As part of a developing ethnic and cultural xenophobia in Europe, the U.S. and Asia the last years, a number of myths have arisen and are cultivated also by small groups of critics of Waldorf education and anthroposophy. To the ones engaged in it most intensely belong some people with an outspoken secular humanist orientation in the U.S., where Waldorf schools increasingly have developed in one form as charter schools within the public school system.

Waldorf education is based on a spiritual philosophy that, while not a religion or religious in itself, yet takes the soul and spirit of man to be a reality that needs to be taken into conscious consideration and related to in education. This has challenged some who feel that such a school form not should get public support, arguing that public Waldorf schools violate the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, that stipulates that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion".

This is not supported by a federal court in California, that after investigation in 1999 ruled that public school programs in U.S. that use Waldorf methods have a secular, non religious purpose. 

The ruling concerned a litigation, initiated by a small anti-Waldorf group in San Francisco, "PLANS"; "People for Legal and Nonsectarian Schools", but financed and run by a fundamentalist right wing law firm and individual in 1998 against two school districts in California for accepting two Waldorf oriented schools as charter schools. The litigation alleged that the public Waldorf charter schools should have as their "primary purpose and primary effects [...] to advance religion, including the religious doctrines of Anthroposophy".

To investigate whether public Waldorf oriented education might have the unintended result of promoting anthroposophy, the court however let the case proceed, but dropped it in 2001, based on a recent legal precedent in New York, deciding that the anti-Waldorf group in question not had a standing in the case.

After an appeal by the group, an appellate court in February 2003 however has filed a decision, reversing the decision on taxpayer standing by the lower court, making the case seemingly head for court after all during 2004.

While the reversed ruling on the groups taxpayer standing is based on the width of the allegation in its litigation in contrast to the case in New York, it does not reverse the earlier ruling by the lower court in 2001 that the public schools involved, using waldorf school programs not have as "a primary purpose and primary effect [...]  to advance religion, including the religious doctrines of Anthroposophy", being the main allegation by the group in the litigation. It makes it to difficult to pinpoint clearly what will be the exact issue in the case. Possibly time will tell. 

For a comment on the issue concerned, see here.

For some of the myths about Waldorf education, see here.

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Copyright 2004-2017: Robert Mays and Sune Nordwall