Victory for Virginia Yoga Entrepreneurs

J. Justin Wilson
J. Justin Wilson · March 10, 2010

Arlington, Va.—Thanks to a bill signed into law yesterday by Governor McDonnell, Virginia yoga instructors will no longer be threatened with thousands of dollars in fines and a year in jail for unauthorized talking.

The new law comes just three months after three Virginia yoga instructors teamed up with the Institute for Justice to file a federal First Amendment lawsuit.  The state’s controversial speech prohibition had received significant national media attention, including editorials in the Washington Post and Richmond Times-Dispatch and Las Vegas Review-Journal

“This new law is an important step toward securing free speech and economic liberty in Virginia,” said Institute for Justice Staff Attorney Robert Frommer, who filed December’s First Amendment lawsuit. “Yoga instructors are now free to earn an honest living, but other Virginia entrepreneurs still face unconstitutional speech restraints.”    

Frommer continued, “Teaching is speech, pure and simple.  It shouldn’t take a federal lawsuit and critical nationwide media coverage to get politicians to protect this basic right.”

Virginia’s burdensome regulation permitted anyone to do yoga, and anyone to teach yoga, but made it a crime to teach people to teach yoga without a specialized vocational-school license.  In order to secure the license, instructors were required to pay a $2,500 application fee, fill out dozens of hours of paperwork and—before speaking—get their curriculum approved by Virginia bureaucrats.

In February, the Virginia House and Senate each considered a bill (HB703) to exempt yoga-instructor programs from state-licensing requirements.  The bill unanimously passed both houses and was sent to the Governor for his signature.  It becomes effective in July.

Although the fight on behalf of yoga-teacher trainers is over, the effort to reform Virginia’s vocational-school law continues.  Most schools and countless entrepreneurs, from dog groomers to makeup artists, must still register with the government before speaking.  

Founded in 1991, the Virginia-based Institute for Justice represents individuals in courtrooms across the country who successfully defend their free speech rights and ability to earn an honest living in the occupations of their choice.

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