Category: Press Releases

APPEALS COURT NIXES CHURCH/STATE CHALLENGE TO PUBLIC WALDORF SCHOOLS

APPEALS COURT NIXES CHURCH/STATE CHALLENGE TO PUBLIC WALDORF SCHOOLS

PEOPLE FOR LEGAL AND NONSECTARIAN SCHOOLS, INC. (PLANS)

Welcome

Debra Snell, President
12562 Rough and Ready Highway
Grass Valley, CA 95945
(530) 273-1005 president@waldorfcritics.org

Dan Dugan, Secretary
290 Napoleon St. Studio E
San Francisco, CA 94124
(415) 821-9776 secretary@waldorfcritics.org

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, JUNE 7, 2012

APPEALS COURT NIXES CHURCH/STATE CHALLENGE TO PUBLIC WALDORF SCHOOLS

HISTORY TO DATE

February 11, 1998, People for Legal and Nonsectarian Schools (PLANS) filed suit in federal court (the Eastern District of California, in Sacramento) against two California school districts, alleging that their publicly-funded Waldorf schools were religious programs in disguise. The defendants were the Twin Ridges Elementary School District, sponsoring a Waldorf charter school, and the Sacramento Unified School District, which created a Waldorf magnet school.

Judge Frank C. Damrell proposed, and PLANS agreed, that the trial would be divided into two parts. The first part would determine whether Anthroposophy, the philosophy of Rudolf Steiner, founder of Waldorf education, was a religion for Establishment Clause purposes. If and only if that was shown, the second part would determine whether Anthroposophy was impermissibly present in publicly-funded schools.

In a pre-emptive move, Judge Damrell allowed the school districts to appeal to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to rule on whether PLANS had standing to bring the lawsuit. In April of 2000 the court refused to take the appeal, affirming PLANS’ standing.

In May, 2001, in reaction to the case Altman v. Bedford Central School District, Judge Damrell dismissed the PLANS lawsuit against the two school districts, based on lack of standing. PLANS appealed the decision, and in February, 2003, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals again confirmed PLANS’ right to sue the school districts as taxpayers and reinstated the case.

At the September, 2005 trial, PLANS refused to present its case without key witnesses and evidence that Judge Frank C. Damrell had excluded based on his interpretation of federal court rules. That gave the judge no option but to dismiss the case for the second time.

PLANS contended that Damrell’s rulings were incorrect, and appealed to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. After a two-year wait, the appeal was heard November 9, 2007. The court reversed the decision of the district court and remanded the case back to that court. The appeals court also released one of the defendants from the case, the Twin Ridges Elementary School District, because that district no longer had a Waldorf charter school. That left only Sacramento as a defendant.

A second trial, on the issue of whether Anthroposophy was a religion, was held August 30, 2010. PLANS was represented by D. Michael Bush, of Irvine, CA. Judge Damrell again refused to allow almost all of the evidence that PLANS offered, rejecting it as hearsay and irrelevant. The judge refused to allow the books and lectures of Rudolf Steiner, which form the foundation of Waldorf, into evidence. PLANS called one witness, Betty Staley, an initiator of Waldorf education in public schools. Staley was evasive, claiming that Anthroposophists did not celebrate well-known Anthroposophical festivals, and that the newsletter of the Anthroposophical Society, which prints the minutes of its board meetings, did not represent the Society. Judge Damrell dismissed the case a third time, for lack of evidence.

PLANS appealed to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals for a fourth time.

RECENT ACTION

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals heard PLANS’ appeal May 17, 2012. Judges Richard R. Clifton, Stephen Reinhardt, and N. Randy Smith formed the panel. Kevin T. Snider, Chief Counsel of Pacific Justice Institute, represented PLANS. An audio recording of the hearing is available at
https://www.ca9.uscourts.gov/media/audio/?20120517/10-17720/

Snider posited that the district court erred in three matters. First, that the exclusion of evidence was based on an erroneous interpretation of federal court rules, for example requiring either the original document or the testimony of an expert for admission of publications more than twenty years old and found in a place and condition supporting authenticity. Second, that the district court used four indicia for defining religion, and the Alvarado case used only three. Judge Smith asked whether the Supreme Court had ever said a group that denied it was religious was religious. Snider said no, the closest thing was the Malnak case, where Transcendental Meditation claimed that Hindu rituals as part of a school program were not religious. Third, Judge Damrell had implied that the “establishment” and “free exercise” clauses of the First Amendment had different scopes, and that position disagreed with rulings of the 9th Circuit Court.

“On two occasions Anthroposophists have convinced courts that Anthroposophy is a religion,” said Kevin Snider, chief counsel with the Pacific Justice Institute. In 1987 and later in 2004 two Anthroposophical entities sought special immigrant religious worker visas for foreign nationals serving in two of their institutions. Those cases are Soltane v. INS and Lindenberg v. INS. “Anthroposophists have wanted the advantages of the Free Exercise Clause when applying for immigration visas, but not the restrictions in the Establishment Clause when seeking tax dollars to fund their religious activities at public schools,” Snider continued.

Judge Smith thought that the bifurcation of the trial was an error. It didn’t matter whether Anthroposophy was a religion or not, what mattered was whether there was religious activity in the classroom. As PLANS was not allowed to go to the second phase of the trial, that issue was never addressed.

Michele Cannon represented the Sacramento school district. Cannon pointed out that PLANS had interweaved some documents into their brief that were not in evidence. She said that PLANS had never presented evidence of any illegal activity in the schools, ignoring the fact that that was because the second part of the trial had not taken place.

At the end, Judge Reinhardt said “Maybe we ought to just decide that you all screwed this thing up, and throw out the whole case.”

Debra Snell, President of PLANS, noted “It’s bizarre. By getting involved with Waldorf, a public school district was put into the position of having to defend the claims of a religious cult.”

The 9th Circuit rendered a non-published decision just three weeks later. They upheld Judge Damrell’s decision and his rulings on evidence. They said that a more full record might well show that Anthroposophy was a religion, but that sufficient evidence had not been presented. The court opined that the requirement to prove that Anthroposophy was a religion might have been an error, but that PLANS had waived its right to make that argument by accepting the deal.

Dan Dugan, Secretary of PLANS, said “Over thirteen years our case was whittled down to nothing by technical maneuvers. The real issue of whether public funding of Waldorf education violates the Establishment Clause because of impermissible entanglement with a religious cult, the presence of religious rituals, and the leakage of religious doctrines into the classrooms of public schools was never aired in court. We will start all over again.”

The most significant aspect of the 9th circuit ruling is that it did not sustain the lower Court’s conclusion that Anthroposophy is not a religion. Rather the Court simply held that the record lacked sufficient evidence for it to rule on the issue. As a consequence, the 9th circuit ruling leaves open the opportunity to show the true religious nature of that belief system.

BACKGROUND

Anthroposophy is the spiritual movement behind the world-wide network of Waldorf schools. PLANS alleges that Anthroposophy is a cult-like religious sect. Common references classify Anthroposophy as religious; for example, Encarta: “a religious philosophy developed by Rudolf Steiner from theosophy, holding that spiritual development should be humankind’s foremost concern.”

PLANS contends that public Waldorf schools are intrinsically and inseparably based on Anthroposophy. Curriculum decisions and teacher training are based on Anthroposophy’s child development theory, which defines stages of reincarnation, a religious doctrine. Science teaching in Waldorf schools includes crackpot Anthroposophical doctrines like the belief that the heart doesn’t pump blood. The teaching of world history in Waldorf schools is based on a theory of evolution through successively higher races that both Steiner and the Nazis adopted from Theosophy. Irrespective of its wacky content, publicly funded use and reliance on the doctrines of Anthroposophy endorses that religion in violation of the United States and California constitutions.

WHAT IS PLANS?

