Skip to comments.Discrimination Against Intelligent Design Film Cited in California Science Center Lawsuit
Posted on 11/25/2009 10:15:23 AM PST by GodGunsGuts
More details are now coming out from the lawsuit filed against the California Science Center by the American Freedom Alliance (AFA), filed in the Superior Court for the State of California for the County of Los Angeles (Central District). AFA's lawsuit contends that the California Science Center engaged in viewpoint discrimination when cancelling AFA's contract to screen the pro-intelligent design (ID) documentary Darwins Dilemma at the Centers IMAX Theatre on October 25th. As discussed below, AFA's complaint contains e-mails from California Science Center staff revealing that the Center cared more about how it would be perceived by ID-critics in the scientific community for renting its facilities to screen a pro-ID video than it did about AFAs constitutional rights.
The abrupt cancellation of AFAs event was first reported by the Los Angeles Daily News, and has previously been covered by Discovery Institute here, here, here, and here.
The complaint corrects a common misstatement about this case, accurately noting, Discovery Institute was not a party to the contract between the Plaintiff [California Science Center] and Defendants [American Freedom Alliance] for the screening of Darwins Dilemma.
E-mails Show Viewpoint Discrimination
Most importantly, as noted the complaint contains e-mail documentation exposing the actual reason that the California Science Center cancelled AFAs contract to screen Darwins Dilemma. As the complaint shows, the California Science Centers e-mail officially cancelling AFAs contract unashamedly reveals that the Center was most concerned about its reputation in the scientific community and its relationship to other scientific groups after having rented its facilities to a pro-ID group, throwing AFAs constitutional rights under the bus. The complaint states:
On October 6, 2009, Christina M. Sion, Vice President of Food & Event Services at CENTER, (hereinafter SION) wrote an e-mail to DAVIS [President of the AFA] stating that we are cancelling your event at the California Science Center. SIONs e-mail stated:Before going further we must clear away some errors in Sions e-mail. First, the October 5th press release referenced by Sion wasnt issued by the AFA, it was issued by Discovery Institute, and AFA had no control over that press release. Second, Discovery Institutes October 5th press release didnt claim that the California Science Center was co-sponsoring the Darwin Debates but quite plainly stated, The screening is sponsored and hosted by the American Freedom Alliance. Third, Discovery Institutes press release was hardly inaccurate to observe that the California Science Center is affiliated with the Smithsonian. The California Science Center has a conspicuous page on its website, Smithsonian Affiliate Designation, touting at great length the Centers status as a Smithsonian Affiliate that enjoys the benefits of becoming a Smithsonian Affiliate, even boasting that, for certain exhibits, the Center is now authorized to use the tag line in association with the Smithsonian Institution.It has come to our attention that in a press release issued October 5, 2009 by the American Freedom Alliance, it is inferred that the California Science Center as [sic] a Smithsonian Institute affiliate is co-sponsoring the Darwin Debates. Your event is a private event held on the California Science Center property but is not affiliated in any way with the California Science Center or the Smithsonian. This press release has damaged our relationship with the Smithsonian and the reputation of the California Science Center. According to the Event Policies and Procedures that you signed to reserve the date for the event, you agreed to submit all promotional materials to the California Science Center for review and approval prior to printing or broadcast. Because you did not obtain this approval and the press release has had significant negative ramifications, we are canceling your event at the California Science Center. (emphases added)
Thus, the October 5th Discovery Institute press release which Sion complains about not only wasnt issued (or controlled) by the AFA, but it also wasnt inaccurate. Thus, AFAs lawsuit correctly notes that The contract states nothing concerning promotions of the event by third parties nor requiring the monitoring, oversight, management, or control of third-party promotions.
That being the case, what was the real reason the California Science Center cancelled AFAs contract?
Sions e-mail unwittingly also exposes the real reason AFAs contract was apparently cancelled: The California Science Center was worried that publicity about its rental of facilities to screen a pro-ID video had damaged our relationship with the Smithsonian and the reputation of the California Science Center. And consider Sion's closing statement: Because you did not obtain this approval and the press release has had significant negative ramifications, we are canceling your event at the California Science Center.
Just what are those negative ramifications? And do they offer just cause to breach a contract? Weve already established that the AFA didnt need approval for a third party publicity statement it didnt control. All thats left is the California Science Centers concern that public knowledge that a pro-ID event was going forward was perceived to have significant negative ramifications.
Is that a valid reason to cancel a contract? The California Science Center is a department of the State of California that rents its facilities for use by private groups. As a government facility, the First Amendment prohibits it from refusing to rent to private groups based upon a distaste for the viewpoint of the speech expressed by the group. Thats called viewpoint discrimination. Yet the California Science Center seems more concerned about purported "damage" to its "reputation" and perceived "negative ramifications" stemming from AFA's pro-ID viewpoint than it does with AFA's constitutional rights to express that viewpoint at a government-owned forum. AFA appears to have a strong case that the Center engaged in viewpoint discrimination.
