|PLANS Inc has repeatedly used allegations of witchcraft
and satanism in Waldorf schools to further their cause. Although PLANS
knew from the start that such accusations were false, Debra Snell, president
of PLANS, said she was "happy" to see these allegations in the news. PLANS
then proceeded to use these false claims to apply for funding to support
their lawsuit against two California school districts for operating public
Waldorf-methods schools, one a charter school and one a magnet school.
To complete the circle, Dan
Dugan, secretary of PLANS, then admitted under oath (during his deposition
for the lawsuit) that he does not believe the students are learning witchcraft,
nor does he believe that Waldorf education is the "work of satan." At least
two Internet search engines have discarded PLANS as a source of information
about Waldorf education, because of the prevalence of inaccurate material on the PLANS web site.
ACCUSATIONS OF WITCHCRAFT AT WALDORF
On May 16, 1997, the Sacramento
Bee reported that a group of twenty "angry parents" and "concerned
citizens", had picketed the Oak Ridge Elementary School. The picketing
took place after a number of them had read leaflets distributed by PLANS
outside the school, protesting that Waldorf methods had been implemented
at the school in September 1996.
According to the Sacramento
"Several pickets said they were 'in the
dark' as to what was happening at Oak Ridge until PLANS - People for Legal
and Nonsectarian Schools - began distributing leaflets outside the school."
Six days later, in an interview published on May 22
in the California Aggie (Davis), Dan Dugan, secretary of PLANS,
commented on the independent Waldorf school in Davis:
"Marjie Espinoza said she walked the picket line
to stand up for five nieces and nephews who attend the school. They and
their classmates are being taught satanic beliefs and witchcraft, she said.
'One of the teachers who is against Waldorf showed me some lessons plans,'
Espinoza said. 'To me, they were like satanic, witchcraft.' "
"They believe that there are spirits behind
everything. I know there are people who would call that evil. (They) would
consider anthroposophy a satanic religion."
In a discussion on PLANS' anti-Waldorf mailing list,
Dan Dugan was asked if PLANS had contacted the Sacramento Bee to
correct the allegations of teaching witchcraft at the Oak Ridge school.
On May 26, 1997, PLANS president Debra Snell responded that while allegations
of witchcraft were not part of PLANS' agenda, she had done nothing to correct
them, and she was "happy" that they were made in the media.
"We did not phone the Sacramento Bee
to dispute Sac. City Unified School Officials statement that PLANS claims
is based on rumor either..."
On June 10, 1997, the Sacramento Bee commented
on PLANS' anti-Waldorf campaign in an editorial titled "The
Attack on Oak Ridge":
"Anyone who knows PLANS' claims, knows that witchcraft
has not been our handle."
[But] "We're frankly happy to see the issue in
the news, and it has certainly been there lately."
" ... in recent weeks, at the urging of
a Bay Area-based group called People for Legal and Nonsectarian Schools
(PLANS) and a few disgruntled teachers, a protest movement has brewed among
a number of parents, marked by picketing and a boycott that kept a third
of the student body out of school for parts of last week. PLANS suggests
that Waldorf methods involve the teaching of witchcraft ...
… with a parent population that includes many recent
Hmong and Mien immigrants who don't speak English well, PLANS has found
fertile ground in which to plant the seed of paranoia. ... What's important
now is to counter the misinformation campaign ..."
USING THE FALSE ACCUSATIONS OF WITCHCRAFT TO
FINANCE LITIGATION AGAINST TWO PUBLIC SCHOOL DISTRICTS...
allegations had appeared in the media, PLANS proceeded to use the same
allegations to apply
for and receive $15,000 from a right wing Christian organization, Alliance
Defense League. This grant has been used to partially finance the litigation
against the two local school districts for "promoting religion".
Formally, the application for the funding was made
on PLANS' behalf by a right wing law firm, PJI (Pacific Justice Institute),
which usually fights -- somewhat ironically -- to abolish the constitutional
separation between church and state and supports the distribution of Christian
literature in public buildings.
