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A Church on Gloucester Road Bans Yoga Class

Submitted by anonymous on 19/02/2015

St. Michael's Church on Gloucester Road in Bristol have banned Yoga classes from their halls. After 9 years of teaching at their venue, Naomi Hayama and her class were given notice to leave by the end of February 2015. 

In the letter terminating her contract they state that Yoga’s....'roots lie in thinking which is not compatible with the Christian faith' and that they will 'no longer take either new or continuing bookings for groups practicing alternative spirituality.'

She explained that the classes she teaches have no religious aspect and are run purely for physical and mental well-being and invited the members of the church council to come and observe a class for themselves. They declined this offer and despite numerous discussions with concerned members of the community they pushed ahead with their decision.

Most of the students are local people who have expressed that they consider the church hall to be a community space. The recent decision has made some feel that they are no longer welcome. Others have expressed their surprise that this sort of decision was taking place in such an open and vibrant community area like the Gloucester road.

Naomi has now started an online petition to try and change their decision. In two weeks the online petition has received more than 1100 supporters. https://www.change.org/p/james-stevenson-keep-yoga-classes-in-church-halls

There have been many comments from Christians who felt that their faith was in no way challenged by Yoga. People have also commented that this decision is creating an unnecessary divide within the community.

There’s also been question as to whether this adheres to the Equality Act of 2010. It seems that if the church hall is being let out for payment to other activities and the building is not just used as a religious worship space, then they are subject to the Equality Act of 2010. An interesting article which was written by Evangelican Alliance on Equality Act of 2010 and lettings in church premise can be read here: http://www.eauk.org/current-affairs/politics/letting-church-premises.cfm

It is clear that the church rents out their church hall as stated in their annual report made in 2012 to the Charitable Commission: 

"The church halls are let out to community groups on all weekdays in the daytime and evening for a wide variety of activities. This presents an opportunity to engage with the wider community and are also a useful source of income for the church."

This means that this decision to shut down the class is not only unfair but it could also be unlawful.


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