy Gunther Brown, closed her 36-page brief with a dark warning that:
A pattern that I have observed in my long-term research on yoga, meditation, and other forms of CAM is that participation in spiritually-premised practices—even when marketed as “secular” and stripped of religious language—leads practitioners to change their religious views.In other words: don't imagine for a split second that you can justify yoga in schools on the grounds that it's good for kids' health! No, pretty much every form of complementary and alternative medicine, or "CAM," is a veritable Trojan Horse, sneaking in spiritually damaging views that undermine Americans' religious beliefs - whether they know it or not!
Because this process often occurs gradually, individuals may not even recognize that it is taking place or consciously choose to change their religious beliefs.
Talk about a slippery slope argument! How, I wondered, did she get from critiquing the Jois Foundation in particular to this sweeping denunciation of everything connected with yoga, meditation, and alternative medicine in general? It seemed odd.
A little more research, however, revealed a right-wing religious culture that would very much support such assertions. Which suggests that if you thought this case was simply a matter of few religiously conservative parents with some legit worries about their kids taking yoga classes in school - it's time to think again.
Of course, some parents no doubt do feel deeply concerned about their kids taking yoga, and that should be respected - up to a point. Because legally, politically, and culturally, that's really not even the tip of the iceberg.
Litigating Against "the Lie"
Here's how NPR described Encinitas parents Mary Eady's involvement in the yoga controversy:
Encinitas Superintendent Tim Baird says yoga is just one element of the district's physical education curriculum . . . But when Mary Eady visited one of the yoga classes at her son's school last year, she saw much more than a fitness program.
"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 exercises," she says.OK, so Ms. Eady grew concerned and took action. Fair enough, right? Well - it's not really that simple.
Those looked like religious teachings to her, so she opted to keep her son out of the classes. The more Eady reads about the Jois Foundation and its founders' beliefs in the spiritual benefits of Ashtanga yoga, the more she's convinced that the poses and meditation can't be separated from their Hindu roots . . .
Eady is part of a group of parents working with Dean Broyles, president and chief counsel of the Escondido-based National Center for Law and Policy.
Yesterday, Alternet posted an excellent piece of investigative journalism, explaining among other things that "Mary Eady, one of the parents organizing against Encinitas’ yoga program . . . works at a Christian organization called truthxchange."
And what, you may ask, is truthxchange?
I checked it out. As it turns out, Ms. Eady is one of four staff members of this group, which describes itself as an activist "ministry" organization.
The site goes on to explain that the group was formed in 2003 under the name, "Christian Witness to a Pagan Planet," or CWiPP. Later, it "changed its name to truthXchange" and instituted "a new emphasis on reaching college and university students."
Here's how truthxchange describes its current "Vision":
Our Purpose: For God’s glory, truthXchange exists to equip the Christian community in general and its leaders in particular to recognize and effectively respond to the rising tide of neopaganism.
Our Passion: truthXchange desires to be a global communication center that broadcasts a gospel-driven worldview response to pagan spirituality as well as recruiting, equipping, and mobilizing a network of fearless Christian leaders.
Our Plans: To train a new generation of scholars and leaders to understand and inform the Church of the challenge of global paganism . . . To engage in “antithesis” apologetics, or, as the apostle Paul says, to clarify the Truth by understanding and explaining the Lie.
Want to learn more about truthxchange's crusade for "the Truth" and against "the Lie"? Check out their 8-minute video, "Only Two Religions," which is posted both on their website and vimeo. In it, you can hear Executive Director Peter Jones explain their philosophy of "One-ism and Two-ism," which, as you might expect, boils down to an insistence that their understanding of Christianity is the one true religion, and everything else is horribly wrong.
"Spreading the Gospel by Transforming the Legal System"
NPR reported simply that "Eady is part of a group of parents working with Dean Broyles," President of the NCLP. But let's learn a little more about Mr. Broyles and the organization he leads.
According to its website, the NCLP is a non-profit "legal defense organization which focuses on the protection and promotion of religious freedom, the sanctity of life, traditional marriage, parental rights, and other civil liberties." They proudly assert a position of militant Christian nationalism:
Our nations’ founders believed that our rights and liberties are not manufactured by men, but are established by our Creator . . . 'It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1.'
But even though it is a natural right, freedom does not just “happen” by default. Throughout recorded history, liberty must be esteemed, fought for, established, and guarded if is to survive and flourish.
Today is no different. Indeed, the enemies of freedom have multiplied, and with them, we have clearly witnessed a mounting number of assaults on faith, family and freedom. Our attorneys stand ready, willing, and able to defend freedom against its enemies . . . We are motivated in our endeavors by our faith to keep the doors open for the spread of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Now, let's learn a little more about the lead attorney in the Encinitas case.
As explained on the NCLP website, Mr. Boyles "clerked for several years at the National Legal Foundation, a religious liberty non-profit organization." After graduating from law school, "he was invited to become an affiliate attorney of the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), from which Dean has received extensive training in pro-family, pro-life and pro-religious liberty matters at ADF’s outstanding National Litigation Academies (NLA)":
Because of Dean’s pro-bono work, he was invited to receive special training at ADF’s advanced NLA. Dean is proud to be an ADF affiliate attorney and member of ADF’s honor guard.And what, you may wonder, is the ADF?
Recently renamed the Alliance Defending Freedom, the ADF website describes the organization as "a servant ministry building an alliance to keep the door open for the spread of the Gospel by transforming the legal system and advocating for religious liberty, the sanctity of life, and marriage and family":
Recognizing the need for a strong, coordinated legal defense against growing attacks on religious freedom, more than 30 prominent Christian leaders launched Alliance Defending Freedom in 1994. Over the past 18 years, this unique legal ministry has brought together thousands of Christian attorneys and like-minded organizations that work tirelessly to advocate for the right of people to freely live out their faith in America and around the world.
Thanks be to God, Alliance Defending Freedom and its allies have won 8 out of every 10 cases litigated to conclusion, including 38 precedent-setting victories at the U.S. Supreme Court and hundreds more in the lower courts.
Right-Wing Watch explains that the ADF "sees itself as a counter to the ACLU." They are well-financed, highly networked, strongly anti-gay and anti-abortion, and quite powerful.
Unique to the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) is their collective of high-powered founders, including wealthy right-wing organizations such as Dobson's Focus on the Family and D. James Kennedy's Coral Ridge Ministries.
The ADF embodies the beliefs of its founders, harnessing the efforts of a cadre of right-wing groups with hundreds of millions of dollars at their disposal. All of these groups are influential members of the Right; they are pro-life and anti-gay, and their ultimate goal is to see the law and U.S. government enshrined with conservative Christian principles.
The relationship between ADF and it's founders is one of mutual self-interest; ADF has access to the resources and networking of large organizations, who in turn are equipped with an endless supply of readily-available lawyers.
ADF's strength goes beyond their budget due to their influence with well-funded religious-right groups.On its website, the ADF lists its official "Allies" as including 13 legal groups, 10 advocacy organizations, 8 "educational" institiutions, and 8 "ministries." Many of these organizations are extremely powerful in their own right. Considered as a tight network of right-wing activists with deep pockets and literally missionary zeal, the forces lined up against the Jois Foundation's yoga program are formidable indeed.
Two issues common to each of ADF's founders are their work against the right to abortion, and against the civil rights/liberties of gays and lesbians. They are particularly persistent in attacking attempts by homosexuals to have families, establish domestic partnerships or civil unions, or to be protected from discrimination in employment or housing.
Note: My next post will (hopefully) deliver on my pro-yoga in public schools argument as promised.