PLANS was organized in late 1995 by former Waldorf parents and teachers concerned about both private and public Waldorf schools. It became a California non-profit corporation in 1997. PLANS’ mission is to provide parents, teachers, and school boards with views of Waldorf education from outside the cult of Rudolf Steiner, to expose the illegality of public funding for Waldorf school programs in the US, and to litigate against schools violating the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

For more information, please see the PLANS web site, https://waldorfcritics.org.

-Dan Dugan, Secretary, PLANS, Inc.

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CHURCH/STATE CHALLENGE TO PUBLIC WALDORF SCHOOLS STYMIED AGAIN AT SECOND TRIAL

CHURCH/STATE CHALLENGE TO PUBLIC WALDORF SCHOOLS STYMIED AGAIN AT SECOND TRIAL

PEOPLE FOR LEGAL AND NONSECTARIAN SCHOOLS, INC. (PLANS)

Welcome


Debra Snell, President
12562 Rough and Ready Highway
Grass Valley, CA 95945
(530) 273-1005 president@waldorfcritics.org

Dan Dugan, Secretary
290 Napoleon St. Studio E
San Francisco, CA 94124
(415) 821-9776 secretary@waldorfcritics.org

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, SEPTEMBER 5, 2010

CHURCH/STATE CHALLENGE TO PUBLIC WALDORF SCHOOLS STYMIED AGAIN AT SECOND TRIAL

HISTORY TO DATE

February 11, 1998, People for Legal and Nonsectarian Schools (PLANS) filed suit in federal court (the Eastern District of California, in Sacramento) against two California school districts, alleging that their publicly-funded Waldorf schools were religious programs in disguise.

In May, 2001, Judge Damrell dismissed the PLANS lawsuit against the two school districts, based on lack of standing. PLANS appealed the decision, and in February, 2003, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals confirmed PLANS’ right to sue the school districts as taxpayers and reinstated the case.

At the September, 2005 trial, PLANS refused to present its case without key witnesses and evidence that Judge Frank C. Damrell had excluded based on his interpretation of federal court rules. This gave the judge no option but to dismiss the case.

PLANS contended that Damrell’s rulings were incorrect, and appealed to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. After a two-year wait, the appeal was heard November 9, 2007. The court reversed the decision of the district court (Case No. CV-98-0266 FCD PAN) and remanded the case back to that court.

RECENT ACTION

A second trial began on August 30, 2010, again before Judge Damrell. PLANS was represented by D. Michael Bush, of Irvine, CA. Judge Damrell again refused to allow almost all of the evidence that PLANS offered, rejecting it as “hearsay” and “irrelevant.” Dan Dugan, Secretary of PLANS, Inc. said “It was outrageous that the judge refused to admit any books by Rudolf Steiner, the founder of Anthroposophy, as evidence of the religious nature of Anthroposophy.”

PLANS called Betty Staley, a well-known Anthroposophical author and a founder of Rudolf Steiner College, as a witness. Staley was evasive and, for example, said that Anthroposophists did not celebrate festivals. When asked if she had read Steiner’s “The Festivals and Their Meaning,” she was forced to admit that at least some Anthroposophists do celebrate four annual festivals. Staley testified that “Anthroposophy Worldwide,” a newsletter from Anthroposophy’s headquarters in Switzerland that prints the minutes of Anthroposophy’s board meetings, did not represent Anthroposophy.

Judge Damrell invited the school district to make a motion for dismissal because PLANS had failed to make its case, and subsequently the case was dismissed. PLANS stated their intention to appeal. Debra Snell, President of PLANS, Inc., said “Our evidence shows conclusively that Anthroposophy is a religious activity, and that despite all promises it leaks into the public Waldorf school classrooms. We will not give up until this violation of the separation of church and state is stopped.”

BACKGROUND

Anthroposophy is the spiritual movement behind the world-wide network of Waldorf schools. PLANS alleges that for Establishment Clause purposes, Anthroposophy is a religious sect. The defendants claim that it is a philosophy. This is a crucial issue in the case. If Anthroposophy isn’t a religious activity, then PLANS can’t allege that taxpayer-funded Waldorf schools violate the Constitution by being entangled with religion. Common references classify Anthroposophy as religious; for example, Encarta: “a religious philosophy developed by Rudolf Steiner from theosophy, holding that spiritual development should be humankind’s foremost concern.”

PLANS contends that public Waldorf schools are intrinsically and inseparably based on Anthroposophy. Curriculum decisions and teacher training are based on Anthroposophy’s child development theory, which defines stages of reincarnation, a religious doctrine. Science teaching in Waldorf schools includes crackpot Anthroposophical doctrines like “the heart is not a pump.” The framework for history in Waldorf schools is based on Anthroposophy’s proto-Nazi racial theory. Publicly funded use and reliance on the doctrines of Anthroposophy endorses that religion in violation of the United States and California constitutions.

WHAT IS PLANS?

PLANS was organized in late 1995 by former Waldorf parents and teachers concerned about both private and public Waldorf schools. It became a California non-profit corporation in 1997. PLANS’ mission is to provide parents, teachers, and school boards with views of Waldorf education from outside the cult of Rudolf Steiner, to expose the illegality of public funding for Waldorf school programs in the US, and to litigate against schools violating the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

For more information, please see the PLANS web site, https://waldorfcritics.org.

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-Dan Dugan, Secretary
PLANS, Inc.

WALDORF CRITICS WIN APPEAL IN CHURCH-STATE CASE

WALDORF CRITICS WIN APPEAL IN CHURCH-STATE CASE

PEOPLE FOR LEGAL AND NONSECTARIAN SCHOOLS, INC. (PLANS)

Welcome

Debra Snell, President
12562 Rough and Ready Highway
Grass Valley, CA 95945
(530) 273-1005 president@waldorfcritics.org

Dan Dugan, Secretary
290 Napoleon St. Studio E
San Francisco, CA 94124
(415) 821-9776 secretary@waldorfcritics.org

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, DECEMBER 4, 2007

WALDORF CRITICS WIN APPEAL IN CHURCH-STATE CASE

People for Legal and Nonsectarian Schools (PLANS) filed suit against
two California school districts in 1998, alleging that the districts
were running religious programs in public schools. At the opening of
the September, 2005 trial, PLANS refused to present its case without
key witnesses and evidence that Judge Frank C. Damrell had excluded
based on his interpretation of federal court rules. This gave the
judge no option but to dismiss the case.

PLANS contended that Damrell’s rulings were incorrect, and appealed
to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. After a two-year wait, the
appeal was heard November 9, 2007. PLANS was represented by Scott
Kendall of Elk Grove, California.

The three-judge panel included John T. Noonan (Harvard, Reagan
appointee), M. Margaret McKeown (Georgetown, Clinton appointee), and
Edward R. Korman (Chief Judge of the U.S. District Court, Eastern
District of New York, New York University, Reagan appointee).

Kendall told how the case was ten years old. He pointed out that
Waldorf teacher trainer Betty Staley had been listed as both an
expert and a percipient witness. Kendall pointed out where in the
record Judge Damrell had said that it was a rule that an expert
witness couldn’t be a percipient witness. Kendall asserted that there
was no such rule. He referred to Brown v. Woodland, where the value
of experts in a church-state case was questioned, as the rationale
for PLANS not calling any experts.

Michelle Cannon argued for the defendants. Cannon insisted that the
defendants hadn’t heard of Staley being a percipient witness until
the day of the trial. That position strained credibility, given that
Staley had been deposed by PLANS years ago. Judge Korman interrupted
to object that there was no rule, and in any case, what was the harm
in having Staley testify? Judge McKeown also asked pointed questions.
Judge Korman suggested a compromise where the district court might
hold a hearing to determine whether Staley’s testimony was relevant.
Kendall said he wanted all three excluded witnesses, Betty Staley
(Rudolf Steiner College), Crystal Olson (California State University,
Sacramento), and Robert Anderson (WestEd).

