What if a local government decided to bring in a representative of a nearby Catholic diocese to help coach their city employees on spirituality, teamwork and ethics? Now, imagine if that government entity signed a yearly contract with the diocese for $180,000 per year. The ACLU would sue more quickly than you could say, “Establishment Clause.”
On July 12 the Orange County Register reported that the Orange County Sanitation District has paid $390,000 to a firm called Dharma Consulting over the past few years to help seek its “corporate soul”. The sewer district extended Dharma’s contract in May for another $180,000. Another government agency, the Orange County Fire Authority, gave $6,000 to Dharma for a series of training sessions three years ago.
The Orange County Sanitation District serves 2.3 million people in a 470-square-mile area of central and northwest Orange County. In June, the financially strapped sewer district raised its user fees by $36 a year, boosting yearly charges to taxpayers to $151 with rates set to go up again to $181 next year and $217 in 2007.
Dharma Consulting is headquartered in Leucadia in San Diego County and is run by the husband and wife team of Eric and Deborah Klein. “Dharma” is a Sanskrit word that means “Law” and in the context of Buddhism is translated as “Spiritual Reality” or “Spirituality”.
Klein bills himself as “…one of the few Westerners to be ordained as a yoga priest in a 5,000 year old lineage.” His tome, Awakening Corporate Soul: Four Paths to Unleash the Power of People at Work, is distributed to new fire fighter recruits at the O.C. Fire Authority and is a staple at the sewer district.
Awakening Corporate Soul is said to build “…upon the Zen Buddhist tradition of focused and deliberate physical labor… …the book lays out a systematic plan for the revival of both the corporate and the individual soul via the building of real work-communities.”
Mr. and Mrs. Klein also run something called Wisdom Heart Community, billed as “…an interfaith ministry based in Encinitas, California”. Wisdom Heart Community, Inc. is registered as a California corporation.
Blake Anderson has been the General Manager of the Orange County Sanitation District since 2000. Anderson contracted with Klein’s Dharma Consulting to improve employee performance at the public agency. According to his official biography, Anderson got his start in environmental policy in 1970 as a result of the first Earth Day. Anderson’s comfort with Klein’s alternative spiritual outlook may in part be due to that fact that his wife, the Rev. Giovanna Piazza, is an “ordained” “Ecumenical Catholic priest” (the “Ecumenical Catholic Church” is a dissident offshoot of the Roman Catholic Church). The church’s liberal views and progressive social agenda offer a “spiritual” program that one might say is quite stereotypically Californian.
Klein’s latest book To Do or Not to Do: How Successful Leaders Make Better Decisions was published in early 2005 by Klein-owned publishing house Wisdom Heart Press. Interestingly, the sewer district’s Anderson wrote the forward for book while Klein thanked Anderson in the book’s acknowledgments along with his spiritual mentor, the famed guru and astrology expert Goswami Kriyananda.
Not content to merely hand out books and run seminars for spiritually needy employees, Dharma’s sewer district goals for 2005 include the deepening of “dialogue skills”, implementation of “a values-based teamwork (‘ethics’) program” (one wonders, whose values?) and, assisting in the “selection of new finance director.” One supposes that a CPA who practices yoga would be preferred.
While the Orange County Sanitation District’s actions do not violate the Establishment Clause, does anyone really believe that if the district contracted with a Christian pastor to teach the spirituality and ethics of Jesus that the ACLU wouldn’t have filed suit the next day? The existing politically correct double standard approves spiritual instruction of a non-Judeo-Christian origin while instantly attacking anything deemed traditional, such as President Bush’s Faith-Based Initiatives.
Lest those around the nation feel too smug towards California, Dharma Consulting is an authorized supplier to the General Services Administration under the Management, Organizational and Business Improvement Services (MOBIS) contract, so Dharma may be coming to a federal bureaucracy near you.