Alabama blocks efforts to unban ‘Hinduism-spreading’ yoga in public schools, provoking eye rolls on social media

Alabama has become the target of social media mockery after an effort to reverse its ban on yoga in public schools was blocked, apparently over concerns that the stretching exercises promote Hinduism.

Alabama State Rep. Jeremy Gray had proposed a bill that would allow schools in the state to offer yoga on a voluntary basis, ending a 28-year-old prohibition on the practice. The Alabama Board of Education blacklisted the activity in 1993, due to concerns over its Hindu roots. No other state in the union has a similar ban, according to Gray, who picked up yoga while playing college football and later became an instructor. 

The state’s house of representatives passed the lawmaker’s modest proposal on a 73-25 vote, but it received a less welcoming reception in the senate. During a hearing on Wednesday held by Alabama’s Senate Judiciary Committee, the bill was met by opposition from conservative groups, who argued that teaching yoga in public schools would violate the separation of religion and state. 

One opponent to the measure, constitutional lawyer and Christian activist Eric Johnston, said that yoga is an “entirely different thing” from normal stretching because it is “an exercise of the Hindu religion.”

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Ultimately, the bill was defeated in committee, blocking it from going before the senate. The state lawmaker expressed disappointment over the senate committee’s decision, and said he hoped the bill would be reconsidered in the future. 

In a statement released after the bill was stonewalled, Rajan Zed, president of the Universal Society of Hinduism, noted that Hindus don’t usually try to convert non-believers. 

“Traditionally, Hinduism was not into proselytism. So, Alabamans should not be scared of yoga at all,” Zed said. 

It seems that social media users agreed. 

“Alabama has a lot to worry about and yoga ain’t one of them,” noted one Twitter user, describing the decision as “insanity.”

Others said that while there probably aren’t very many Hindu missionaries in Alabama, Christian organizations have a large presence in India, yoga’s birthplace.

Indians responding to the continued ban said it would now be hypocritical of the US to lecture other countries about religious tolerance going forward. 

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