Judge McKeown asked Kendall to address the issue that defendant Twin
Ridges Elementary School District no longer has jurisdiction over the
Yuba River Charter School (a Waldorf school). Kendall said PLANS
didn’t dispute that fact. McKeown suggested that the substitution of
the Nevada County Office of Education, now the chartering authority
for the school, as one of the Does named in the complaint was a
matter for the district court.

The Court issued a memorandum on November 21, 2007 (Case No.
05-17193). Judge Korman wrote for the court “The district court erred
in excluding the testimony of the witnesses in question. Because
PLANS intended to call the witnesses as percipient witnesses, it did
not need to comply with the court’s deadline for expert witness
disclosure. Moreover, the record indicates that PLANS disclosed the
witnesses as early as January 2001. Even if the witnesses had not
been properly disclosed, there was no prejudice as the School
Districts had previously designated the same witnesses as expert
witnesses.” The court reversed the decision of the district court
(Case No. CV-98-0266 FCD PAN) and remanded the case back to that
court.

BACKGROUND

Anthroposophy is the spiritual movement behind the world-wide network
of Waldorf schools. PLANS alleges that for Establishment Clause
purposes, Anthroposophy is a religious sect. The defendants claim
that it is a philosophy. This is a crucial issue in the case. If
Anthroposophy isn’t a religious activity, then PLANS can’t allege
that taxpayer-funded Waldorf schools violate the Constitution by
being entangled with religion. Common references classify
Anthroposophy as religious; for example, Encarta: “a religious
philosophy developed by Rudolf Steiner from theosophy, holding that
spiritual development should be humankind’s foremost concern.”

PLANS contends that public Waldorf schools are intrinsically and
inseparably based on Anthroposophy. Curriculum decisions and teacher
training are based on Anthroposophy’s child development theory, which
defines stages of reincarnation, a religious doctrine. Science
teaching in Waldorf schools includes crackpot Anthroposophical
doctrines like “the heart is not a pump.” The framework for history
in Waldorf schools is based on Anthroposophy’s proto-Nazi racial
theory. Publicly funded use and reliance on the doctrines of
Anthroposophy endorses that religion in violation of the United
States and California constitutions.

PLANS filed its federal lawsuit in Sacramento on February 11, 1998,
naming as defendants the Sacramento Unified School District, which
operates a “Waldorf Methods” magnet school, and the Twin Ridges
Elementary School District, which carried on a veritable franchise
operation, establishing six “Waldorf-inspired” charter schools, all
located in other school districts.

In May, 2001, Judge Damrell dismissed the PLANS lawsuit against the
two school districts, based on lack of standing. PLANS appealed the
decision, and in February, 2003, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals
confirmed PLANS’ right to sue the school districts as taxpayers and
reinstated the case.

When the U.S. District Court tried the case in September, 2005, PLANS
refused to proceed without the key witnesses and evidence that the
judge had excluded, forcing a dismissal. PLANS appealed, and the
appeal succeeded. The case now goes back to the Federal District
Court, Eastern District of California, in Sacramento.

WHAT IS PLANS?

PLANS was organized in late 1995 by former Waldorf parents and
teachers concerned about both private and public Waldorf schools. It
became a California non-profit corporation in 1997. PLANS’ mission is
to provide parents, teachers, and school boards with views of Waldorf
education from outside the cult of Rudolf Steiner, to expose the
illegality of public funding for Waldorf school programs in the US,
and to litigate against schools violating the Establishment Clause of
the First Amendment.

For more information, please see the PLANS web site,
https://waldorfcritics.org.

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-Dan Dugan, Secretary
PLANS, Inc.

PUBLIC WALDORF SCHOOLS CHURCH/STATE TRIAL ABORTED OVER EVIDENCE ISSUE

PUBLIC WALDORF SCHOOLS CHURCH/STATE TRIAL ABORTED OVER EVIDENCE ISSUE

PEOPLE FOR LEGAL AND NONSECTARIAN SCHOOLS, INC. (PLANS) https://waldorfcritics.org

Debra Snell, President
12562 Rough and Ready Highway
Grass Valley, CA 95945
(530) 273-1005 president waldorfcritics.org

Lisa Ercolano, Vice President
220 Gaywood Road
Baltimore, MD 21212-1709
(410) 377-4204 vicepresident waldorfcritics.org

Dan Dugan, Secretary
290 Napoleon St. Studio E
San Francisco, CA 94124
(415) 821-9776 secretary waldorfcritics.org

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, SEPTEMBER 14, 2005

PUBLIC WALDORF SCHOOLS CHURCH/STATE TRIAL ABORTED OVER EVIDENCE ISSUE

In a move that shocked participants and observers in a Sacramento federal courtroom during the opening of its September 12 trial, People for Legal and Nonsectarian Schools (PLANS) refused to present its case without key witnesses and evidence that had been excluded by the the Hon. Frank C. Damrell. Judge Damrell said he intends to dismiss the case.

As a result, PLANS will take its case to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Two witnesses–Betty Staley, creator of the Rudolf Steiner College public school teacher training program, and Dr. Crystal Olson, a Steiner College staffer who teaches courses on music education–had been listed as expert witnesses by the defendant school districts, and as percipient witnesses by PLANS. In fact, PLANS’ attorney, Scott Kendall, had taken lengthy depositions from the two in 1999. However, the defense team’s three attorneys changed their minds and withdrew both Staley and Olson’s names from their list of expert witnesses after reading each woman’s testimony. (Presumably, the lawyers recognized that the women’s testimony would do the schools’ case more harm than good.)

Judge Damrell then accepted an objection from the defense, who alleged that PLANS had not properly disclosed those witnesses according to the federal court rule of “automatic disclosure” (rule 26a*). This rule requires parties in lawsuits to give all their information about witnesses and evidence to the opposing party immediately, without being asked. PLANS’ attorney Scott Kendall asserts that the rule does not apply in this case because it was not in effect in this court in 1998, when this case originated.

“PLANS was unable to put on its case because of the court’s evidentiary rulings, which we believe to be both erroneous and prejudicial,” Kendall stated. “Therefore, PLANS is taking this case to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.”

Debra Snell, President of PLANS, said “After seven and a half years of dealing with legal technicalities, we expected that we’d finally be able to have a trial of the real issues in court. We are disappointed, but also more determined than ever to continue to press our case, no matter what we have to overcome. Steiner’s books–which form the foundation of Waldorf education and the basis for Waldorf school teacher training–are shelved in the spirituality section of the bookstores, not the philosophy section! We have plenty of evidence that Steiner’s doctrines leak into the public Waldorf schools that citizens pay taxes to support. If that’s not a breach of the Establishment Clause, I don’t know what is.”

The Administrative Director of the Anthroposophical Society in America, Jean W. Yeager, attended the trial, despite the fact that public Waldorf schools claim they have no connection with Anthroposophy whatsoever. On February 4, 2004, Yeager intervened in a Waldorf charter school application by writing to the Benecia, California, school board, and the Anthroposophical Society submitted an amicus curiae brief in the PLANS lawsuit.**

BACKGROUND

Anthroposophy is the spiritual movement behind the world-wide network of Waldorf schools. PLANS alleges that for Establishment Clause purposes, Anthroposophy is a religious sect. The defendants claim that it is a philosophy. This is a crucial issue in the case. If Anthroposophy isn’t a religious activity, then PLANS can’t allege that taxpayer-funded Waldorf schools violate the Constitution by being entangled with religion.

Debra Snell, President of PLANS, commented “Anthroposophy is considered a religion by scholars of comparative religion, and reference books classify it as a religion.”

PLANS contends that public Waldorf schools are intrinsically and inseparably based upon Anthroposophy, an occultist sect that split off from Theosophy in 1912. Curriculum decisions and teacher training in public Waldorf schools are based on Anthroposophy’s spiritually-based child development model. Publicly-funded use and reliance upon the doctrines of Anthroposophy impermissibly endorses that religion in violation of the United States and California constitutions.

