ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – A New Mexico legislator has voiced concern that stretching during school physical education activities is really yoga and could introduce children to Eastern religions.
The discussion occurred as Albuquerque elementary school teacher Ann Paulls-Neal recently spoke to a legislative study committee about student health and childhood obesity, the Albuquerque Journal reported.
Paulls-Neal said she refers to her class exercises as "stretching or mat work" rather than yoga because she doesn't want to give the impression that religion is involved.
Rep. Alonzo Baldonado expressed concern.
The Los Lunas Republican said parents should be notified and given the option of alternative activities for their children because yoga is linked to Eastern religions.
"Are we teaching yoga in public schools now?" he asked. "Are parents notified?"
Baldonado said he wouldn't want his own home-schooled children to be exposed to non-Christian religious practices.
Baldonado, a Christian, said he has nothing against Buddhism or Hinduism, but said yoga could be seen as a gateway to Eastern religion.
"We have the authority, the charge from God, to raise our children as we see fit."
The head of a nonprofit progressive advocacy group took issue with the questions Baldonado raised at the meeting.
"Of all the things a legislator could focus on to get our public schools back on track, Rep. Baldonado chose this one as his most important," said Patrick Davis of ProgressNowNM.org. "Even for conspiracy theorists, this one seems far-fetched. How he thinks a rudimentary stretching routine meant to improve physical health could lead students to join a religious cult is beyond me."
Baldonado said his position is entirely reasonable, given separation of church and state requirements and general opposition to prayer in public schools.
He said he "didn't go looking for a discussion on religion. It just came up."
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