The Alabama Senate, wary of the Hindu roots of Yoga, has stalled even a de-Hinduised bill that would have reversed a 28-year ban on practising yoga in public schools in the southeastern US state. During a hearing by the state’s Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday, two conservative Christian groups objected to the bill, citing concerns about yoga’s roots in Hinduism.
The Bill was put forth before the Senate by Democratic Rep. Jeremy Gray of Opelika, in February, in hopes of overturning the age-long ban on the practice of Yoga in Alabama schools, which has been in place since 1993. Lawmakers in Alabama’s state Senate voted on the proposal and decided against it.
According to reports, the bill came to a split, with 4 votes going in favour of the bill while 4 going against it. However, Senator Tom Whatley, chairman of the committee, decided to carry the bill over so it wouldn’t die in the committee. Responding to the Senate’s decision, Gray said he was disappointed but hopes the bill will pass the next time it comes before the committee.
Meanwhile, the constitutional lawyer Eric Johnston, who works with Christian advocacy groups that have spoken out against the measure said: “If you pass a law that says you can do stretches and sit in positions and so forth, that’s fine. But to say you can teach yoga is an entirely different thing because yoga is an exercise of the Hindu religion.”
Johnston said that they don’t object to adults participating in yoga but they feel children are impressionable.
Meanwhile, arguing in favour of introducing Yoga in public schools, Jeremy Gray said the bill is about exercise and not religion. “I can give you a ton of reasons why yoga is beneficial and those reasons are backed by studies and data,” he continued. “There is no study to my knowledge that says doing yoga exercise converts people to Hinduism.” He said if the bill is not passed, it would do a disservice to the children who really need it.
For the uninitiated, Alabama is the only state with such a rule. The text of the ban says “school personnel shall be prohibited from using any techniques that involve the induction of hypnotic states, guided imagery, meditation or yoga” and additionally banned the use of the word “namaste.”
Last month, the Alabama House of Representatives had approved the bill that would have enables K-12 school systems to teach Yoga if they so desire. The bill was passed by the Alabama House of Representatives with a vote of 73-25.
It is pertinent to note here that even the bill that reversed the ban on Yoga was de-Hinduised. This is to say that it asserted teaching Yoga could not include chanting of Mantras and even, the teaching of ‘Namaste’.
Though the bill cleared the Alabama House of Representatives it has again reached a deadlock as it could not get through the Alabama Senate.