PLANS filed its federal lawsuit in Sacramento on February 11, 1998, naming as defendants the Sacramento Unified School District, which operates a “Waldorf Methods” magnet school, and the Twin Ridges Elementary School District, which has established six “Waldorf-inspired” charter schools.

In May, 2001, Judge Damrell dismissed the PLANS lawsuit against two school districts based on lack of standing. PLANS appealed the decision, and in February, 2003, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals confirmed PLANS’ right to sue the school districts as taxpayers and reinstated the case.

WHAT IS PLANS?

PLANS was organized in late 1995 by former Waldorf parents and teachers concerned about both private and public Waldorf schools. It became a California non-profit corporation in 1997. PLANS’ mission is to provide parents, teachers, and school boards with views of Waldorf education from outside the cult of Rudolf Steiner, to expose the illegality of public funding for Waldorf school programs in the US, and to litigate against schools violating the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

The PLANS volunteer board includes two public school teachers, one of whom has received Waldorf teacher training; the former president of a skeptical society; the founder of a Christian cult information ministry, and two former Waldorf parents. President Debra Snell was a director of a private Waldorf school and helped found a Waldorf charter school. For more information, please see the PLANS web site, https://waldorfcritics.org.

* For more about Rule 26a, see:
https://web.archive.org/web/20050216100954/http://www.bostonbar.org/pub/bbj/bbj0506_04/practice_disclosure.htm
http://www.law.cornell.edu/rules/frcp/Rule26.htm

** Full text of the Anthroposophical Society’s brief:
https://waldorfcritics.org/active/articles/lawsuit/187%20AnthroposophicalSofA.pdf

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-Dan Dugan, Secretary
PLANS, Inc.

FEDERAL COURT TO TRY RELIGION ISSUE FIRST IN PUBLIC WALDORF CHALLENGE

FEDERAL COURT TO TRY RELIGION ISSUE FIRST IN PUBLIC WALDORF CHALLENGE

PEOPLE FOR LEGAL AND NONSECTARIAN SCHOOLS, INC. (PLANS)

 

https://waldorfcritics.org

Debra Snell, President
12562 Rough and Ready Highway
Grass Valley, CA 95945
(530) 273-1005 snell gv.net
 
Lisa Ercolano, Vice President
220 Gaywood Road
Baltimore, MD 21212-1709
(410) 377-4204 momof2gals mindspring.com
 
Dan Dugan, Secretary
290 Napoleon St. Studio E
San Francisco, CA 94124
(415) 821-9776 dan dandugan.com

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, APRIL 4, 2005

FEDERAL COURT TO TRY RELIGION ISSUE FIRST IN PUBLIC WALDORF CHALLENGE

At a hearing on motions in limine held in Sacramento on April 1, 2005, Judge Frank C. Damrell Jr. announced that the trial of the PLANS lawsuit against two school districts will be divided into two parts. The issue of whether Anthroposophy, the world-view behind Waldorf education, is a religion or not will be tried first, starting on September 12, 2005. Should that allegation be confirmed, the trial will proceed immediately to the question of whether the publicly-funded Waldorf charter and magnet schools are impermissibly entangled with that religion.

Anthroposophy is the spiritual movement behind the world-wide network of Waldorf schools. PLANS alleges that for Establishment Clause purposes, Anthroposophy is a religious sect. The defendants claim that it is a philosophy. This is a crucial issue in the case. If Anthroposophy isn’t a religious activity, then PLANS can’t allege that taxpayer-funded Waldorf schools violate the Constitution by being entangled with religion.

Debra Snell, President of PLANS, commented “Anthroposophy is considered a religion by scholars of comparative religion, and reference books classify it as a religion.”


BACKGROUND

PLANS contends that public Waldorf schools are intrinsically and inseparably based upon Anthroposophy, an occultist religious sect. Curriculum decisions and teacher training in public Waldorf schools are based on Anthroposophy’s spiritually-based child development model. Publicly-funded use and reliance upon the doctrines of Anthroposophy impermissibly endorses that religion in violation of the United States and California constitutions.

PLANS filed its federal lawsuit in Sacramento on February 11, 1998, naming as defendants the Sacramento Unified School District, which operates a “Waldorf Method” magnet school, and the Twin Ridges Elementary School District, which has established six “Waldorf-inspired” charter schools.

In May, 2001, Judge Damrell dismissed the PLANS lawsuit against two school districts based on lack of standing. PLANS appealed the decision, and in February, 2003, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals confirmed PLANS’ right to sue the school districts as taxpayers and reinstated the case.

WHAT IS PLANS?

PLANS was organized in late 1995 by former Waldorf parents and teachers concerned about both private and public Waldorf schools. It became a California non-profit corporation in 1997. PLANS’ mission is to provide parents, teachers, and school boards with views of Waldorf education from outside the cult of Rudolf Steiner, to expose the illegality of public funding for Waldorf school programs in the US, and to litigate against schools violating the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

The PLANS volunteer board includes two public school teachers, one of whom has received Waldorf teacher training; the former president of a skeptical society; the associate director of a Christian anti-cult ministry, and two former Waldorf parents. President Debra Snell was a director of a private Waldorf school and helped found a Waldorf charter school. For more information, please see the PLANS web site, https://waldorfcritics.org.

ADVENT SPIRAL AT MONTEREY BAY CHARTER SCHOOL

ADVENT SPIRAL AT MONTEREY BAY CHARTER SCHOOL

PEOPLE FOR LEGAL AND NONSECTARIAN SCHOOLS, INC. (PLANS)

https://waldorfcritics.org

Debra Snell, President
12562 Rough and Ready Highway
Grass Valley, CA 95945
(530) 273-1005 snell gv.net
 
Lisa Ercolano, Vice President
220 Gaywood Road
Baltimore, MD 21212-1709
(410) 377-4204 momof2gals mindspring.com
 
Dan Dugan, Secretary
290 Napoleon St. Studio E
San Francisco, CA 94124
(415) 821-9776 dan dandugan.com

EDITOR, THE MONTEREY HERALD

ADVENT SPIRAL AT MONTEREY BAY CHARTER SCHOOL

Dear Editor,

Last Friday (Dec. 10, 2004) I drove down to Monterey to attend the annual “Spiral of Light” of the Monterey Bay Charter School. MBCS is a publicly funded Waldorf school located in Pacific Grove, California. Their web site is:

http://www.slv.k12.ca.us/CHARTER/TITLE9/

This school is part of an extraordinary arrangement made by the San Lorenzo Valley Unified School District in which nine separate schools are organized under the name of one charter school, “San Lorenzo Valley Unified School District Charter School,” established in 1993. Originally there were more schools, but apparently some have closed or never got off the ground. It would take a lawsuit to determine whether this scheme violates the letter of California’s charter school law, but it certainly violates the intention. The charter school law was written to foster educational innovation by allowing the creation of public schools with unconventional methods. The methods were to be evaluated by the state’s standardized testing. But San Lorenzo Valley’s nine schools have their test results aggregated into one report, so there is no way to evaluate their different methods, frustrating the intention of the state’s experiment.

