yoga teacher has been barred from using a church hall for her classes after a clergyman claimed the practice was not “compatible” with Christianity.
Atsuko Kato, 54, has run sessions at a range of venues for 25 years, building up a client base across Devon.
But when she looked for new venues to host classes in Barnstaple she was rejected from hiring a church hall in the village of Pilton due to religious reasons.
Reverend Nigel Dilkes said St Mary’s Church could not accommodate Ms Kato because the activity was not “compatible with the Christian faith”.
Yoga originated in northern India and has connections to both Hinduism and Buddhism. Ms Kato said the reverend’s stance was “outdated”, and pointed out that a female vicar was among her students.
She said: “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.
“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 was very surprised by this attitude, yoga is so mainstream now.”
Reverend Dilkes said the church hall was solely to be used for activities deemed compatible with the Christian faith, and encouraged pilates to be practiced as an alternative.
He said: “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.”