The Hindu Council UK (HCUK) is considering whether a ban on yoga classes made by two UK churches, St James’ Church and the Silver Street Baptist Church in Taunton, Somerset, may breach the Equality Act 2006.

 

Louise Woodstock had booked both church halls for her yoga classes for children but, when she turned up to teach at last Thursday, she claims she was told she had to leave because yoga was a ‘sham’ and ‘unchristian’. She says she told the priests involved, the Vicar of St James’, The Reverend Tim Jones and The Reverend Simon Farrar of the Silver Street Baptist Church, that the form of yoga she teaches is not a religious activity, but they refused to back down. The Reverend Tim Jones later told the press: “As Christians, we believe this philosophy is false and not something we wish to encourage.”

 

Now, HCUK is asking its lawyers to consider whether the comments made by the two priests indicate they have acted contrary to the ‘Religion and Belief’ section of the Act, specifically those parts relating to discrimination in providing goods, facilities and services. The HCUK is also considering whether to ask the Commission for Equality and Human Rights to investigate whether the Church leaders’ comments amount to ‘instructing or causing discrimination.’
Along with other faith bodies, HCUK debated and contributed to the Equality Act before it became law. In these debates it was agreed unanimously from an interfaith perspective that the hire of religious premises should not restrict multi-cultural events without good reason, and that faiths themselves should participate in such activities. According to HCUK’s General Secretary Anil Bhanot, the opposite has happened in this case.

“These priests might appear to be advising Christians not to practice yoga because they believe it is based on a ‘sham’ and a ‘false philosophy’ but what in effect they mean is that Hinduism is a false religion,” he argues. “The yoga teacher concerned left religion out of the equation; they, with their alarmist, uninformed, fundamentalist version of Christianity that lives in fear of and therefore clamps down on any perceived unorthodoxy, dragged religion in and, in so doing, have demonstrated the kind of bigotry that is precisely the underlying cause of religious strife in this world.”
Amarjeet-singh Bhamra, HCUK’s spokesperson on yoga told Blogger News that yoga is one of the oldest known medical systems enshrined in the Atharva Veda, the most ancient Hindu book on wisdom, and it is now at the forefront of holistic and integrated medicine in the West. “Whether practised spiritually or not,” he explained, ” yoga delivers health benefits without any side effects. It is safe and non-invasive and there is a rising demand for yoga within the UK indigenous population. It is very disappointing that such medieval-like irrational prejudice is still allowed to flourish in the Christian Church in 21st Century multicultural Britain.”
“Hinduism is an ancient religion that is the source of many different theologies, philosophies and sciences,” adds Anil Bhanot. “Many Hindus believe the source of all music can be found within one of our most ancient scriptures, the Saam Veda. It will be interesting to see, now they have been apprised of this, whether those same church leaders who reject yoga will now announce a ban on all music on their premises too.”

Suzanne Evans blogs at www.aquariuspr.blogspot.com

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/faith/article2358035.ece

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/UK/UK_churches_ban_yoga_group/articleshow/2328249.cms

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