A ritual called the “Advent Spiral” has been a long-standing tradition in Waldorf schools. The Portland Waldorf School describes it thus:

“Advent spiral: The festival that families share at the beginning of the Advent season is one of the most beautiful and memorable of the year. In a semi-darkened room, lit only by candles and smelling of evergreens, voices are lifted in song. Each child goes, one at a time, through the spiral of evergreens to the center of the Garden. Each child lights his or her candle, then places it somewhere on the pathway to light the way for the next child. It is a reminder of the journey inward each of us must make during the dark days ahead.” [http://www.portlandwaldorfschool.org/lower%20school/calendar%20events/festivals.html]

Friday night’s ceremony, advertised in the school community as “Spiral of Light,” was was held in a meeting room of the Community Church of the Peninsula, a mile east of Highway 1 in Carmel Valley. I got there in time for the 5:00 session, which was, as expected, for the younger children. Afterward there would be a 6:30 session for the older children. A woman at the entrance was checking names on her clipboard and directing people to read a list of seven or eight rules posted on the door. One was “no photography or videotaping.” She asked me who I was. I said my name wouldn’t be on the list, I was a guest. She wrote “Dan” on her sheet next to the family that went in before me, and I went in.

I thought it was strange for a public school to be taking attendance at the door of a school event, and forbidding photography. I suppose reservations might have been organized because space was limited, but there were enough empty seats for several more families, and even if there were reservations, there would be no need to check people in. To me it suggested excessive group control, or an attempt to exclude outsiders.

The room was dimly illuminated by a few candles. I sat on the opposite side near the musicians, who were on a low platform. A double spiral was laid out in greens and pyrocantha berries. The double spiral allowed for more traffic as people could enter by one path and exit by the other. Here is an illustration of a similar spiral, though the Monterey one had one more turn to it:

http://www.labyrinthcompany.com/Designs/PSS_Double_Spiral_tm_Design_160.jpg

There was a candle elevated in the center. Rocks, gnomes, and knitted animals were scattered along the spiral, also in accordance with tradition. When everyone was in, tinkling chimes sounded from several places in the room, a charming effect. The musicians played, always just one instrument at a time. There was a shakuhachi, a recorder, and a guitar. Between simple solo melodies there were traditional Christmas carols, hummed, not sung, all religious, including O Little Town of Bethlehem, What Child Is This, and O Come, All Ye Faithful. At one point a man intoned something like a Buddhist chant. I found the music disappointingly simple-minded, but I understood it was in harmony with the Waldorf principle of limiting the intellectual stimulation of young children.

In accordance with Waldorf tradition, there was no spoken introduction or explanation. For that matter, not a single word was spoken or sung during the entirety of the ceremony. Rather unique for a public school event! A teenager sat on the floor dispensing the traditional candles stuck in apples and metering the traffic into the spiral. Two adults went in first, teaching by example, then the first child. Most of the children figured out that there were separate paths for coming in and going out, but some of the children turned around and went back the way they came, and this led to one embarrassing traffic jam.

One girl’s dress brushed a candle, but it didn’t catch. A little girl’s candle went out and she stopped halfway, not knowing what to do. A woman going in gestured that she should re-light her candle from one burning at her feet but she didn’t understand. The woman then led her by the hand back to the center to re-light her candle. There were at least two water buckets under chairs on my side of the room, and a man near me was watching the people and the candles carefully. I counted 36 adults and about 25 children. The kids were squirmy but with a lot of parental attention they managed the hour of quiet without any major disruptions.

I wished that I could record the event, but I kept my cameras in my bag. Taking one out in that quiet and intimate environment would have drawn a too much attention. A gracious guest at a church service shouldn’t engage in distracting activities. I witnessed by participating instead. About half-way through the long hour I joined the waiting line, walked the spiral reverently, and placed my candle on a paper star.

After all the adults and children who wanted to had walked the spiral, three white-clothed young women in long white dresses entered in procession. The latter two wore crowns of four tall candles. I worried because one young woman’s candle crown was tilted at an angle that guaranteed hot wax dripping. The musicians led humming of the “Santa Lucia” song. The three also carried small candles, but they weren’t in apples, they had paper skirts with ribbons and ferns. They looked like a wedding party except that their dresses didn’t match. They gathered in the center and lit their candles together. One dress was silky and in a terrifying moment, brushed the flames of a couple of candles. I guess the angels were watching. The three presumed virgins processed out of the room and the ceremony was over. I wonder what the significance of that scene was–particularly why there were three women but two crowns.

A woman gestured for people to leave while the musicians played. I stayed till everyone was gone so I could take a picture of the candles. The woman gestured to me to go. I whispered “thank you,” sat there for a minute more, and took my picture. Some women lit candles from the “sacred flame” and took them out, presumably to light the candle jars surrounding a labyrinth walk set up outside. I skipped the cookies in the lobby and went right out, not wanting to engage in conversation. My snapshot of the completed spiral is at:

https://waldorfcritics.org/downloads/Montery%20Bay%20Advent%20Spiral.jpg

One would have to be a grinch to not experience this ceremony as beautiful. I am grateful to the parents and teachers of the Monterey Bay Charter School for producing a faithful Waldorf Advent spiral for me to experience. In “The Hero’s Journey” Joseph Campbell said “The power of a well-constructed ritual to move from centers beyond your control is enormous.” But there’s the problem. Monterey Bay Charter School is a public school. Is it acceptable for a public school to produce a “nonsectarian” religious ceremony? Is reverencing “light” nonsectarian? It’s likely that the school takes that position, but to do that is to ignore the context. Waldorf schools are activities (they like to say “initiatives”) of Anthroposophy. In Anthroposophy, light is divine! Anthroposophy’s (and Waldorf’s) founder, Rudolf Steiner, said:

“[W]here, then, is the physical body of the Logos, of which the Gospel of St. John speaks?…In its purest form, this external physical body of the Logos appears especially in the outer sunlight. But the sunlight is not merely material light. To spiritual perception, it is just as much the vesture of the Logos, as your outer physical body is the vesture of your soul.” [Steiner, Rudolf. The Gospel of St. John. (Hamburg Cycle, 1908), rev. ed. New York: Anthroposophic Press, 1962, p. 50]

And also:

“What is this spiritual science? It is the wisdom of the Spirit, the wisdom that lifts into the full light of consciousness that in Christianity which would otherwise remain in the unconscious. The torch of the resurrected Lucifer, of the Lucifer now transformed into the good, blazons the way for Christ. Lucifer is the bearer of the Light–Christ is the Light! As the word itself denotes, Lucifer is the “Bearer of the Light”. That is what the spiritual scientific movement should be, that is implicit in it.” [Steiner, Rudolf. “Lucifer, Holy Spirit, pentecost, Whitsuntide: The Deed of Christ and the Opposing Spiritual Powers: Lecture I” Berlin, 22 March, 1909.]

An analogy might help in understanding this situation. Say that people who admired the successes of the Catholic education system were to found a “Catholic-inspired” charter school. The teachers would say Catholic prayers at their faculty meetings, and some of them would be priests and nuns. They would promise not to teach any Catholicism in the classroom, they would just use Catholic school methods that they would learn at Catholic seminaries.

This analogy might seem far-fetched. Such a school wouldn’t be likely to be approved by a school board. It would have too much entanglement with religion. But this is just what has happened with Waldorf charter schools, because Waldorf schools deny their Anthroposophical connections, and school boards don’t know what Anthroposophy is. They don’t recognize its doctrines when they see them.

Say our hypothetical “Catholic-inspired” charter school held an annual Christmas Eve Midnight Mass that most families in the school would attend. Would holding it in a nearby church, instead of the school, make it acceptable under the Establishment Clause, which forbids religious activity by publicly-funded organizations? I wouldn’t think so, but something very much like that happened that night in Carmel Valley. If light is “the vesture of the Logos” in Anthroposophy, and Waldorf schools are an activity of Anthroposophy, then it’s reasonable for me to say that I attended a sectarian religious service sponsored by a public school.

-Dan Dugan, Secretary
PLANS, Inc.

BACKGROUND

PLANS contends that public Waldorf schools are intrinsically and inseparably based upon Anthroposophy, a New Age occultic religion. Curriculum decisions and teacher training in public Waldorf schools are based on Anthroposophy’s spiritually-based child development model. Publicly-funded use and reliance upon the doctrines of Anthroposophy impermissibly endorses that religion in violation of the United States and California constitutions.

