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Alabama Votes to Keep Ban On Yoga Out of Fear It Would Spread Hinduism

Alabama has chosen to keep legislation in place that bans yoga in public schools after two conservative groups raised concerns that the exercise would promote the spread of Hinduism.

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Alabama has chosen to keep legislation in place that bans yoga in public schools after two conservative groups raised concerns that the exercises would promote the spread of Hinduism.

The Alabama Board of Education originally voted to implement this ban in 1993. The ban prohibited academic personal from ‘using any techniques that involve the induction of hypnotic states, guided imagery, meditation or yoga’. However, a decent number of Democrats in the state have attempted to lift this ban for years after its initial statement.

Democratic representative Jeremy Gray has been at the helm of these efforts to repeal the ban on yoga in Alabama schools since 2019, insisting that the aforementioned practices have nothing to do with religion.

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Last month, Gray managed to pass a bill through the House of Representatives in order to override the school board’s ban.

However, at the most recent hearing regarding the ban, which took place on March 31, the bill faced pushbacks by two conservative representative who feared that allowing students to partake in yoga would encourage conversion to Hinduism.

“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.”

Jeremy Gray; The Independent; March 31, 2021

Should the bill get passed into law, it would give individual schools the ability to decide whether or not they’d like to authorize yoga – however, only poses and strength exercises would be permitted. All moves would also be translated into English names and chanting mantras as well as the use of the phrase ‘namaste’ would be banned.

Director of Eagle Forum of Alabama Becky Gerittson, who pushed against the passing of Gray’s bill, argued that there’s no need for yoga in schools as students can still perform other types 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 expertise, and it’s outside their parent’s view. And we just believe that this is not appropriate”.

Becky Gerritson; The Indian Express.

Contrary to Gerrtison’s argument, Rajan Zed, president of the Universal Society of Hinduism, has argued that the fear that practicing yoga will encourage students to follow Hinduism is misguided. Zed pointed out that the vast majority of yoga instructors in the state of Alabama, as well as the United States as a whole, are non-Hindus.

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