By Brandon Moseley
Mike and Elizabeth Shreve of Cleveland, Tennessee released a statement in September asking the Alabama legislature to overturn the lifting of the ban of yoga in public schools.
“We deeply respect and appreciate the position held by conservative individuals (such as Tim James) and conservative groups (such as the Eagle Forum, both statewide and national) who are on the cutting edge of the present conflict in our nation,” Shreve and his wife wrote. “Extremely important cultural and social issues must be addressed, including yoga being taught in public schools. The intensity of our efforts will determine the legacy we leave behind politically, socially, religiously, and spiritually for generations following.”
The couple lives in Tennessee, but Elizabeth Shreve is from Carbon Hill and she studied at UAB. The couple was married in Alabama and they said they have relatives that still live in the state.
“Also, over the past 50 years, we have ministered throughout the state of Alabama in evangelistic meetings and have many long-term covenant relationships with numerous pastors and church congregations," the letter continued. "So, our lives have been, and continue to be, intertwined with what goes on in this great state.”
The couple is involved in evangelistic work nationwide in churches and other venues, and they run a Christian publishing company called Deeper Revelation Books. They have “a very fruitful outreach to people of non-Christian religions, especially Buddhists, Hindus and New Agers called THE TRUE LIGHT PROJECT. “
The Alabama legislature passed House Bill 246 during the 2021 regular legislative session lifting the decades-old ban on yoga in Alabama public schools. Alabama was the first state in the nation to ban yoga in schools. The bill was sponsored by state Rep. Fred Gray, (D-Opelika), who practices yoga himself. The bipartisan legislation was easily passed in the Alabama House of Representatives. The Senate was more skeptical and amended the bill to remove spirituality from the yoga exercises and required that parents must sign for a child to participate. The House agreed to the Senate changes and HB246 was signed into law by Gov. Kay Ivey (R).
“To relinquish such a notable position is like forfeiting a very prestigious trophy,” the Shreves wrote. “Alabama was the 'last stand' against an invasion of false religious ideas into the United States public school system. Lawmakers need to understand this was not progress. Having been deeply involved in the practice of yoga in the past, I (Mike) am extremely interested in seeing this decision reversed as soon as possible before millions of students are negatively affected.”
Rev. Mike says that his views were shaped by his personal experience as a yoga instructor in the 1970s before his conversion to Christianity.
“I personally studied under an Indian guru and ran a yoga ashram (a communal center of study) also located in Tampa, Florida,” Rev. Shreves said. “I left that life, became a follower of Jesus, severed all connections to yogic practices and philosophy, and have been devoted to a Christian worldview and Christian service ever since. I understand firsthand the dangers associated with the practice of yoga. I am also convinced that it is impossible to separate yoga from Hinduism (a connection that the HB-246 bill surprisingly admits). The very word “yoga” means yoked with God—but the “God” being referenced is not the personal God of the Bible (the Everlasting Father), but an impersonal life-force (called Brahman in Hinduism)—which is a total misrepresentation of His nature. The guru I studied under warned us that the practice of yoga could open practitioners up to dark, psychic, paranormal experiences that we must be prepared to handle. Even the physical exercises and breathing exercises are designed to penetrate the spiritual realm.
“According to the bill, children from kindergarten to the ninth grade will be able to participate in the yoga classes,” Shreves warned. “Even though the classes are an 'opt-out' arrangement, many will ask their parents to sign them up because 'Yoga is cool' or 'All my friends are going,' etc. Once they get involved, inevitably, nine times out of ten, students will eventually get curious about the deeper aspects of yoga. Having become comfortable with what may seem to be harmless elementals of the physical aspect, most will feel no qualms about exploring deeper, thinking there’s nothing wrong with it.
“These young children could easily be led into beliefs and practices that are contrary to the faith of most of their parents (a biblical worldview),” Rev. Shreves warned. “Many parents, totally unaware of the Hindu/New Age connection, will allow their children to participate, not realizing the extremely dangerous and detrimental spiritual side effects.”
Rev. Shreves was one of the authorities enlisted by former gubernatorial candidate Tim James to discuss ways to reinstate the yoga ban.
The group has drafted legislation to ban yoga in public schools and hopes to introduce it either in the upcoming special session or the 2022 regular session.
Under current Alabama law, local school boards may opt to offer yoga instruction. For a child to participate, their parent must sign a permission slip.
The legislation that Shreves and James are promoting would overturn that option and ban yoga instruction in all of Alabama’s public schools. Alabama would be the only state in the nation with such a ban in place.
The special session begins on Monday, September 27. The regular session begins in January.