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WAS COBB COUNTY SCHOOLS ASSISTANT PRINCIPAL JOB TRANSFER RELIGIOUSLY MOTIVATED?

Controversy began over implementing Yoga to promote calm among students

A currently pending case has raised the question whether a school teacher’s transfer was motivated by the Cobb County school district’s desire to promote Christianity.

The controversy began over the desire to promote calm among students at Bullard Elementary School through the practice of Yoga. The assistant principal, Bonnie Cole, implemented yoga to promote relaxation to the benefit of those attending the school. Yoga is widely practiced across Georgia, the United States, and throughout the world for health and relaxation. However, because of its spiritual roots in Hinduism and Buddhism, debates exist whether its practice is secular or religious.

As such, when students began practicing yoga parents complained, asserting that the practice was religious and violated the separation of church and state. Shortly thereafter, Ms. Cole was transferred to a different school, further from her home. She asserted that such move violated her rights against religious discrimination, and that the move was made to “advance a particular brand of Christianity.”

The establishment clause of the First Amendment provides for religious liberty, and separates "church and state", setting forth that the "First Amendment embraces the right to select any religious faith or none at all"); County of Allegheny v. ACLU Greater Pittsburgh Chapter, 492 U.S. 573, 589-94, 598-602 (1989); Texas Monthly, Inc. v. Bullock, 489 U.S. 1, 17 (1989); Torcaso v. Watkins, 367 U.S. 488, 495 (1961).

In this instance, attorneys for Ms. Cole argue that the school board's actions violate her constitutional rights. Rather than penalizing/retaliating against Ms. Cole by moving her, the school board should have remained neutral, plaintiff argues. They further assert that ending the practice and denying students a widely adopted relaxation technique was not a neutral decision and promotes a pro-Christian agenda in violation of the separation of church and state.

A federal judge found that such a determination should be made by a jury. As such, this case is set to proceed to a jury trial this fall.

For more information or if you believe you have been deprived your constitutional rights to free speech, or suffered negative consequences as a result, we are here to help. Please contact the dedicated Atlanta worker's rights attorneys at Buckley Beal for an immediate consultation.

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