APn 09/07 1549 Yoga Banned Copyright, 1990. The Associated Press. All rights reserved. TOC

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APn 09/07 1549 Yoga Banned Copyright, 1990. The Associated Press. All rights reserved. TOCCOA, Ga. (AP) -- Yoga is a form of New Age mysticism that can lead to devil worship, says a man who led protests that forced officials to cancel a city-county sponsored yoga class. "The people who are signed up for the class are just walking into it like cattle to a slaughter," said Philip Lawrence. "Half of yoga is a branch of Eastern mysticism, and it has strong occult influences." Lawrence said he is opposing the yoga class as a Christian. He said other people opposing the classes are from Baptist, Lutheran and Church of God congregations. The class, sponsored by the Toccoa-Stephens County Recreation Department, was scheduled to begin Monday. It was canceled Aug. 31 after city and county commissioners received a number of complaints from church members in Toccoa. "The different commissioners got together on the phone, and the majority decided the class should be canceled," Mayor Bill Harris said. "Some felt that they were under too much pressure." Leonard Greenspoon, a Clemson University religion professor, said yoga has become a secularized form of exercise and relaxation. "There's certainly no necessary connection between yoga and devil worship," he said. "Anybody who's equating Eastern religion with devil worship has made a big mistake." Roger Terrell, program director for the recreation department, said he met with yoga teacher Carolyn Davis to make sure the class would involve only simple stretching and relaxation techniques. "We can't be promoting religion or anything," he said. "It's strictly for health reasons." Some of the 26 people who had signed up for the yoga class say they won't let the matter drop. "This is not the end," said Deborah Hartley. "This is just the beginning as far as I'm concerned." She and Katherine Hodges, another would-be yoga student, complained Tuesday to the county commissioners. She said she also plans to fight for the class at the next meetings of city-county commissioners and the recreation board. UPn 09/07 1725 Yoga class called ``satanic,'' canceled TOCCOA, Ga. (UPI) -- A fundamentalist Christian who led a successful fight to force the cancellation of a town-sponsored yoga class said Friday he acted to prevent potential students from satanic influence and "the occult." "I have a burden to help people who are walking into this stuff like cattle to the slaughter," said Philip Lawrence, a Toccoa chiropractor. "They think it's just a harmless relaxation technique," Lawrence said. "It almost would take someone like myself to recognize the diabolical nature of it." Lawrence, who said Friday he was "saved" from New Age religions and the occult by Christianity in 1982, persuaded the Stephens County Commission and the Toccoa City Council to cancel the program. The two bodies jointly run the town Recreation Department in Toccoa, a county seat in rural northeast Georgia near the South Carolina line. Lawrence, who had the support of several church groups and faculty members at Toccoa Falls College, a Bible school, said his backers protested that town sponsorship of the class violated the principle of separation of church and state. "We highly resented our tax money funding a course on Hinduism and the occult," he said. He said yoga is dangerous because it teaches people to clear their minds, which he said allows Satan to have influence. "God's word commands us to let every thought be on obedience to Christ," Lawrence said. Recreation Department director Cynthia Williams said her agency had offered the class in yoga, a Hindu relaxation and meditation discipline, as a "physical exercise program for elderly people, people with respiratory ailments and people who needed more stretching exercise." "I had no earthly idea this would happen. My frustration level is very high right now," Williams said. About 28 people had registered for the class, which was never taught. When students tried to move the program from the Recreation Department to a nearby Campfire Girls camp, Lawrence also persuaded the directors of the private organization not to allow yoga to be taught. "Wherever they have it, I will approach the owners and try to educate them," Lawrence said. "We don't want it in the community, period. It affects all of us." Toccoa Mayor Bill Harris said he was upset and intends to fight the decision. "I feel like it was a vocal minority. I had more phone calls for (the class) than against it," Harris said. "I personally don't think it's dead yet. I think there will be someplace provided." Carolyn Davis, the program instructor and a yoga teacher at the Center for Spiritual Awareness in nearby Lakemont, Ga., said she was shocked at the response. She added she does not consider yoga a religion. "I really felt like I'd stepped into a time warp, like I'd stepped into a different century," Davis said. "Yoga itself is a science. It's a set of procedures to let us clear our minds, settle our emotions and improve our health." Lawrence said that, before he became a Christian, he practiced yoga, and also went to psychics, practiced astral projection and studied unidentified flying objects. He said yoga particularly frightened him. "All I got from that was tremendous depression. All I got from that was darkness, and I wanted to die," Lawrence said. APn 09/10 2219 Brite-Yoga Lives Copyright, 1990. The Associated Press. All rights reserved. TOCCOA, Ga. (AP) -- Officials decided Monday that yoga isn't so devilish after all. During a special meeting Monday night that drew about 100 spectators, members of the Toccoa City Commission, the Stephens County Commission and the county recreation board decided they would allow yoga enthusiasts to practice their exercises in a county recreation center. But in an attempt to appease those in this small northeast Georgia town who believe yoga is a form of devil worship, the yoga classes will won't be sponsored by the county or funded with tax dollars. The move reversed a decision last week to cancel a class after some residents complained. Phillip Lawrence, a local chiropractor who has led the fight against yoga, said last week those who practice it are opening the door to the devil. "The people who are signed up for the class are just walking into to it like cattle to a slaughter," he said last week. "Half of yoga is a branch of Eastern mysticism, and it has strong occult influences." UPn 09/11 0720 Yoga decision leaves both sides satisfied TOCCOA, Ga. (UPI) -- Caught between opposing views of devil worship and a complete exercise, a joint meeting of the Toccoa city and Stephens County commissions came up with a Solomon-like decision on the issue of yoga. The commissions ruled Monday night that yoga is a religion and affirmed the earlier cancellation of yoga classes by the local recreation board. But it also voted to allow private religious groups, including anyone interested in yoga, to rent city-county recreation facilities for meetings and classes. The decision came at the end of a two-hour public forum in the Stephens County Courthouse. About 100 people attended and appeared evenly divided between opponents of yoga, who see it as government-sponsored devil worship and proponents who view yoga as a source of physical and mental well-being. Both sides supported their arguments with quotes from the Bible, encyclopedias and scholarly essays. And one man even called upon personal observation. "If you've ever been to Calcutta, India, as I have, then you'll see what yoga does to people," said Clinton Fulbright. "You see these poor, demonic possessed souls wandering the streets." Afterward, each side claimed victory. "We're satisfied," said Philip Lawrence, a chiropractor who led the fight to have the yoga classes canceled. "The truth has won," said Katherine Williamson Hodges, one of the 26 people who signed up for the yoga classes. Hodges said she now hopes to organize yoga classes and rent facilities from the recreation department. Webster's New World Dictionary also had something for each side. It said yoga is "a mystic and ascetic discipline by which one seeks to achieve liberation of the self and union with the supreme spirit or universal soul through intense concentration, deep meditation and practices involving prescribed postures." It also describes yoga as "a system of exercising involving the postures, breathing, etc. practiced in yoga."

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