PLANS filed its federal lawsuit in Sacramento on February 11, 1998, naming as defendants the Sacramento Unified School District, which operates a “Waldorf Method” magnet school, and the Twin Ridges Elementary School District, which established six “Waldorf-inspired” charter schools.

In May, 2001, Judge Damrell dismissed the PLANS lawsuit against two school districts based on lack of standing. PLANS appealed the decision, and in February, 2003, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals confirmed PLANS’ right to sue the school districts as taxpayers and reinstated the case. A trial is scheduled for September 12, 2005.

WHAT IS PLANS?

PLANS was organized in late 1995 by former Waldorf parents and teachers concerned about both private and public Waldorf schools. It became a California non-profit corporation in 1997. PLANS’ volunteer board includes two public school teachers, one of whom has received Waldorf teacher training; the former president of a skeptical society; the associate director of a Christian anti-cult ministry, and two former Waldorf parents. PLANS’ President, Debra Snell, was a director of a private Waldorf school and helped found a Waldorf charter school. For more information, please see the PLANS web site, https://waldorfcritics.org.

OCCULT RELIGIOUS GROUP INTERVENES IN CHURCH-STATE TRIAL

OCCULT RELIGIOUS GROUP INTERVENES IN CHURCH-STATE TRIAL

PEOPLE FOR LEGAL AND NONSECTARIAN SCHOOLS, INC. (PLANS)

 

https://waldorfcritics.org

Debra Snell, President
12562 Rough and Ready Highway
Grass Valley, CA 95945
(530) 273-1005 snell gv.net
 
Lisa Ercolano, Vice President
220 Gaywood Road
Baltimore, MD 21212-1709
(410) 377-4204 momof2gals mindspring.com
 
Dan Dugan, Secretary
290 Napoleon St. Studio E
San Francisco, CA 94124
(415) 821-9776 dan dandugan.com

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, AUGUST 9, 2004

OCCULT RELIGIOUS GROUP INTERVENES IN CHURCH-STATE TRIAL

The Anthroposophical Society in America, after many years of saying that Anthroposophy has nothing to do with public Waldorf schools, has spoken up by filing an amicus curiae brief in PLANS’ federal lawsuit, PLANS vs. Sacramento Unified School District and Twin Ridges Elementary School District.

On June 25, 2004, PLANS filed a motion for summary judgment. PLANS asked the court to recognize that Anthroposophy is, for Establishment Clause purposes, a religious activity. Apparently Anthroposophy isn’t willing to have that happen without protest. It’s risky for them to do this; historically, occultists have avoided the public eye because secrecy is part of their tradition, and knowledge of their doctrines and activities has often made them more enemies than friends. More information about Anthroposophy can be found at http://www.anthroposophy.org.

In response to the PLANS motion for summary judgment and Anthroposophy’s brief, Judge Damrell (Eastern District of California) has postponed the trial which had been scheduled for September 27 indefinitely while he considers the arguments for and against the motion.

PLANS is aware of another recent intervention in public education by the Anthroposophical Society. February 4, 2004, the Society wrote a letter to the school board of Benicia, CA, in response to a PLANS critique of a Waldorf charter school application. In that letter the Society characterized PLANS publications as “hate-group-like tactics” and compared the PLANS web site to the now-defunct site jewwatch.com. The board ultimately rejected the charter for non-compliance with the California educational frameworks.

“It’s inconsistent for them to claim that public Waldorf programs have nothing to do with Anthroposophy, and then intervene in our case,” said Debra Snell, President of PLANS. “When the public learns more about Anthroposophy, the religious sect behind Waldorf, they will understand why funding Waldorf with tax money is illegal.”

Dan Dugan, Secretary of PLANS, said “Anthroposophy’s outrage may be based on the revelation by PLANS that they still promulgate racist doctrines from 1920s Germany that helped build the foundation for the holocaust. So far their reaction has been denial and to accuse PLANS of being a hate group.”

DETAILS

Four new legal documents are available on the PLANS web site:

May 28, 2004
DECLARATION OF JONATHAN P. HUBER IN SUPPORT OF PLAINTIFF’S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT, OR, IN THE ALTERNATIVE, SUMMARY ADJUDICATION.

The Huber declaration is a way of getting Anthroposophical publications into the record.

June 25, 2004
MEMORANDUM OF POINTS AND AUTHORITIES IN SUPPORT OF A MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT, OR, IN THE ALTERNATIVE, SUMMARY ADJUDICATION

June 25, 2004
PLAINTIFF’S SEPARATE STATEMENT OF UNDISPUTED MATERIAL FACTS IN SUPPORT OF MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT, OR, IN THE ALTERNATIVE, SUMMARY ADJUDICATION

The two June 25 documents are the substance of PLANS’ motion for summary judgment in the case. PLANS suggests that no trial is necessary, given that Anthroposophical publications show that it is a religion, and depositions of Waldorf charter school teachers show that Anthroposophy is in taxpayer-funded teacher training and public school classrooms.

July 15, 2004
AMICUS CURIAE BRIEF OF THE ANTHROPOSOPHICAL SOCIETY IN AMERICA IN SUPPORT OF DEFENDANTS

Read the documents

BACKGROUND

PLANS contends that public Waldorf schools are intrinsically and inseparably based upon Anthroposophy, a New Age occultic religion. Curriculum decisions and teacher training in public Waldorf schools are based on Anthroposophy’s spiritually-based child development model. Publicly-funded use and reliance upon the doctrines of Anthroposophy impermissibly endorses that religion in violation of the United States and California constitutions.

PLANS filed its federal lawsuit in Sacramento on February 11, 1998, naming as defendants the Sacramento Unified School District, which operates a “Waldorf Method” magnet school, and the Twin Ridges Elementary School District, which has established six “Waldorf-inspired” charter schools.

In May, 2001, Judge Damrell dismissed the PLANS lawsuit against two school districts based on lack of standing. PLANS appealed the decision, and in February, 2003, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals confirmed PLANS’ right to sue the school districts as taxpayers and reinstated the case.

WHAT IS PLANS?

PLANS was organized in late 1995 by former Waldorf parents and teachers concerned about both private and public Waldorf schools. It became a California non-profit corporation in 1997. PLANS’ volunteer board includes two public school teachers, one of whom has received Waldorf teacher training; the former president of a skeptical society; the associate director of a Christian anti-cult ministry, and two former Waldorf parents. PLANS’ President, Debra Snell, was a director of a private Waldorf school and helped found a Waldorf charter school. For more information, please see the PLANS web site, https://waldorfcritics.org.

TRIAL SCHEDULED FOR CHALLENGE TO RELIGION IN PUBLIC WALDORF SCHOOLS

TRIAL SCHEDULED FOR CHALLENGE TO RELIGION IN PUBLIC WALDORF SCHOOLS

PEOPLE FOR LEGAL AND NONSECTARIAN SCHOOLS, INC. (PLANS)

 

https://waldorfcritics.org

Debra Snell, President
12562 Rough and Ready Highway
Grass Valley, CA 95945
(530) 273-1005 snell gv.net
 
Lisa Ercolano, Vice President
220 Gaywood Road
Baltimore, MD 21212-1709
(410) 377-4204 momof2gals mindspring.com
 
Dan Dugan, Secretary
290 Napoleon St. Studio E
San Francisco, CA 94124
(415) 821-9776 dan dandugan.com

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, OCTOBER 27, 2003

TRIAL SCHEDULED FOR CHALLENGE TO RELIGION IN PUBLIC WALDORF SCHOOLS

Frank C. Damrell, Jr., United States District Judge, Eastern District of California, has set the date of September 27, 2004, for the trial of PLANS, Inc. v. Sacramento City Unified School District and Twin Ridges Elementary School District. Judge Damrell re-scheduled the trial after PLANS won approval of their right to sue from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Because of the long time involved (the lawsuit is now five years old), Judge Damrell reopened discovery so that both sides can submit new evidence.

