|[For the .pdf-version of the original, see here.]
(FILED NOV 16, 2004)
CLERK, U.S.DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
BY DEPUTY CLERK
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA
NO. CIV. S-98-0266 FCD PAN
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
SACRAMENTO CITY UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT,
TWIN RIDGES ELEMENTARY SCHOOL DISTRICT
Plaintiff PLANS, Inc. ("PLANS") brought an
action against the Sacramento City Unified School District ("SCUSD") and
Twin Ridges Elementary School District ("Twin Ridges"), alleging that their
operation of public schools using the Waldorf method of education violates
the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. This matter is before
the court on PLANS's motion for summary judgment, pursuant to Rule 56 of
the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. At the outset, the court notes that
PLANS sets forth no evidence whatsoever regarding SCUSD, and therefore
PLANS's motion is considered only with respect to Twin Ridges. For the
reasons set forth below, PLANS's motion is denied.
PLANS (People for Legal and Non-Sectarian Schools),
a non-profit California corporation whose members include taxpayers residing
in both school districts at issue here is "organized for the purpose, among
other things, of educating the public regarding Waldorf education." (Pl's
Compl. ¶ 2.)
Waldorf education involves alternative teaching
methods, including the integration of the arts into all subjects, so as
to creatively teach children substantive concepts. Students begin each
school day with a two-hour main lesson, learning subjects in intensive
three to four week blocks. Storytelling, reading of myths and legends,
learning handcrafts, cooking, gardening, painting, music, and movement
are also part of the Waldorf method. Another characteristic of Waldorf
education is that the same teacher progresses through each grade with his
or her class, through the eighth grade. 3 Currently,
there are more than 60,000 children in more than 700 Waldorf schools throughout
Austrian-born Rudolf Steiner developed the
Waldorf system of education in 1919 when he founded a school in Germany
for the children of the Waldorf-Astoria cigarette factory workers. Before
he founded the Waldorf method of education, Steiner formulated a "spiritual
science" known as "anthroposophy". Literally translated from its Greek
origin, "anthroposophy" means "knowledge of the human being." PLANS alleges
that anthroposophy is a religion inseparable, in theory and practice, from
Waldorf education. (Pl´s. Stmt. Of Disp. Facts, ¶¶ 3-4.)
In 1993, as part of its voluntary desegregation
plan, SCUSD proposed that several of its schools become magnet schools
with a speciality focus. One of the district's schools, the Oak Ridge School,
chose the Waldorf method as its magnet focus. The Oak Ridge staff's goal
were to further SCUSD's desegregation plan, provide an innovative learning
environment for its students, promote creativity, improve reading skills,
and provide a caring environment for the students. The SCUSD School Board
approved Oak Ridge's magnet focus in April of 1995, and Oak Ridge began
operating as a Waldorf methods magnet school in September 1995.
Rudolf Steiner College, which provides teacher
training in Waldorf education, submitted a proposal for the training of
the Oak Ridge teachers in the use of Waldorf methods in a public school
setting. Betty Staley, the Dean of Faculty, created the teacher training
program in 1995. The SCUSD School Board accepted Rudolf Steiner College's
proposal in February of 1996. The parties dispute whether the teacher training
program excluded all topics of a spiritual, religious, or anthroposophical
Just prior to the 1997-98 school year, the
Oak Ridge School moved and became the John Morse Waldorf Methods Magnet
School ("John Morse"). The parties dispute whether anthroposophy is part
of the John Morse curriculum.
2. Twin Ridges
After the closing of a nearby private Waldorf
school, Waldorf parents in Nevada City investigated the possibility of
founding a charter school that would use Waldorf methods. In August of
1994, Twin Ridges agreed to sponsor the school in order to provide area
city residents with an alternative form of education which was both innovative
and academically challenging. The Twin Ridges Alternative Charter School
("TRACS") opened in September of 1994. The following year, TRACS became
the Yuba River Charter School ("Yuba River"). 5
The parties dispute whether the Yuba River curriculum incorporates anthroposophy.
3. Procedural History
On May 6, 1999, School Districts filed a Motion
for Summary Judgment, or in the Alternative, Summary Adjucation of Issues
including, inter alia, the request for dismissal on the grounds
that PLANS lacked taxpayer standing. This court granted summary adjudication
in favor of school Districts on the "secular purpose" prong of the Lemon
(Summary Judgment Order 18-19, 25), but ruled that disputed issues of fact
existed on the second "advancement" or "endorsement" prong, and third "excessive
entanglement" prong. (Id. 19-24.) This court denied summary judgment
on the issue of standing, but later dismissed on the basis of lack of taxpayer
standing. On appeal, the Ninth Circuit reversed and remanded on the basis
that PLANS had standing to bring a "good-faith pocket-book" challenge.