(It goes without saying that the California Science Center has long-hosted exhibits promoting evolution. I personally remember visiting the Center in the elementary school when it was known as the California Museum of Science and Industry. My public elementary school took a trip to the museum and we were taught about the evolution of dinosaurs.)
AFAs complaint further elaborates on the negative ramifications felt by the California Science Center. It turns out that various Los Angeles area academics had expressed strong opposition to the California Science Center renting its facilities for a pro-ID event. As Hilary Schor, USC professor of English, Comparative Literature, Gender Studies and Law stated in an e-mail that was forwarded to a curator at the California Science Center, Im less troubled by the freedom of speech issues than why my tax dollars which support the California Science Center are being spent on hosting religious propaganda.
AFAs lawsuit complaint aptly observes that [t]his sentiment, written by a law professor, sadly demonstrates a purposeful indifference to constitutional protections enshrined and safeguarded in the Bill of Rights.
The complaint also shows that a curator at another Los Angeles area museum expressed angst that the California Science Center was renting its facilities for a pro-ID event.
There is also evidence that the Smithsonian Institution itself intervened in the situation and may have pressured AFA to cancel the event. After detailing the Smithsonians long history of opposing academic freedom for intelligent design, the complaint quotes a Los Angeles Daily News article where Smithsonian spokesman Randall Kremer acknowledges that he spoke with the California Science Center after becoming concerned by the inference there was a showing of the [Darwins Dilemma] film at a Smithsonian branch. Kremers statements directly suggest that the Smithsonian opposed any inference that it was connecting to the showing of Darwins Dilemma.
AFA's lawsuit complaint sheds more light on what occurred. The day before Chris Sion cancelled AFAs event, Smithsonian Affiliates Director Harold Closter wrote to a California Science Center staff member that expressing concern that a press release (the one issued by Discovery Institute) made it appear as if the Smithsonian was linked to AFAs event. He wrote, We are concerned that [the EVENT] not be represented as a Smithsonian event or program or anything with which we have any involvement.
Feeling pressured by the Smithsonian, it seems that the California Science Center decided that the easiest way to solve the problem was simply to breach contract and cancel AFAs event.
Based upon this and other evidence, the lawsuit argues that the California Science Centers complaint about press releases was contrived as a pretext by Defendants for cancelling the event when the real reason for cancelling it derived from hostility to the viewpoints expressed in Darwins Dilemma By asserting a breach of contract argument, Defendants sought to shroud themselves within a cloak of plausible deniability for violating Plaintiffs constitutional rights.
And all AFA wanted to do was rent a facility to show a pro-ID video. Imagine that.
Yes, but......I also agree that public funds and resources should remain completely secular. I don't want my taxes supporting anybodies religion, not even my own. Don't you agree the government would do worse job with religion than it would do with health-care?
In addition to the indisputable militant atheism, a part of the problem is the Young Earth creationism (and associated ‘creation science’ charlatanry), which gives all other branches of creationism a bad name.
No one is suggesting even remotely that renting an Imax theater to someone implies support of the group so the question of government involvement with religion was never an issue. It was the purported association of the Smithsonian and a certain viewpoint in someones mind and the honoring of a valid contract that was the issue at hand.
I have as much legal right to use the public, paid for by taxes, street for a religious or other opinion parade as the most irreligious, secular group in the world even if the city doesn't like my viewpoint and they are bound to honor a contract with me even if a museum doesn't like it.
The Center and it's actions were wrong.
The courts will decide that. Until then it isn't news.
Had the local Catholic Church been told they couldn't rent a theater available to all others, you would be crying discrimination and intolerance and the sanctity of contracts, wouldn't you?
And all those hated creationists would argue they had as much right as anyone.
And I you.
Another repost of stuff you posted before. It was several weeks ago. This is a frivolous lawsuit because the religious group violated the contract.
Had the local Catholic Church been told they couldn’t rent a theater available to all others, you would be crying discrimination and intolerance and the sanctity of contracts, wouldn’t you?
As a Christian, are you alarmed by the attempt to convert public resources to the perpetuation of things clearly anti-theological?
You clearly know as little about law as you do science and theology.
I don’t claim to be an expert at all three, as you appear to be doing. I asked a question, which you are dodging.
Allow me to ask it a different way, as to leave religion out of it.
“As an American, are you alarmed by the attempt to convert public resources to the perpetuation of things clearly anti-American?”
It’s not just your question as you can see from #25 and 28.
And you are completely sure that this is not already the case?
I also noticed that we are not getting any direct answers, yet.
I will be patient. Perhaps Mr. Law will respond.
BTW, I do believe that any theatre has the right to refuse to screen any selection of movie.
However, backing down after entering a contract to do so, I believe is a violation of law.
Moving his ox so it won’t get gored.
I would agree. However, they still violated a contract, did they not? Why did they agree to show it in the first place?
So, if your neighbor rapes and murders a little girl, until he gets convicted, it isn't news?