In an oral ruling, a Thurston County judge issued a permanent restraining order that bars a former student at Ramtha’s School of Enlightenment from releasing to the public any materials belonging to the school because it would breach a written contract she signed upon her enrollment there.
Attorneys for Ramtha’s School of Enlightenment, or RSE, had sought the restraining order after last year’s widespread release of videos on the Internet depicting RSE’s leader, J.Z. Knight, making derogatory comments about Catholics, Mexicans and others. A preliminary restraining order barred further release of the videos, and ordered that existing ones be removed from the Internet.
The temporary restraining order was made permanent after Thurston County Superior Court Judge Gary Tabor’s oral ruling on June 28. Tabor said in his ruling that the contract former RSE student Virginia Coverdale signed upon entering does bar her from releasing proprietary materials that were given to her by RSE.
“As to there not being a breach of the contract, I find that the provisions of the contract are specifically, well they’re there for everybody to look at and they are sufficient to protect this type of disclosure from occurring,” Tabor said.
The original request for the permanent restraining order was made as part of a lawsuit by JZK Inc., Knight’s company, against Coverdale.
JZK Inc.’s lawsuit had stated that Coverdale breached a contract she signed with the school when she posted videos of Knight “channeling” Ramtha, a 35,000-year-old warrior, in 2012. In 1998, Knight founded a school in the Yelm area to teach others about her beliefs. The school has had tens of thousands of followers.
Coverdale said in an email to The Olympian on Friday that Tabor’s ruling came as a shock, and she believes it will be overturned on appeal.
“First and foremost it is indisputable that I did not breach the contract by the plain language,” Coverdale said in the email.
Members of Knight’s legal team could not be reached for comment Friday. A cursory search on the Internet for the videos depicting Knight making derogatory comments turned up empty.
A representative from the Freedom Foundation, a libertarian-leaning organization that re-posted many of the videos depicting Knight, said Friday that by and large, the videos have been removed from YouTube at the request of Knight’s lawyers. When the Freedom Foundation re-posted the videos in the run up to the November elections last year, a number of state Republicans called for Democratic candidates to give back the campaign contributions they received from Knight.
“She’s been trying to take them down everywhere,” Glen Morgan, property rights director for the Freedom Foundation, said Friday. “I don’t blame her. If anybody was saying stuff like that, they wouldn’t want it out in the public.”
Morgan added that his organization could legally re-post the videos if it wanted to; the organization is not bound by the contract entered into by former RSE students. He added that the videos of Knight that the Freedom Foundation did originally re-post are just “the tip of the iceberg.”
In Tabor’s oral ruling, he stated that the political controversy over the videos played no role in his decision.
“It is not an issue for this court to decide whether or not the contents of the video were outrageous, whether or not comments made in that video were inappropriate, whether or not the politics involved was something that should be argued in a public forum,” Tabor said. “ The issue before this court is whether or not there was a contract that was breached and any proposed defenses fail on a legal basis, and that’s been my determination today.”
Knight’s attorneys will ask that Coverdale pay their attorney’s fees in the case.
A written order has yet to be filed in the case, Tabor’s assistant said Friday.Jeremy Pawloski: 360-754-5445 firstname.lastname@example.org