Spiritualist Public Schools Back in Court of Appeals This Week

San Francisco, CA – The constitutionality of taxpayer-funded charter schools based on an obscure belief system called Anthroposophy will be heard at the federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals this Thursday, May 17.

The long-running suit against Sacramento City Unified School District was filed by People for Legal and Nonsectarian Schools (PLANS) in the late 1990’s. The case has made three previous trips to the Ninth Circuit, each of which resulted in a favorable ruling for PLANS on procedural issues. This time, the court is expected to take up some of the core First Amendment issues in the case.

PLANS contends that Waldorf-method schools should not be publicly funded because they are based on spiritualist beliefs such as reincarnation. Waldorf methods are rooted in Anthroposophy, which was founded in the early 1900’s in Europe by Rudolf Steiner. He combined elements of Hinduism, European occultism, Gnostic Christianity and other religions to form and teach his own belief system.

The federal trial court in Sacramento refused to considr Steiner’s writings—which include a book called How to Know Higher Worlds—in ruling that Anthroposophy is not a religion. On that basis, the court decided that separation of church and state did not apply. In other contexts, however, such as immigration, Anthroposophists have sought and been granted religious status.

Kevin Snider, the Chief Counsel of Pacific Justice Institute, will be arguing the case at the Ninth Circuit tomorrow. He commented, “The record is replete with examples of Anthroposophy 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 opened wide for esoteric, occult beliefs.”

PJI President Brad Dacus commented, “The origins of Anthroposophy are not only eccentric, but also racist. There is no way these schools should be getting taxpayer money.”