CASE NOTE: 10–17720 Plans Inc. v. Sacra­mento City Uni­fied School District

Ninth Cir­cuit Court of Appeals — San Francisco


SAN FRANCISCO, CA – MAY 17, 2012 –

The Ninth Cir­cuit Court of Appeals is hear­ing a case this morn­ing on the issue of whether the Sacra­mento Uni­fied School Dis­trict is vio­lat­ing con­sti­tu­tional prin­ci­ples of sep­a­ra­tion of church and state in award­ing Waldorf-method char­ter pub­lic schools tax-based funding.

In the case brought by Peo­ple for Legal and Non­sec­tar­ian Schools (PLANS), PLANS argues that Waldorf-method schools should not pub­licly funded because they are rooted in a spir­i­tual phi­los­o­phy called Anthros­o­phy, which was devel­oped by Rudolf Steiner in the late 1800s. Pro­po­nents of Anthros­o­phy attempt to “extend the clar­ity of the sci­en­tific method to phe­nonema of human soul-life and to spir­i­tual expe­ri­ences.” This includes devel­op­ing new con­cepts of objec­tive spir­i­tual per­cep­tion.
In the law­suit, PLANS con­tends that this is based on spir­i­tu­al­ist beliefs such as rein­car­na­tion and com­bines ele­ments of Hin­duism, Euro­pean occultism, Gnos­tic Chris­tian­ity, and other religions.

In a web­site, Wal​dor​fAn​swers​.org, Wal­dorf pro­po­nents state that, “anthro­pos­o­phy strives to bridge the clefts that have devel­oped since the Mid­dle Ages between the sci­ences, the arts and the reli­gious striv­ings of man as the three main areas of human cul­ture, and build the foun­da­tion for a syn­the­sis of them for the future.”

Wal­dorf pro­po­nents deny that Anthro­pos­o­phy is a reli­gion
 because it is open to peo­ple of any faith or no faith at all and that this open­ness in prac­tice, lead­er­ship, and belief pre­cludes it from being cat­e­go­rized as a reli­gion. Mem­bers are not required to per­form a spe­cific form of spir­i­tual prac­tice, and there is no pro­fes­sion of faith.

Accord­ing to Open​Wal​dorf​.com, which fea­tures links to a vari­ety of Wal­dorf mate­ri­als but is not affil­i­ated with Wal­dorf edu­ca­tion, teach­ers in Wal­dorf schools are encour­aged to read a vari­ety of books on spir­i­tual top­ics, includ­ing A West­ern Approach to Rein­car­na­tion and Karma.
Pacific Jus­tice Insti­tute attor­ney Kevin Snider, who is argu­ing the case on behalf of PLANS,states, “The record is replete with exam­ples of Anthros­o­phy that can­not be described as any­thing other than reli­gious. We can­not have a dou­ble stan­dard where main­stream reli­gions like Chris­tian­ity and Judaism are excluded from pub­lic schools while the door is open for eso­teric, occult beliefs.”

In 2003, the Ninth-Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that PLANS had tax-payer stand­ing to pur­sue the case.

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