Alabama Retains Yoga Ban After Fears It Would Spread Hinduism
Alabama has extended its ban on yoga in public schools, after two conservative groups raised concerns it could promote Hinduism.
The Alabama Board of Education first voted to ban school personnel from ‘using any techniques that involve the induction of hypnotic states, guided imagery, meditation or yoga,’ in 1993. However, a number of Democrats in the state have been trying to lift the ban for years.
Democratic representative Jeremy Gray has been trying to get yoga reinstated in Alabama schools since 2019, insisting the practice has absolutely nothing to do with religion.
Last month, Gray managed to get a bill through the House of Representatives that planned to override the school board’s ban.
However, at a hearing with the Alabama Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, March 31, the bill faced pushbacks from two representatives of conservative groups who said they fear allowing school students to partake in yoga could encourage Hinduism or guided meditation practices.
‘This whole notion that if you do yoga, you’ll become Hindu – I’ve been doing yoga for 10 years and I go to church and I’m very much a Christian,’ Gray, who sponsored the bill, said at the hearing, as per The Independent.
If the bill does get passed into law, it would give the individual schools the decision as to whether they’d like to authorise yoga – however, only poses and stretches would be permitted. Meanwhile, all the moves would be translated into English names, and chanting mantras or using the phrase ‘namaste’ would be banned.
One of those against the bill is Becky Gerritson, director of Eagle Forum of Alabama, who argued that there’s no need for yoga in schools as students can do other kinds of stretching.
‘If this bill passes, then instructors will be able to come into classrooms as young as kindergarten and bring these children through guided imagery, which is a spiritual exercise, and it’s outside their parents’ view. And we just believe that this is not appropriate,’ she said, as per the Indian Express.
However, Rajan Zed, president of the Universal Society of Hinduism, has argued against fears that practicing yoga will encourage students to follow Hinduism, by pointing out that the vast majority of yoga instructors and practitioners in Alabama, and the United States as a whole, are non-Hindus.
Gray expressed his disappointment but said he hoped the bill would pass the next time it reaches the committee.
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