(PLANS, Inc. v. Sacramento City Unified Sch. Dist., 319 F.3d 504
(9th Cir. 2003). (quoting Doremus v. Bd. of Educ., 342 U.S. 429,
The matter is before this court on PLANS's
motion for summary motion on the grounds that anthroposophy is a religion,
and since anthroposophy is inextricably intertwined with Waldorf education,
the Waldorf methods being used in the public schools at issue violate the
Summary judgment is appropriate when it is demonstrated
that there exists no genuine issue as to any material fact, and that the
moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed. R. Civ. P.
56(c)); Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 157 (1970).
If there is "any evidence in the record from any source from which a reasonable
inference in the [nonmoving party]'s favor may be drawn, the moving party
simply cannot obtain a summary judgment ..." In re Japanese Electronic
Products Antitrust Litigation, 723 F.2d 238, 258 (1983) (rec'd.
on other grounds sub nom. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith
Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574 (1986).)
The moving party bears the responsibility of
informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying
those portions of "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories,
and admissions on file together with the affidavits, if any," which it
believe demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Chelates
Corp. v. Citrate, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986) (quoting Rule 56(c)).
If the moving party also bears the burden of
persuasion on the challenged claim at trial, its showing must "entitle
it to a directed verdict if the evidence went uncontroverted at trial."
v. South, 965 F.2d 1532, 1536 (9th Cir. 1992) (quotation omitted);
Chelates, 477 U.S. at 331 (Brennan, J., dissenting) ("If the moving
party will bear the burden of persuasion at trial, that party must support
its motion with credible evidence ... that would entitle it to a directed
verdict if not controverted at trial." Chelates, 477 U.S. at 331
(Brennan, J., dissenting); Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252 ("The judge's
inquiry, therefore, unavoidably asks ... whether there is evidence upon
which a jury can properly proceed to find a verdict for the party producing
it, upon whom the onus of proof is imposed." (quotation omitted)).
In other words, the claimant movant must establish
a right to summary judgment by showing that the pretrial record demonstrates
the claimant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Therefore, the
claimant movant must show that no reasonable fact-finder at trial could
fail to regard the claimant as having discharged its preponderance of the
evidence burden. SeeEdison v. Reliable Life Ins. Co, 664 F.2d 1130,
1131 (9th Cir. 1981) (to obtain summary judgment in its favor, insurer
claimant must prove no realistic possibility that fact-finder will find
policy language at issue, and dispute must resolve around legal effects
In judging evidence at the summary judgment
stage, the court does not make credibility determinations or weigh conflicting
evidence. See T.W. Elec. v. Pacific Elec. Contractors Ass'n,
809 F.2d 626, 630-31 (9th Cir. 1987) (citing Matsushita Elec. Indus.
Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986)). The evidence
presented by the parties must be admissible. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e). Conclusory,
speculative testimony in affidavits and moving papers is insufficient to
raise genuine issues of fact and defeat summary judgment. See Falls
Riverway Realty. Inc. v. City of Niagara Falls, 754 F.2d 49, 57 (2d
Cir. 1985); Thornhill Publ'g Co., Inc. v. GTE Corp., 594 F.2d 730,
738 (9th Cir. 1979).
In order for PLANS to successfully move for summary
judgment in this matter, PLANS must prove it is entitled to judgment as
a matter of law on two related issues: (1) whether anthroposophy constitutes
a "religion" for Establishment Clause purposes 6;
and (2) if anthroposophy is a religion, whether there is anthroposophical
curriculum at the two public Waldorf-method schools at issue, thereby constituting
a violation of the Establishment Clause. PLANS has failed to demonstrate
that there exists genuine issue as to any material fact on both matters.
A. Anthroposophy as a Religion
1. Definition of Anthroposophy
As an initial matter, in order to prove that
anthroposophy is a religion and that Waldorf methods being used at the
public schools in School Districts are anthroposophical, PLANS must first
define "anthroposophy." PLANS simply concludes that "[a]nthroposophy is
easily defined as a religion under all currently prevalent tests." (Pl's
Mem. of P & A at 9.) However, PLANS fails to define a single unequivocal
set of beliefs and practices, which can be definitely labeled "anthroposophy."