BACKGROUND

PLANS contends that public Waldorf schools are intrinsically and inseparably based upon Anthroposophy, a New Age occultic religion. Curriculum decisions and teacher training in public Waldorf schools are based on Anthroposophy’s spiritually-based child development model. Publicly-funded use and reliance upon the doctrines of Anthroposophy impermissibly endorses that religion in violation of the United States and California constitutions.

PLANS filed its federal lawsuit in Sacramento on February 11, 1998, naming as defendants the Sacramento Unified School District, which operates a “Waldorf Method” magnet school, and the Twin Ridges Elementary School District, which has established six “Waldorf-inspired” charter schools.

During the original discovery phase of the litigation, PLANS revealed internal documents that described, in the words of the Anthroposophists themselves, the true nature of Waldorf education. For example, the Sacramento City Unified School District identified a book “Lighting Fires: Deepening Education Through Meditation” (by Jorgen Smit, Hawthorn Press 1992) as one of its resource materials for “training or instruction in Waldorf teaching methods or Waldorf curriculum.” Smit wrote:

“[O]ne can only make the transition from the spiritual realm of being to the physical realm of matter through the realm of the etheric…Hence the special significance of the awakening of consciousness in the etheric!” (pp. 22-23)

“Christ is found within, in each human individual, but at the same time as the cosmic Christ on a wider scale, in the other person and the whole of humanity. He cannot be found only in one place. He works in from out of the periphery and at the same time in the depths of the heart.” (p. 40)

In May, 2001, Judge Damrell dismissed PLANS’ lawsuit against two school districts based on lack of standing. PLANS appealed the decision, and in February, 2003, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals confirmed PLANS’ right to sue the school districts as taxpayers.

REACTIONS

Debra Snell, president of PLANS, said: “Religious Waldorf programs claim the right to be independent from the public school system, while operating on public funds. They’ve managed to get away with it by simply denying the transparently obvious. When sponsoring school boards refuse to act responsibly, the next step is a lawsuit. Charter laws should be amended so that sponsoring school boards have the same oversight over charters as they have over regular public schools.”

Dan Dugan, Secretary of PLANS, said: “I’m delighted that we’ve finally finished with the technicalities. Now we can focus on presenting the religious nature of Waldorf education before a judge.”

WHAT IS PLANS?

PLANS was organized in late 1995 by former Waldorf parents and teachers concerned about both private and public Waldorf schools. It became a California non-profit corporation in 1997. PLANS’ volunteer board includes two public school teachers, one of whom has received Waldorf teacher training; the former president of a skeptical society; the associate director of a Christian anti-cult ministry, and two former Waldorf parents. PLANS’ President, Debra Snell, was a director of a private Waldorf school and helped found a Waldorf charter school. For more information, please see the PLANS web site, https://waldorfcritics.org.

WHISTLE-BLOWERS WIN APPEAL, CASE AGAINST PUBLIC WALDORF SCHOOLS TO GO TO TRIAL

WHISTLE-BLOWERS WIN APPEAL, CASE AGAINST PUBLIC WALDORF SCHOOLS TO GO TO TRIAL

PEOPLE FOR LEGAL AND NONSECTARIAN SCHOOLS, INC. (PLANS)

 

https://waldorfcritics.org

Debra Snell, President
12562 Rough and Ready Highway
Grass Valley, CA 95945
(530) 273-1005 snell gv.net
 
Lisa Ercolano, Vice President
220 Gaywood Road
Baltimore, MD 21212-1709
(410) 377-4204 momof2gals mindspring.com
 
Dan Dugan, Secretary
290 Napoleon St. Studio E
San Francisco, CA 94124
(415) 821-9776 dan dandugan.com

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE February 12, 2003

WHISTLE-BLOWERS WIN APPEAL, CASE AGAINST PUBLIC WALDORF SCHOOLS TO GO TO TRIAL

On February 10, 2003, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals published its decision on PLANS v. Sacramento City Unified School District and Twin Ridges Elementary School District. The document can be found at:

http://www.ca9.uscourts.gov/ca9/newopinions.nsf/D9BE31CB175DCC2688256CC6007B29E2/$file/0116437.pdf?openelement

The court reversed the district court’s dismissal, and remanded the case back to the district court.

BACKGROUND

PLANS contends that public Waldorf schools are intrinsically and inseparably based upon Anthroposophy, a New Age occultic religion. Curriculum decisions and teacher training in public Waldorf schools are based on Anthroposophy’s spiritually-based child development model. Publicly-funded use and reliance upon the doctrines of Anthroposophy impermissibly endorses that religion in violation of the United States and California constitutions.

PLANS filed its federal lawsuit in Sacramento on February 11, 1998, naming as defendants the Sacramento Unified School District, which operates a “Waldorf Method” magnet school, and the Twin Ridges Elementary School District, which has established seven “Waldorf-inspired” charter schools.

During the discovery phase of the litigation, PLANS discovered internal documents that described, in the words of the Anthroposophists themselves, the true nature and purpose of Waldorf education. The Sacramento City Unified School District identified “The Waldorf Teacher’s Survival Guide” as one of its resource materials for “training or instruction in Waldorf teaching methods or Waldorf curriculum.” This book, which is published by Rudolf Steiner College Press–the same Anthroposophical institution that trained Sacramento’s public Waldorf teachers–describes the agenda and methods of Waldorf education. The Anthroposophical author, in a candid moment, describes the relationship between Waldorf education and Lucifer:

“Most of that which contributes to our work as teachers, preparation work, artistic work, even meditative work, is under the guardianship of Lucifer. We can become great teachers under his supervision, for he is responsible for much that has blossomed in the unfolding of civilization and culture in the past.”

In May, 2001, The Honorable Frank C. Damrell (U.S. District Court, Eastern District of California) dismissed PLANS’ Establishment Clause lawsuit against two school districts based on lack of standing. Judge Damrell reversed his earlier ruling in favor of PLANS’ standing in the light of the 2nd Circuit Court’s decision in the Altman case.

In the Altman case, Roman Catholic parents sued a public school district because they objected to a number of practices that they saw as New Age religion in a public school. The court upheld some claims and dismissed others. The judge found that the making of an image of the Hindu god Ganesha, the use of “worry dolls” to “chase away bad dreams,” the liturgy of an Earth Day celebration, and the playing of a Native American prayer on a meditation tape violated the Establishment Clause. Other practices that were ruled to be harmless included the game “Magic, the Gathering,” a Yoga class taught by a Sikh priest, and meditation exercises.

In its decision on an appeal, the 2nd Circuit Court threw out all of the allowed claims on a technicality without considering the merits of the case. The circuit court ruled that most issues were moot because the children were no longer at the schools. Taxpayer standing was also denied because the plaintiffs did not show that the alleged religious activities involved any specific expenditure of public funds.

A major difference between the Altman case and PLANS’ case is that while in Altman the practices complained about were not coordinated, PLANS alleges that Waldorf schools, both private and public, are pervaded with Anthroposophy, the religious philosophy of Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925). The issue with public Waldorf schools, therefore, goes beyond specific practices to the allegation that a religious philosophy is the foundation of both educational theory and day-to-day activities.

With regard to taxpayer standing, the situation is also different in PLANS’ case. The schools involved made large expenditures for teacher training by Anthroposophical mentors and teacher training at Rudolf Steiner College, self-described as “a center for Anthroposophical endeavors.” The Sacramento public Waldorf program occupies a separate campus established for that purpose, and the Yuba River Charter School that PLANS is suing was formed for that purpose, so in both situations taxpayer funds have been specifically paid for the alleged religious activities.