When criticized by a supporter for the way PLANS
was trying to get support from Christian fundamentalists by using the alleged
connection between anthroposophy (the philosophical basis of Waldorf education),
wicca and satanism, Dan Dugan offered this defense on his mailing list
on June 9, 1997:
"What I say 'in defense of the Waldorfians'
is that 'they don't eat babies.' "
Thus financed using the media reports of witchcraft
at the school, PLANS in February 1998 then filed litigation
against two public school districts in California, to make them stop their
operation of Waldorf-methods charter schools.
"Am I pandering to the prejudices of Christians?
Personally, yes I am!"
... THEN DENYING THE HOAX DURING DEPOSITIONS
FOR THE LITIGATION
Question to Mr. Dugan:
"Is it your belief that students at John
Morse (public school) are learning witchcraft?"
Question to Mr. Dugan:
"Is it your belief that students at Yuba
River (public school) are learning witchcraft?"
Question to Mr. Dugan:
"It’s not your belief that Waldorf (Education)
is the work of Satan?"
"I do not believe that Waldorf is the
work of Satan."
(Source: Sworn deposition by Mr. Dugan in the case
of "PLANS vs Sacramento Unified School District and Twin Ridges School
District" lawsuit, Volume II, April 1, 1999, pp. 160 and 163.)
We were unable to determine if the Alliance
Defense League has been informed about Mr. Dugan's testimony and has
asked for a repayment of their funding of the litigation. The grant request
for funding used these allegations as part of its basis for the litigation,
so a request for repayment would not be unreasonable.
The secretary of PLANS admitted during depositions
that he did not think that "Waldorf is the work of Satan", but the president
of PLANS, Debra Snell, has continued to promote these false claims.
In 2000, in a discussion on the anti-Waldorf mailing
list, Waldorf Critics, she defended an allegation similar to the one spread
in 1997 (in spite of her earlier statement that "witchcraft has not been
our handle"), this time that witchcraft is practiced at Waldorf schools
by Waldorf teachers performing voodoo on the wool dolls made by the children.
Debra Snell's defense, when this obvious nonsense
was criticized, was to describe the questioner as a member of "the cover-up
committee", and to imply that practicing voodoo was part of anthroposophy
(see also here).
PLANS, according to Dan Dugan, had 44 members at
the end of 2000. This is odd, because the bylaws of PLANS Inc. state that
PLANS shall have no members. The persons referred to mostly seem to be
people who had given PLANS at least $15 during the year. More of PLANS'
myths about Waldorf education can be found here.
INTERNET JUDGMENT OF "PLANS
In 2001, a meta editor at the large
search portal DMOZ, Open Directory Project, decided, after reviewing
the PLANS web site, to remove it from the "Waldorf theory" category at
DMOZ. PLANS simply did not qualify as an informational site on Waldorf
education as judged by the standards of DMOZ.
Similar judgments of the site have apparently been
made by two of the major search engines on the net; Google and Altavista.
Both of them have dropped PLANS as an "informational" source on Waldorf
education and anthroposophy.
In 2002, Google removed the PLANS site from
the "Waldorf organizations" category in its web directory, and
AdWords canceled an ad from the group.
In 2003, Altavista, after a similar review
of the PLANS site, decided to take the drastic step of removing all direct
links from its web index. It also notified Overture.com that it
did not want to publish the sponsored ads it provided for PLANS.
Overture, notified that Altavista was unwilling
to publish these ads, stopped publishing them but then started again when
PLANS signed up once more for them. At this point the legal office of Altavista
simply refused all ads from Overture for searches on "waldorf", "waldorf
education", and "Rudolf Steiner", regardless of their origin, to get rid
of the ads for PLANS.
The PLANS site has started to turn up at Altavista
again due to the automatic indexing process, but Altavista is not accepting
ads from Overture for the searches mentioned above.
As of February 2005, Overture has quit publishing
ads for the group.