Friday, October 1, 1999

Public schools teaching occult religion?
Lawsuit challenges tax funding of New Age curriculum

By Stephan Archer


SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- The implementation of the Waldorf curriculum -- an educational philosophy related to the New Age religion "Anthroposophy" -- in some California public schools, has stirred up controversy as opponents say its use violates the U.S. Constitution.

People for Legal and Nonsectarian Schools, an unlikely coalition of liberals and evangelical Christians, has filed suit against both the Sacramento City Unified School District and Twin Ridges Elementary School District for allowing public funds to be used to set up schools which teach the Waldorf curriculum. In the lawsuit, PLANS contends that public Waldorf schools are "intrinsically and inseparably" based upon Anthroposophy, a religion that PLANS further contends is occultic in nature.

What is Anthroposophy? "The Waldorf Teacher's Survival Guide" is designated by the Sacramento City Unified School District as one of its resource materials for "training or instruction in Waldorf teaching methods or Waldorf curriculum." WorldNetDaily obtained a copy of the 67-page pamphlet, published in 1992 and written by Eugene Schwartz, head of the Waldorf teacher training program at Sunbridge College in Spring Valley, N.Y. The "Guide" says, on page 54: "Most of that which contributes to our work as teachers, preparation work, artistic work, even meditative work, is under the guardianship of Lucifer. We can become great teachers under his supervision, for he is responsible for much that has blossomed in the unfolding of civilization and culture in the past."


In Anthroposophical doctrine, Lucifer is the god of light. His antagonist is Ahriman, the god of darkness. To balance these two opposing forces, Christ comes to earth as a sun god.

Ilna Jue is principal of the John Morse Waldorf Methods Magnet School, one of the schools named in the suit. She defended her school, saying, "Our curriculum is the curriculum of the State of California. With that, we bring the methodologies of Waldorf education."

Jue described Waldorf methodologies as including arts such as painting, drama and music. Illustrating the importance of color in the use of painting in Waldorf education, the book, "Sleep: An unobserved element in education," by Audrey E. McAllen, notes: "The colour sequence works as a cleansing re-orientation of soul, helping the individuality to accept the present incarnation in a physical body. This is clearly shown in the pictures which pupils make."

Is the Waldorf curriculum intended to indoctrinate children in an occult religion? "I think that it's a curriculum that attempts to be palatable for public consumption," says Danny Aguirre, access line director at the Spiritual Counterfeits Project in Berkeley, Calif., "but there's a strategy to subtly influence the children toward Anthroposophy."

The Spiritual Counterfeits Project is a Christian think tank that monitors current trends affecting society, particularly spiritual movements.

Ironically, Debra Snell, who is now the president of PLANS, was once involved in Mariposa Waldorf School, a private school in Cedar Ridge just outside Grass Valley, Calif. When the school closed down, she and other Waldorf parents investigated the possibility of founding a charter school that would use Waldorf methods. In August, 1994, Twin Ridges Elementary School District agreed to sponsor the school. The Twin Ridges Alternative Charter School, which opened in September 1994, became the Yuba River Charter School.

Snell told WorldNetDaily that when she first got involved in Waldorf schools and pushed for the Yuba River charter, she had no idea that Waldorf was connected to a religious philosophy.

"I suppose that you can say that I feel a tremendous responsibility," Snell said. "I was one of the founders of the school. I was very naive. I believed it was nonsectarian. When I heard of Waldorf education, I had never even heard of Anthroposophy."

Although Snell and other parents like her wanted the new charter school to utilize credentialed public school teachers who would loosely use the methodologies of the private Waldorf schools, Snell said Anthroposophical teachers quickly took over the school. Curious as to what Anthroposophy was, Snell obtained a copy of the course study book list from the Rudolf Steiner College, an institution in Fair Oaks, Calif., that trains Anthroposophical teachers.

"When I read what the course study was for Waldorf teachers, I realized right away that it was a religious seminary. There's no core academic classes in the entire teacher training program," Snell said.