Therefore, PLANS ignores the crucial first step in analyzing whether anthroposophy
is a religion. Rather, PLANS attempts to define anthroposophy by reference
to the teachings of Rudolf Steiner. (See Pl's Mem. of P & A
at 7-8.) "[Steiner] teaches about a hierarchy of beings, including spiritual
beings that are led by God, who interact with people through Lucifer, Ahriman,
and the Archangel Michael." (Id.) PLANS also states that "[a]nthroposophy
expressly teaches about numerous spiritual beings and spiritual hierarchical
structures and explains man´s relationship to these beings and structures."
(Id. at 12-13.) While, the above assertions may disclose aspects
of some type of religious belief, they do not themselves provide a clear,
unequivocal definition of anthroposophy. As a result, PLANS has not met
its burden as the definition of anthroposophy remains a disputed issue
of material fact.
2. Alvarado Test
Even assuming PLANS provided a definition of
anthroposophy, it must also prove that anthroposophy constitutes a "religion"
for Establishment Clause purposes.7 In Alvarado
v. City of San Jose, 94 F.3d 1223 (9th Cir. 1996), the Ninth Circuit
heavily relied on the concurring opinion of Judge in Adams in Malnak
v. Yogi, 592 F.2d 197 (3rd Cir 1979) ("Malnak II"), which set
forth three factors to consider in determining what constitutes a "religion"
for Establishment Clause purposes. These factors are:
First, a religion addresses fundamental and ultimate questions
having to do with deep and imponderable matters. Second, a religion
is comprehensive in nature; it consists of a belief-system as opposed to
isolated teaching. Third, a religion often can be recognized by the presence
of certain formal and external signs.
Alvarado, 94 F.3d at 1229, quoting Africa v. Pennsylvania,
662 F.2d 1025, 1032 (3d Cir. 1981), cert. denied 456 U.S. 908 (1982)
court addressed the question
of whether a statue of a "Plumed Serpent" in the City of San Jose promoted
or endorsed religion. The court analyzed the three indicia of religion
as set forth above, and determined that the plaintiff's claim that "New
Age" is a religion lacked substantial merit.
Alvarado, 94 F.3d at
1230. Accordingly, the court held for the City, concluding that the display
presented no "cognizable religious issue."
Id. at 1229.
School Districts have set forth considerable
evidence that anthroposophy is a "philosophy", not a "religion." (See
Opp. at 6-9; Amicus Curiae Brief of the Anthroposophical Society in America
in Support of Defs.) School Districts argue that any group which includes
"atheists, agnostics, and devout believers alike among its membership"
cannot "be deemed a religion without stretching the legal key concept beyond
any meaning ". (Defs.' Opp. at 6.) Notably, PLANS concedes that "[a]nthroposophists
claim that [a]nthroposophy is merely a science - a belief system that does
not require one to reject his or her religion to pursue ..." (Id.
As the evidence submitted by both parties indicates,
a determination whether anthroposophy constitutes a "religion" for Establishment
Clause purposes is necessarily a fact-intensive process. PLANS argues,
however, that anthroposophy is a religion as a matter of law, based on
II, 592 F.2d 197. (See Pl’s Mem. Of P & A at 11-15.) In
II, the Third Circuit affirmed the district court’s finding that the
teaching of a course called the Science of Creative Intelligence Transcendental
Meditation (“SCI/TM”) in a public high school violated the Establishment
Clause. Malnak II, 592 F.2d at 197. The SCI/TM course taught that
“‘pure creative intelligences’ [was] the basis if life, and that through
the process of Transcendental Meditation students [could] perceive the
full potential of their lives.” Id. at 198. In finding that the
course involved religious activity, the Third Circuit relied on its careful
review of the course textbook, expert testimony, and the contested facts
regarding the class’ incorporation of puja, a religious ceremony that involved
the chanting of a mantra. Malnak II, 592 F.2d at 199.
However, PLANS’s reliance on Malnak II
is misplaced, since it is factually distinguishable. None of the factors
relied on by that court in finding the course involved “religious activity”
are present here. Malnak II involved one specific class which incorporated
the belief of a globally-recognized, formal religion (Hinduism), a religious
exercise (chanting mantras), and a religious ceremony (Hindu puja). Here,
PLANS argues that the entire curriculum of the schools at issue is religious,
without pointing to a single textbook, religious exercise, or religious
ceremony for support. In fact, PLANS cites no curriculum evidence whatsoever
from either school district to support its conclusion that both Waldorf
method schools use “inherently religious curriculum.” (See Pl’s.
Undisp. Facts, 115-176.)
B. Establishment Clause Violation
A government action challenged with violating
the Establishment Clause must satisfy the test set forth by the United
States Supreme Court in Lemon v. Kurtzman, 403 U.S. 602 (1971).
To pass muster under the Lemon test, the challenged practice must:
(1) reflect a clearly legislative purpose; (2) have a primary effect that
neither advances nor inhibits religion; and (3) avoid excessive government
entanglement with religion. Id. at 612-613.
