Published November 01, 2012
Judge's order bars ex-student from releasing Ramtha videosJEREMY PAWLOSKI
A judge has granted a restraining order prohibiting a former student at Ramtha’s School of Enlightenment from releasing materials belonging to the school, after the recent widespread release of videos in which the school’s leader makes derogatory comments about Catholics, Mexicans and others. Thurston County Superior Court Judge James Dixon ruled Thursday after hearing arguments from Ramtha attorney Jeffrey Grant and Shawn Newman, an attorney for former student Virginia Coverdale. Dixon emphasized that he wasn’t ruling on the merits of a lawsuit filed by school leader JZ Knight’s attorneys arguing that Coverdale breached a contract she signed with the school. He said he was merely preserving the “status quo” until attorneys can present arguments and give evidence. They’ll do so during a hearing to be set in the next 14 days to decide whether a preliminary injunction prohibiting the dissemination of Ramtha materials is warranted. Dixon’s ruling doesn’t cover videos of Knight that already are online. Grant said he might argue later that they should be removed. The lawsuit says Coverdale violated a contract she signed upon enrolling with the school when she posted videos showing Knight channeling Ramtha in 2012. Knight claims to channel Ramtha, a 35,000-year-old warrior. In 1988, she founded a school in the Yelm area to teach others about her beliefs. The school has tens of thousands of followers. The videos were reposted by the Freedom Foundation, a hard-right group that has been critical of Democratic candidates in the run-up to the November elections. The videos have prompted calls from state Republicans that Democratic candidates should give back campaign contributions from Knight. A number of Democrats, including congressional candidate Denny Heck and county Commissioner Sandra Romero, are giving away the contributions. State Democrats have given away about $70,000 received from Knight. During Thursday’s contentious hearing, Newman argued against the restraining order. He said Grant’s lawsuit is a SLAPP, or a strategic lawsuit against public participation. Lawsuits designed to stifle free speech are illegal. Court documents filed by Newman state that Ramtha’s suit “is designed to intimidate whistleblowers who dare to petition government and stand up to hate.” Newman also says the contract Coverdale entered into was “unconscionable” and contrary to public policy. He told Dixon that “the cat’s already out of the bag. You already have politicians stumbling all over themselves to give back the money.” Newman called the videos a “huge embarrassment,” adding in court that “there are those who have benefited from her largesse” who “are realizing who she really is.” Grant argued that the case was a simple matter of Coverdale violating a contract. He added that the restraining order is necessary to protect more materials that belong to the school from being released. Grant added that Coverdale is free to make statements against the school, as long as she does not use its materials. Freedom Foundation spokesman Glen Morgan said outside court that he thinks the videos are protected free speech, and that voters have a right to know about the people who make campaign donations. Morgan said Knight has made nearly $200,000 in campaign donations. “It’s worth knowing who’s funding elections, no matter what, good or bad,” he said. “We’ve put up some (videos) as a public service more than anything else.” Coverdale declined to comment outside court.