|"Spiritual science is no religion,
nor will it ever contradict any religion as such. It is another matter
that it can be the tool with which to explain the profoundest wisdom
truths and the most earnest and vital secrets of religions and show how
they may be understood."
Rudolf Steiner, describing anthroposophy,
Apocalypse of St. John
(twelve lectures, 1908)
In 1998, "PLANS Inc."
against Sacramento City
District and Twin
School District, two public school districts in California
funded two Waldorf-methods
schools, one a charter school and one a magnet school.
Media reports of
of witchcraft at one of the schools (spread by "PLANS Inc.")
the Alliance Defense Fund, an evangelical organization, to donate $15,000
to finance the lawsuit.
operation of the two schools was organized
to in full comply with the U.S. Constitution's Anti-Estabishment
PLANS contends that:
primary purpose and primary effect
of said operation [...] is to advance religion, including the religious
doctrines of Anthroposophy".
A number of legal experts
watching PLANS' case have
regarded the legal situation as highly unusual. Edwin Darden, the
staff attorney for the National School Boards Association in U.S. has
don't know if I've seen anything
like this: school districts being sued for allowing schools to follow a
philosophy that is not overtly religious".
In 1999, 2001 and 2005,
the United States District
Court, Eastern District of California, three times has ruled against
the Court found that the two school districts have a secular,
purpose for the operation of the two schools using Waldorf methods.
it let the case proceed, to find whether public Waldorf-methods
might have the unintended
consequence of directly
and substantially "advancing
religion" to such an extent
that it violates the U.S. Constitution.
however, the Court dropped the case based on PLANS' failure to bring
supporting evidence. A legal precedent set earlier in a similar case in
New York led the Court to conclude that PLANS lacked a basis to claim
standing in the case.
After an appeal
by PLANS, the 9th Circuit Appellate
Court in February 2003
reversed the decision on taxpayer standing by the lower court, allowing
the case to proceed towards trial.
While the ruling
on PLANS' taxpayer standing was
reversed based on the broadness of the allegation in its litigation, in
contrast to the case in New York, the judges did not reverse the 2001
court's ruling that the two school districts, including the two schools
involved using Waldorf methods, have a secular, non-religious purpose
The board of
PLANS issued a Press Release after
the reversed ruling on taxpayer standing in 2003, stating that "During
the discovery phase of the litigation", PLANS discovered what it
as "internal documents" (The Waldorf Teacher's Survival Guide,
book that is
by Amazon), used by Sacramento City Unified School District
or instruction in Waldorf teaching methods or Waldorf
PLANS, the "internal documents" reveal
that the "true nature" of Waldorf education is that it is inspired and
supervised by the devil, an allegation promoted by PLANS back in 1997,
according to the
at the time, and again three years later in 2000, when Debra Snell,
of PLANS, defended an allegation that
wool dolls made by Waldorf pupils are used by teachers for after-school
In May 2004,
PLANS filed a motion for summary judgment,
or, in the alternative, summary adjudication, requesting that the Court
rule that anthroposophy is a religion, based on material presented by
But the Court did not accept these arguments, and on 15 November
denied the motion, stating that "triable issues of material fact exist
as to whether anthroposophy is a religion".
comments on this, see here.
In April 2005,
the Court issued an order outlining the trial issues and the
and procedural guidelines for the trial, scheduled for September 12,
The order denied
PLANS eleven witnesses, for failure
by its attorney to make timely disclosure to Defendants, and 101 of
exhibits, as a result of discovery sanctions.
length of trial was to be sixteen
But in September
2005, the Court ruled against
PLANS a third time.
Once the trial
started, it turned out the Plaintiff
did not have one acceptable witness or evidence, and the trial came to
an end after only 30 minutes.
For the full
transcript of the trial, see here
(HTML) or here
For the final
trial ruling, see here.
The Defendant school districts may recover their costs, which total
the ruling on technical grounds, and won the appeal. But a new trial
again dismissed the case on it merits in November 2010.
extensive documentation of the history
of the lawsuit since 1997 and the main documents related to it, see Waldorf
article on it, see here.)
Parents in Grass
Valley, whose children attend
the Yuba River Charter School, have commented that Yuba
River Charter School does not teach religion and Yuba
River Charter School suit is disappointing.
The case was
planned to take place as a bifurcated
trial and to first address the issue of whether anthroposophy is a
for purposes of the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution.
If the Court had
determined this to be the case,
it then would have moved on to the question whether the Waldorf
methodology used by the two schools advances and promotes anthroposophy
-- now viewed as a religion for Establishment Clause purposes -- to
an extent, that it violates the U.S. Constitution.
FOR DEFINING RELIGION FOR ESTABLISHMENT
criteria described by the court
for deciding whether anthroposophy is a religion for Establishment
purposes can be divided into two sets (Court
order, p. 3/32).
One set refers
to two criteria that are not specific
to religion, as such, but hold for all world views, both religious and
as a world view addresses fundamental
and ultimate questions having to do with deep and imponderable matters
These criteria, which
apply to both anthroposophy
and natural science as world views from a philosophical perspective,
necessary -- but not sufficient -- to decide whether anthroposophy may
be considered to be a religion for Establishment Clause purposes.
as a world view is comprehensive
the fulfillment of another set of
criteria, specific to religions, and the Court must also weigh their
to anthroposophy. These criteria are:
do the philosophy and
world view indicate "a system
of belief and worship of a superhuman controlling power involving a
of ethics and philosophy and requiring obedience thereto." And,
One would expect the Anthroposophical
Society in America, which is the legal representative of
in the U.S., to have been the focus for finding such "formal and
signs" by the Court. For some comments by the Anthroposophical Society
on this, see here
and the Society's Amicus
Curiae Brief to the Court [155K].
can it “be recognized
by formal and external signs
such as formal services, ceremonial functions, the existence of a
structure and organization, efforts at propagation, observance of
and other similar manifestations associated with traditional religions"
The only expert
witness to be heard on the issue
in the trial was Douglas Sloan, Professor of History and Education
at Teachers College, the graduate school of education of Columbia
and adjunct Professor of Religion and Education at the Union
Seminary and The Jewish Theological Seminary in New York City.
In addition to
his expertise in history, education
and religion, Professor Sloan has been involved with the Anthroposophic
Press, Sunbridge College and the Association of Waldorf Schools in
America as director of their boards within the past sixteen years.
In a declaration
to the Court in support of the
defendants (the two public school districts), Professor Sloan argued
in every fundamental respect anthroposophy is not a religion and the
Society is not a religious organization.
Sloan's declaration indicates that "PLANS
Inc.", which began its public anti-Waldorf campaign with allegations
anthroposophy is a "satanic religion" and that Waldorf-methods schools
practice and teach their pupils "witchcraft", and funded its suit on
basis of these allegations (only then to withdraw the allegations
depositions for the trial), would have had a hard time proving its case.
For the full
declaration by Professor Sloan to
the Court, see here.