QUOTATIONS FROM THE DECISION

“A good-faith pocketbook challenge identifies a measurable sum of public funds being used to further a challenged activity. Here, where PLANS objected to the entire Waldorf curriculum of the two schools in question and identified public funds used for those schools, we conclude that it raises a good-faith pocketbook challenge.” [p. 1760]

“PLANS does not limit its objection to specific programs or activities within the Waldorf educational day. Rather, it alleges that the entire Waldorf approach is inherently religious, and that in using public funds to support it, the school districts are impermissibly establishing religious schools. These allegations, along with PLANS’s identification of public funds used for the operation of the Waldorf schools, are sufficient to support taxpayer standing. This case is no different from a situation in which a school district uses public monies to fund the operation of a parochial school, e.g., setting up a magnet or charter Catholic school, where there would be no question as to taxpayer standing to challenge such funding.” [pp. 1762-1763]

REACTIONS

Debra Snell, president of PLANS, said: “Our intention is to put Waldorf schools back in the private sector where they belong, and seal the crack in the wall of separation between church and state. I’m fully confident that we will win.”

Scott Kendall, attorney for PLANS, said: “This precedent-setting decision affirms that public funds can’t be used to establish emerging New Age religious schools without challenge.”

Dan Dugan, Secretary of PLANS, said: “Our federal court case is five years old today. What a nice anniversary present!”

WHAT IS PLANS?

PLANS was organized in late 1995 by former Waldorf parents and teachers concerned about both private and public Waldorf schools. It became a California non-profit corporation in 1997. PLANS’ volunteer board includes two public school teachers, one of whom has received Waldorf teacher training; the president of a skeptical society; the associate director of a Christian anti-cult ministry, and two former Waldorf parents. PLANS’ President, Debra Snell, was a director of a private Waldorf school and helped found a Waldorf charter school. For more information, please see the PLANS web site, https://waldorfcritics.org.

LAWSUITS CHARGE RACISM AND DISCRIMINATION IN WALDORF SCHOOLS

LAWSUITS CHARGE RACISM AND DISCRIMINATION IN WALDORF SCHOOLS

PEOPLE FOR LEGAL AND NONSECTARIAN SCHOOLS, INC. (PLANS)

 

https://waldorfcritics.org

Debra Snell, President
12562 Rough and Ready Highway
Grass Valley, CA 95945
(530) 273-1005 snell gv.net
 
Lisa Ercolano, Vice President
220 Gaywood Road
Baltimore, MD 21212-1709
(410) 377-4204 momof2gals mindspring.com
 
Dan Dugan, Secretary
290 Napoleon St. Studio E
San Francisco, CA 94124
(415) 821-9776 dan dandugan.com

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE October 9, 2002

LAWSUITS CHARGE RACISM AND DISCRIMINATION IN WALDORF SCHOOLS

The oldest Waldorf school in North America, the Rudolf Steiner School of New York, is being sued by a former fourth grade teacher for racial and retaliatory discrimination in employment. Before her dismissal in June, according to the summons and complaint, Charmaine Paulson was the only African-American teacher ever employed by the school in its 74-year history, and one of only approximately five African-Americans among 5,000 teachers at member schools of the controversial Association of Waldorf Schools of North America (AWSNA). Paulson alleges that in a faculty meeting she objected to the school’s racially discriminatory hiring practices and to the lack of diversity among teachers and in the school community. Two days later, she was fired. Paulson also alleges that when she suggested including the African-American festival of Kwanzaa in a lesson on celebrations, the lead teacher of the school’s administrative body, the “College of Teachers,” disapproved her plan, stating, “I can’t relate to that.” (Waldorf schools generally claim, however, to be multicultural.)

Although the school stated that Paulson was fired due to her performance, the suit alleges this reason was merely a pretext for racial discrimination. Paulson further charges the school with creating a hostile and intimidating work environment and thus racially harassing her. The lawsuit also names AWSNA, which, according to its website, “takes a leading role in articulating a vision and coordinating a plan for supporting the growth and development of Waldorf education and Waldorf schools in North America.” The suit charges a system-wide pattern of discrimination against African-Americans because of their minority status, stating that African-Americans are provided unequal terms, conditions and benefits of employment. African-Americans who applied or were qualified to continue in available teaching positions were allegedly denied employment because of their minority status. After denying African-Americans employment, the suit charges, the school hired and continued to seek applicants and employ non-African-Americans with the same or lesser qualifications, and evaluated Paulson with stricter methods than its non-African-American teachers. Paulson says that her classroom was observed by her supervisors 30 times in her 1-year tenure at the school, far more often than a white teacher hired at the same time.

Waldorf schools are based on the teachings of Rudolf Steiner, an occultist who died in 1925. Steiner taught that a person’s race is part of his or her karma, and that different races have different spiritual qualities. According to Steiner, “The black or Negro race is substantially determined by . . . childhood characteristics” (Steiner, The Mission of the Individual Folk-Souls in Relation to Teutonic Mythology, 1910, 1970 edition). Karma also explains why a person is born with a handicap or disability.

A suit against a publicly funded Waldorf school, Bitney Springs Charter High School in Nevada City, California, alleges that a disabled student did not receive a free and appropriate public education. The 17-year-old former student has neurofibromatosis, a neurological disorder resulting in learning, language, social, and motor disabilities. When the boy had difficulty in school, his mother alleges that the school administrator, Kent Ratekin, repeatedly refused to meet with her and told her to “stay out of” her son’s life. The suit claims the school’s policies worsened the boy’s condition and resulted in his being illegally coerced to leave the school. The family is seeking damages for defamation, assaultive behavior, negligent infliction of emotional distress, and negligent supervision of employees. A court date of January 2003 has been set.

In a third ongoing lawsuit against Waldorf schools in the US, People for Legal and Nonsectarian Schools (PLANS), a nonprofit group, is suing public Waldorf schools in California, alleging that the schools are based on Anthroposophy, Steiner’s occult religion, and that public use and reliance on these doctrines endorse that religion in violation of the US and California constitutions. According to Dan Dugan, secretary of PLANS, the charges brought in the three lawsuits “are consistent with principles of Anthroposophy, the religious milieu of Waldorf schools,” and are “symptoms of a sick social system.”

The PLANS group presently awaits the ruling of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals regarding their right to sue. PLANS president Debra Snell said, “If taxpayers, who solely support the school, don’t have the right to sue, what does that mean? What about the checks and balances in a democracy?” Snell added, “It was only a matter of time before these important issues found their way to court. Hopefully, these court cases will shed public light on Rudolf Steiner’s outdated child development model and the racist beliefs that continue to thrive in Waldorf schools today.” She noted that Steiner even believed that some children with learning difficulties are actually “demons in human form” (Steiner, Conferences with Teachers 1923 to 1924, vol. 2, 1989 edition).

BACKGROUND

PLANS was organized in late 1995 by former Waldorf parents and teachers concerned about both private and public Waldorf schools. It became a California non-profit corporation in 1997. PLANS’ volunteer board includes two public school teachers, one of whom has received Waldorf teacher training; the president of a skeptical society; the associate director of a Christian anti-cult ministry, and two former Waldorf parents. PLANS’ President, Debra Snell, was a director of a private Waldorf school and helped found a Waldorf charter school. For more information, please see the PLANS web site, https://waldorfcritics.org.

PLANS contends that public Waldorf schools are intrinsically and inseparably based upon Anthroposophy, a New Age occultic religion. Curriculum decisions and teacher training in public Waldorf schools are based on Anthroposophy’s spiritually based child development model. Publicly funded use and reliance upon the doctrines of Anthroposophy impermissibly endorse that religion in violation of the United States and California constitutions.

PLANS filed its federal lawsuit in Sacramento on February 11, 1998, naming as defendants the Sacramento Unified School District, which operates a “Waldorf Method” magnet school, and the Twin Ridges Elementary School District, which has established seven “Waldorf-inspired” charter schools.