"The required text for the first year includes occult science, and the spiritual hierarchies, spiritual guidance of man," added Snell. I mean, where's the phonics?"

PLANS had also learned that public school teachers at the Waldorf methods schools were taught by the Anthroposophists at Rudolf Steiner College to categorize school children by their Zodiac signs. The children would be divided into one of "four temperaments."

WorldNetDaily contacted Scott M. Kendall, the attorney for PLANS in the case and an affiliate attorney of the Pacific Justice Institute. "This case is about whether or not Waldorf Schools can be publicly funded," said Kendall, "because Waldorf schools historically have been private religious schools, and just recently, over the last ten years, they've been able to manage to get school boards to publicly fund them either as magnet schools or as charter schools."

"What we're trying to prove is that the Sacramento City Unified School District (and Twin Ridges), by having a Waldorf-type school and identifying it as such, and by having the teacher training being provided by Anthroposophists, are endorsing the religion called Anthroposophy, which is a New Age occultic religion," Kendall further explained.

Jue, trying to draw a contrast with the Waldorf curriculum in private schools, said that the Waldorf program at her school is not at all religious.

"We have been most careful," Jue said. "Our training has been very secular, if you want to consider Anthroposophy as a religion. Our training has not even involved Anthroposophy at all."

Jue added that all of her teachers are credentialed by the state of California, and that it was only after having received state credentials that they obtained further certification in Waldorf education at Rudolf Steiner College.

"It made sense, since Rudolf Steiner College is in town, that the training be through them," said Jue. "But again, it was geared for the public school teacher. It was not geared for the private school teacher."

Nevertheless, both Snell and Kendall believe the school districts' implementation of the Waldorf curriculum violates the First Amendment's Establishment Clause. According to the Supreme Court, "the Establishment Clause (has come) to mean that government may not promote or affiliate itself with any religious doctrine or organization, may not discriminate among persons on the basis of their religious beliefs and practices, may not delegate a governmental power to a religious institution, and may not involve itself too deeply in such an institution's affairs."

"The basic premise of this case is if a Christian school or Catholic school tried to receive charter school status or get public funding, it would be crushed immediately. That would never happen," said Kendall. "So basically, the premise of the lawsuit is that New Age religion should be treated the same way."

"PLANS does not believe that the school districts are intentionally promoting religion," Snell said of both the Sacramento City and Twin Ridges school districts. "What we believe is that unsuspecting board members have been fraudulently sold religious pedagogy by the Anthroposophical Rudolf Steiner College."

Indeed, "The Waldorf Teacher's Survival Guide" suggests that Anthroposophists are trying to sell their religion through the Waldorf curriculum:

"The time has come for us to stop pussyfooting around and fearing that we'll sound too strange if we tell the parents what we are really doing," the guide says. "Well, we are really doing many things, on many levels, and giving parents a clear picture of human development is by no means giving away the most esoteric of our work. Whatever may have been true in the past, the fact is that the parents who come to us are well aware of spiritual matters -- and I don't only mean the New Age parents. Many Americans today ascribe to reincarnation; most Waldorf families know that there are transcendent elements in the human being. ... If Waldorf education is truly going to be a 'movement for cultural renewal,' it is our responsibility to share with the parents those elements of Anthroposophy which will help them understand their children and fathom the mysterious ways in which we work."

District Court Judge Frank C. Damrell, Jr., in reviewing the arguments of both the school districts and PLANS, has so far come to the conclusion there is substantial evidence that public funding of Waldorf schools may violate the Constitution. The trial date is currently set for Feb. 28 of next year.

Pacific Justice Institute, the non-profit organization funding the case for Snell, is confident the judge will rule in favor of their client.

Speaking for his organization, Brad Dacus said, "In general, the Court has concluded that this is not a bogus lawsuit, and it has merit. We're convinced that when the facts are fully addressed before the court, that we will prevail."