Controversy has erupted over a decision by Missouri tax authorities to require yoga centers to collect and pay a sales tax on yoga classes. Yoga instructors argue they should be exempt from the tax “because the lessons include spiritual elements”:

An Ohio Department of Revenue spokesman, Mike McKinney, explained Ohio taxes gym, recreation and sports club memberships, not the classes offered. A West Virginia Department of Revenue spokeswoman, Kimberly Osborne, said sales taxes are collected from yoga studios.

Missouri said it will consider religious exemptions to the sales tax on a case-by-case basis. Farnen said the revenue letters were sent to yoga and Pilates businesses, not Hindu temples.

A Hindu chaplain from Reno, Nevada, Rajan Zed, said that taxing yoga classes, which often include physical poses and meditation, could be considered “religious infringement.” He said that yoga is one of six systems in Hindu philosophy that traces its roots back thousands of years. Hindu scriptures outline ways to practice the discipline, he noted.

Yoga is often practiced in cultural halls within a temple complex, Zed said. But, he didn’t think it should matter if yoga was being practiced in a yoga center or by a temple. “I still think it’s a spiritual practice, yoga,” he said. “It doesn’t matter, the campus where it’s held.”

Read the full AP report.