The Ninth Circuit applied the Lemon test in
v. Woodland Joint Unified School Dist., 27 F.3d 1373 (9th Cir. 1994),
where parents of children in the defendant school district brought suit
against the district, challenging the use of “Impressions,” a teaching
aid containing literary selections and suggested classroom activities as
violating,inter alia, the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.
at 1377. The activities challenged included the students pretending to
be witches and repeating chants from various traditions. Id. The
parents objected to the curriculum as promoting the religion of witchcraft.
The Brown court applied the Lemon factors and found that
there was no constitutional violation, since a coincidental resemblance
to witchcraft ritual was not an endorsement by the school district of witchcraft.
As noted earlier, this court granted summary
adjudication in favor of School Districts on the “secular purpose” prong
of the Lemon test (Summary Judgment Order 18-19, 25). PLANS neither
mentions this fact, nor addresses the second “advancement” or “endorsement”
prong of the test. Instead, in seeking summary judgment, PLANS relies exclusively
on the third prong of the Lemon test to argue that “because of the
unique interrelationship between Waldorf education and [a]nthroposophy,
the public funding of Waldorf schools results in an excessive entanglement
between government and religion …” (Pl’s. Mem. Of P & A at 18) However,
the only evidence PLANS sets forth to support this contention is the fact
that Twin Ridges teachers attended training classes at Rudolf Steiner College.
PLANS argues that “excessive entanglement” exists merely because teachers
from public and private Waldorf schools attend the same classes, and because
public Waldorf teachers are often hired from private Waldorf schools. (Pl’s.
Mem. Of P & A at 19.)
PLANS presents no curriculum evidence from
either school at issue to support such claims, and, notably, the court’s
pretrial order specifically lists the curriculum in the two schools as
a “disputed fact .” (Pretrial Order 3, ¶ IV 2 A-D, 3 A-D.) Since
the issue of “excessive entanglement” based on the curriculum at the schools
is a question of fact, and PLANS offers no citations to the record, PLANS
argument is insufficient on its face.
Triable issues of material fact exist as to whether
anthroposophy is a religion, as well as whether the Waldorf method of education
implemented at John Morse and Yuba River advances and promotes anthroposophy.
Therefore, PLANS’s motion for summary judgment is DENIED.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
DATED: November 15, 2004
FRANK C. DAMRELL, Jr.
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
1 Because oral argument will not be of material
assistance, the court orders this matter submitted on the briefs, E.D.
Cal. Local Rule 78-230(h).
2 Unless otherwise noted, the facts set forth
herein are derived from the Ninth Circuit opinion,
PLANS, Inc v. Sacramento
City Unified Sch. Dist., 319 F.3d 504 (9th Cir. 2003) and this court’s
Memorandum and Order, filed September 24, 1999, granting School District’s
motion for summary adjudication on the secular purpose issue and denying
School Districts motion for summary judgment.
3 PLANS concedes that these attributes characterize
the Waldorf method, but allege that these are not the only attributes of
Waldorf education. PLANS, however does not identify additional characteristics
of the Waldorf method used at John Morse or Yuba River.
4 SCUSD and Twin Ridges dispute this fact,
and reference the court’s Amended Pretrial Conference Order, filed April
24, 2001, which found that whether anthroposophy is a religion is a materially
disputed fact in this matter. The court also found that whether the Waldorf
methods used at John Morse and Yuba river advance and promote anthroposophy
is a disputed fact.
5 Yuba River teachers did not participate
in the Rudolf Steiner College training program created for the SCUSD faculty.
6 The court recognizes that on October 21,
2001, PLANS submitted a recent Third Circuit decision, Camphill Soltane
v. U.S. Dept. of Justice, 381 F.3d 143 (2004), in support of its contention
that anthroposophy constitutes a religion for Establishment Clause purposes.
However, this case sheds no light on this issue, since it neither defines
anthroposophy nor holds that it is a religion for the purpose of Establishment
7 PLANS argues that School Districts have
“substantially shifted their position” with regard to this issue. (Plaintiff’s
Memorandum of Points & Authorities (“Pl’s. Mem. Of P & A”) at 5.)
However, School Districts assumed anthroposophy was a religion in their
motion for summary judgment only for purposes of that motion. As
the court found in its Pretrial Order, this issue is materially disputed
between the parties. (Pretrial Order 2-4, IV, A-D, VII 1.
8 See also Friedman v. Southern California
Permanente Medical Group, 102 Cal.App.4th 39 (2002), which similarly relies
on Africa and Malnak II.
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