Hindu group may challenge British church’s yoga ban


London : A Hindu organisation in Britain is planning to challenge the ban on yoga classes by two churches on the grounds that it breaches the country’s Equality Act 2006.

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Last week, priests at the Silver Street Baptist Church and St James’ Church of England in Taunton, Somerset, had banned yoga classes for children by branding it as a “sham” and “un-Christian”.

Now, the Hindu Council UK (HCUK) is actively considering challenging the ban. Lawyers of the organisation are exploring whether the comments by the churches indicate the priests acted contrary to Britain’s ‘Religion and Belief’ section of the 2006 legislation, which makes it unlawful to discriminate on the grounds of religion or belief in the provision of goods, facilities and services, the management of premises, education and exercise of public functions.

“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,” said HCUK General Secretary Anil Bhanot.

HCUK is also considering asking the Commission for Equality and Human Rights to investigate whether the comments by the priests amounted to “instructing or causing discrimination”, Christian Post reported.

The yoga class for children was to be run by Louise Woodstock. She was originally given permission to use the Baptist Church hall for a children’s activity group, but the priest, the Reverend Simon Farrar, withdrew his consent after discovering it was for yoga.

Later, St James’s church also barred her for the same reason.

HCUK’s spokesperson on Yoga, Amarjeet-singh Bhamra said he found it “very disappointing that such medieval-like irrational prejudice is still allowed to flourish in the Christian Church in 21st Century multicultural Britain”.

“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,” Bhamra said.

Bhanot also noted Hinduism was “the source” of many different theologies, philosophies and sciences.