|Since 1998, a small vocal anti-Waldorf group called
(People for Legal and Non-Sectarian Schools), situated in San Francisco,
has pursued a federal lawsuit in Sacramento, California, against two local
school districts for operating publicly funded
Waldorf-methods schools, one a charter school and one a magnet school.
In the spring of 1997, PLANS initiated a publicity
campaign against Oak Ridge Elementary School, a public Waldorf-methods
magnet school in Sacramento, distributing leaflets which falsely suggested
to parents, including many recent Hmong and Mien immigrants, who did not
speak English well, that the Waldorf program was part of a "cult" involved
in teaching witchcraft to the children. In response, a number of parents
picketed and boycotted the school.
The local Sacramento Bee newspaper found
no evidence at the school to support PLANS' claims, but a television news
report of the picketing which repeated the allegations prompted interest
in filing a lawsuit against the school and its school district.
Funding to support the litigation, based on allegations
of Wicca based religious practices at the Waldorf method school, was sought
through and supported by a right wing law organization, Pacific
Justice Institute (PJI), that otherwise fights to abolish the United
States' constitutional separation of church and state and supports distribution
of Christian literature in public buildings.
The Oak Ridge School was subsequently reorganized
and renamed the John Morse Waldorf Methods School. The lawsuit was filed
in February, 1998.
Two school districts are named as defendants in
the litigation: Sacramento
City Unified School District, that supports one school as a Waldorf-methods
magnet school, and the Twin
Ridges Elementary School District, that today supports four schools
as Waldorf-methods charter schools.
The schools targeted are John
Morse Waldorf Methods School in the city of Sacramento and the Yuba
River Charter School in the Sierra foothills.
According to the litigation, the operation of the
two Waldorf-methods schools has as a "primary purpose and primary effect"
"to advance religion, including the religious doctrines of anthroposophy"
in a way that, according to the group, violates the establishment clause
of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
The two school districts disputed the litigation,
and in May 1999 the Sacramento School District moved for a summary judgment
in the case.
While this was denied, the court in 1999 and 2001
in two steps has ruled against the litigation.
In September 1999 it ruled against the central
allegation in the litigation, finding that the two school districts and
the two schools involved, using Waldorf methods, have a secular, non religious
purpose for their operation.
It however also let the case proceed, to investigate
whether the two public Waldorf programs targeted in the litigation might
have the unintended consequence of directly and substantially endorsing
'religion', and fostering an excessive entanglement between church and
state, and the case was expected to be heard in February, 2000.
This however did not take place, and, after delays,
the case -- again -- was expected to be heard in February, this time 2001,
but it was postponed to June. A decision in March, 2001, by an appellate
court in New York led to a review of the case. The judge ruled that PLANS
did not have taxpayer standing and dismissed the case on May 23, 2001.
Following this ruling, PLANS filed an appeal with
the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals which in February, 2003, reversed
the decision on taxpayer standing by the lower court and returned the case.
In May, 2004, PLANS presented a motion for summary
judgment, or, in the alternative, summary adjudication, requesting that
the court rule (1) that anthroposophy is a religion for the purposes of
the establishment clause of the First Amendment and (2) that the Waldorf
methods used by the public schools promote anthroposophy, based on the
pretrial record, as a matter of law.
The school districts presented counter arguments
including a declaration by Douglas Sloan, an expert witness on anthroposophy
and religion. The Anthroposophical
Society in America filed an amicus curiae brief in support of
On November 15, 2004, the court denied the motion
by PLANS for summary judgment.
The ruling concludes that triable issues of material
fact exist as to whether anthroposophy is a religion, and finds that the
school districts have set forth considerable evidence that anthroposophy
is a philosophy, not a religion.
It also concludes that triable issues of material
fact exist whether the Waldorf methods of education, implemented at the
John Morse Waldorf Methods School and the Yuba River Charter School, advances
and promotes anthroposophy in the substantial way alleged by PLANS in its
A pretrial conference was held on February 11,
2005. The Court set the deadline for filing motions to exclude testimony
or evidence as March 11, 2005.
In April, 2005, the Court filed an order outlining
the trial issues and the evidentiary and procedural guidelines for the
The order denies PLANS eleven witnesses for failure
by its attorney to make timely disclosure to Defendants and 101 of PLANS'
exhibits as a result of discovery sanctions.
The case will be conducted as a bifurcated trial,
first addressing the issue of whether anthroposophy is a religion for purposes
of the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution.
If the Court determines that to be the case, it
will proceed to issues related to whether the Waldorf inspired methodology,
employed by the concerned schools, advances and promotes anthroposophy
to such an extent, that it violates the U.S. Constitution.
The trial is scheduled for September 12, 2005.
The estimated length of trial is sixteen days.
Documentation regarding or related to the case:
On PLANS' behalf, Pacific
Justice Institute files an
application to the Alliance
Defense Fund for a $15,000 grant to fund a lawsuit against the Sacramento
City Unified School District, claiming that the Waldorf program includes
"requiring children to fold their arms and chant, say a pledge to the sun
flag, and other Wicca based religious practices" and rituals, which amount
to "open religious proselytizing and coercion of children" in violation
of the First Amendment (July 18, 1997). The grant is awarded.
suit in Federal Court [23K] against the Sacramento City Unified School
District (SCUSD) and the Twin Ridges Elementary School District (TRESD)
(February 10, 1998).
