“This case is truly stranger than fiction,” noted Brad Dacus, president of Pacific Justice Institute. “It is incredible that we as taxpayers are still supporting schools founded on a belief system that incorporates elements of Hinduism, European occultism, and a heretical form of Christianity. We cannot have a constitutional double standard where mainstream Judeo-Christian beliefs are excluded from public schools while unorthodox beliefs have access to funding.”
PJI represents People for Legal and Nonsectarian Schools (Plans, Inc.), which has been battling public funding of Waldorf-method schools in the Sacramento area for more than a dozen years. Waldorf schools are located throughout the United States. Some Waldorf schools are private, but many are operated by local school districts, including Sacramento City Unified, the lead defendant in the suit.
Waldorf education is rooted in Anthroposophy, which was founded in the early 20th Century by an Austrian, Rudolf Steiner. His lectures and writings, including a book called How to Know Higher Worlds, cobble together a range of beliefs from Hindu reincarnation to Norse mythology. Steiner’s writings also reflect the racial superiority that gave rise to the Nazi regime. In spite of Steiner’s blatantly racist views, teachers in Waldorf schools—including public schools—must attend training at Anthroposophical institutions such as Rudolf Steiner College in Sacramento.
At trial, U.S. District Judge Frank Damrell ruled that Anthroposophy was not a distinct religion, and therefore Waldorf schools cannot violate separation of church and state. Judge Damrell reached this conclusion after excluding most of the evidence presented by Plans, Inc. from Steiner’s teachings. The Ninth Circuit has already ruled three times in favor of Plans, Inc. on procedural issues, reversing the District Court each time. In other cases originating on the East Coast, Anthroposophists have claimed to be religious in order to obtain religious worker visas.
For a behind-the-scenes look at Anthroposophy and Waldorf education, visit www.waldorfcritics.org.