Yoga teacher is banned from using church hall because classes are ‘not compatible’ with Christian beliefs – even though a local VICAR takes part
- Atsuko Kato tried to book the church hall at Pilton in Barnstaple, Devon
- Church told her yoga cannot be allowed despite vicar being one of her students
- Church says yoga does not acknowledge ‘there is only one God and that Jesus Christ is God himself’
A yoga teacher has been banned from using a church hall after being told her classes were ‘not compatible’ with Christian beliefs.
Atsuko Kato, 54, has been teaching yoga for 25 years – including one class attended by a local vicar – and tried to book the church hall at Pilton in Barnstaple, Devon, last week.
But the church told her yoga cannot be allowed because it does not acknowledge that ‘there is only one God and that… Jesus Christ is God himself’.
Yoga teacher Atsuko Kato giving a class at the Alwington Village Hall in Devon
Yoga originated in Northern India and has connections to both Hinduism and Buddhism.
But Ms Kato hit back and described the stance as ‘outdated’ and claimed yoga had evolved into an exercise for everyone to enjoy.
The Reverend Nigel Dilkes of Pilton Church
She said: ‘In one of my classes I have a female vicar and they don’t seem to have concerns so I struggle to understand what the problem is.
‘I had never done a class in that hall before but I was looking for a new venue and when I phoned around I spoke to Pilton Church Hall.
‘They asked me what I wanted to hire it for and I said to teach a yoga class. They said they can not tolerate it if it was for yoga and claimed yoga was not suitable for a church.
‘They said they weren’t allowed to host yoga classes because they were a church and it was not compatible with Christian beliefs. No other explanation, that was it.
‘I was very surprised by this attitude, yoga is so mainstream now.’
Ms Kato, from Bideford, Devon, said the last time she encountered this ‘attitude’ towards yoga was more than 20 years ago.
The church told Ms Kato that yoga cannot be allowed because it does not acknowledge that ‘there is only one God and that… Jesus Christ is God himself’. Pictured, the church hall at Pilton in Barnstaple, Devon
She added: ‘This did happen to me about 25 years ago when I was running a class in the Salvation Army hall and was told within a few months I would have to close.
‘Someone complained that yoga was a cult. But that in 1997 and I would have thought we had moved on in our views since then.
‘These are narrow-minded views. Yoga as it is practiced now is an exercise class yet they are banning it on religious and spiritual grounds. Just because it originated from India.
‘I have even taught yoga a class which included a vicar – so not everyone shares these beliefs, some are more open-minded.
‘Yoga is widely practiced these days and some doctors even tell patients to give it a try to help with flexibility.’
Ms Kato, pictured, said: ‘Yoga is widely practiced these days and some doctors even tell patients to give it a try to help with flexibility’
The Reverend Nigel Dilkes of Pilton Church explained why the church feels it cannot accommodate yoga.
He said: ‘Pilton church hall is a church property and under the terms of the Trust Deed it is to be used for activities which are compatible with Christian faith.
‘The test of this is whether a belief or world view underpinning the activity acknowledges that there is only one God and that the New Testament person of Jesus Christ is God himself.
‘Yoga is one of several activities that claims to confer physical benefits for flexibility and balance but also claims a spiritual connection which doesn’t stand this test.
‘So we say why not enjoy, for example, Pilates instead. We would welcome Pilates classes to our church hall.’