Jim Wilson, the president of PrayNorthState, (a religious organization in Northern California) writes a blog for the Redding CA online newspaper. Yesterday he published a column on the wrongness of
Monday, March 21, 2011 The Pacific Justice Institute has weighed in on the appeal to the Ninth Circuit after a federal judge in Sacramento ruled that the publicly funded Waldorf Charter Schools are not religious. Judge Frank Damrell ruled the Waldorf Schools are not religious in nature after excluding most of the evidence. People for Legal and Non-Sectarian Schools sued to block funding for what is clearly a religiously based educational system in a violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.
The ruling came despite the fact that the schools are based on the teachings of Anthroposophy - a faith-based belief system authored by spiritualist thinker Rudolph Steiner in the early twentieth century. Teachers are required to train at Waldorf institutions, and the web site for Sacramento's Rudolph Steiner College proudly proclaims its tax exempt status under the religious institutions section of the Tax Code. A look at the waldorfanswers.org web site reveals the schools' own claim that they are grounded in the "spiritual philosophy" of Anthroposophy. The site, maintained by the school system, elaborates on the theme that it "strives to bridge the clefts...between the sciences, the arts, and the religious strivings of man...and build a foundation for the synthesis of them." Anthroposophy seeks to "nurture the life of the soul...in human society." If this is not a faith-based grounding for a school system operating with taxpayer funding I cannot imagine what is.....
Some will wonder why - given my own background and allegiances - I would object to taxpayer funding of a faith-based school system. Reality is that I object to taxpayer funding of any faith-based educational enterprise - including any with which I might be in sympathy. Subsidizing religion endangers everyone - including the adherents of the religion itself.
It is not rocket science to conclude that when tax dollars fund a religious school taxpayers are forced to fund faith ideologies to which they may conscientiously object. Less obvious, but just as insidious, is the reality that if a faith operation accepts government money it becomes subject to government regulation - even to the influencing of the content of teaching. This is not good for anyone.
The bottom line is that our national and state constitutions call for no establishment of religion coupled with a near absolute right to freely practice our religious faith - inside or outside of our schools. (This is not to be confused with so-called separation of church and state - a phrase and idea that makes no appearance in any American constitution.) That means I have the same right to freedom of speech, thought, and conscience as any other American - even if I am a teacher - but I have no right to use my publicly funded teacher's desk to indoctrinate students with a particular religious point of view. I can pray in school as much as I like, but I cannot initiate prayer from or with students on the public's dime. I can share my faith with students, but only in response to a student initiated conversation and not in such a way as to ridicule or exclude a view with which I may not agree. I cannot - ever - bring a sectarian curriculum into my class room and hold my captive audience of students accountable to it. The waters are not hard to navigate.....
Waldorf Schools flunk every constitutional test I so cheerfully passed. I would never question their right to exist - or to educate students as they see fit. But to do it on public money is just not right; it is not right for anyone. Let them stand or fall on the resources provided by their understanding of God - just like the rest of us believers.
While I have profound disagreements with some of Rev. Wilson's beliefs and values, I believe that he is exactly correct in this opinion, and I thank him for expressing them.
Previous writings on Waldorf