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Cumbria church bans yoga classes that call on 'goddesses'

by Heather Preston
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An Anglican church in Cumbria has put a stop to yoga classes being held on church property after learning participants were encouraged to "channel their inner goddess".

Shakti Dance teacher, Tamzin McCartney was told her lessons could no longer be held at a community centre owned by St James' church in Whitehaven.

According to McCartney, the rector of St James', Rev Robert Jackson took issue with the practise of "channeling goddesses" in her sessions. She argues that her spiritual teachings promote health and well-being and that preventing her from using the venue is a form of discrimination.

She told the Times: "There is no place for such outdated, discriminating behaviour regarding who hires the church's community halls, especially when community well-being is concerned."

A Church of England spokesperson clarified that churches are not banned from hosting yoga classes and it is at the discretion of individual parishes. They explained that some parishes are concerned the promotion of yoga - which has teachings based in Hinduism and Buddhism, may be "inappropriate or misleading" within a church setting. 

The Diocese of Cumbria claims careful consideration was taken by local trustees who ultimately felt such content was in direct conflict with the Christian ethos of the church hall.

President of the Universal Society of Hinduism, Rajan Zed has spoken out against the decision, accusing the Church of England of being "immature" and encouraged Jackson to attend a yoga class for himself to ensure he is more informed. Zed has also called for intervention from the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby citing interfaith unity. 

A statement on the church's website says the community centre provides spaces for hire for the benefit of the people of Whitehaven including education groups, craft and other recreational groups and dance groups. The sentence "regardless of sex, sexual orientation, race, political, religious or other opinions" was allegedly omitted from the statement following the controversy around McCartney's case.

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