The School Districts file motion for summary judgment
to dismiss the case without a trial on the issues (May 1999).
and Order [1.3M] denies the motion for summary judgment but grants
in part the School Districts' motion for summary adjudication, namely that
the public school programs in both Districts using Waldorf methods have
a secular (non-religious) purpose (September 24, 1999).
Offer by the School Districts to Resolve the Waldorf
Refusal by PLANS to Accept the Offer.
Appeal by PLANS against the Dismissal.
of Scott M. Kendall [42K], Attorney of Record for PLANS, in opposition
to motion for sanctions terminating the case (January 14, 2004). Mr. Kendall
declares that he has been suffering from a relapse of a significant mental
illness causing him to fail to comply with the court's order to respond
to discovery requests.
by Jonathan Huber [37K], Attorney of Record for PLANS, in Support of
PLANS' Motion for Summary Judgment, or, in the Alternative, Summary Adjudication
(May 25, 2004).
by Douglas Sloan [62K], Expert on Religion and Anthroposophy, in Support
of the School Districts' Opposition to Motion for Summary Judgment, or,
in the Alternative, Summary Adjudication (July 30, 2004).
Final Pretrial Conference Statement. [831K] According to the statement:
"Defendants attempted in good faith to file a joint statement with Plaintiff.
Defendants were not able to secure Plaintiff's cooperation in a timely
manner." "Defendants file this separate statement as a last resort." (January
Motions in Limine. Three motions
to limit Plaintiff witnesses and exhibits are filed by the Defendants,
with oppositions and replies (March 11 to March 25, 2005):
notice of motions in limine (March 11, 18K)
in Limine Eleven (March 11, 39K)
in Limine Twelve (March 11, 40K)
in Limine Thirteen (March 11, 37K)
of Michelle Cannon (March 11, 23K)
Objections to Pretrial Order (March 14, 342K)
Objections to Pretrial Order (March 14, 38K)
Pretrial Order (March 16, 86K)
to Motion Eleven (March 18, 257K)
to Motion Twelve (March 18, 53K)
to Motion Thirteen (March 18, 20K)
to Opposition to Motion Eleven (March 25, 54K)
to Opposition to Motion Twelve (March 25, 62K)
to Opposition to Motion Thirteen (March 25, 76K)
Declaration of Michelle Cannon (March 25, 21K)
issues an order [867K] outlining the issues and the evidentiary and
procedural guidelines for the trial. Eleven Plaintiff witnesses and 101
exhibits are excluded (April 20, 2005) (Press
Trial briefs (August 29,
Trial in Federal District Court
closes after 30 minutes. The Plaintiff PLANS, Inc fails to provide any
admissible evidence that anthroposophy is a religion for Establishment
Clause purposes. The Court will issue a ruling after September 29. The
transcript (HTML) and PDF
format [20 pages, 52K]. (September 12, 2005)
See also press
release by the Anthroposophical Society in Amerca. "Despite the fact
that PLANS has had more than seven years to find witnesses and produce
acceptable evidence, PLANS presented neither. We were not surprised by
the outcome. This totally discredits PLANS and their assertions about anthroposophy."
(September 15, 2005)
objections to Plaintiff exhibit and motion for judgment under Rule 52(c)
[988K]. Defendants' objections to The Waldorf Teacher's Survival Guide
by Eugene Schwartz as evidence that anthroposophy is a religion, and motion
for final judgment that Plaintiff failed to prove the threshold issue that
anthroposophy is a religion and thus under Rule 52(c) all other issues
of this case may be disposed. (September 16, 2005)
objections to proposed findings of fact in opposition to motion for judgment
[37K]. PLANS objects to the exclusion witnesses and exhibits: "the defendants
... caused the court to exclude a series of percipient and material witnesses
and exhibits" and since PLANS did not put forward any evidence at the trial,
"the court has no basis for making a factual finding that Anthroposophy
is not a religion." One particular exhibit, number 89, The Waldorf Teacher's
Survival Guide by Eugene Schwartz, found at one of the defendant's
schools, should shift the burden to the Defendants to explain that Waldorf
education is not religious. (September 23, 2005)
granting Defendants' motion for judgment [22K]. Judge Damrell rules
that "Plaintiff failed to carry its evidentiary burden of establishing
that anthroposophy is a religion for purposes of the Establishment Clause
of the First Amendment", that "Plaintiff's only proffered evidence, Exhibit
89, is inadmissible for a variety of reasons" and that "because the issue
of whether anthroposophy is a religion is a threshold issue ..., Plaintiff's
failure to satisfy its burden of proof on the threshold issue is dispositive
of this action." Therefore, "defendantsí motion for judgment under Rule
52(c) is GRANTED" and it is adjudged that "Plaintiff take nothing, that
the action be dismissed on the merits and that Defendants recover their
costs." (September 28, 2005)
Defendant school districts,
[144K] and TRESD
[88K], submit an accounting of their costs totaling $22,550. (October 19,
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