In 2009, the California Science Center contracted with the American Freedom Alliance, a group which bills itself as “a non-political, non partisan, movement of concerned Americans which identifies threats to western civilization”, to show a film called Darwin’s Dilemma: The Mystery of the Cambrian Fossil Record in it’s IMAX Theater. The Science Center cancelled the scheduled showing, citing breach of contract, and the American Freedom Alliance sued.
This week the suit was settled. Under the terms of the settlement, neither side admitted wrong-doing and the Science Center paid the AFA $110,000 and offered to screen the film. The AFA took the money but declined the offer of the screening. According to an article in the Washington Post, the Center said it agreed to settle the lawsuit only to avoid the cost of further litigation.
That’s the bare bones of the story. Here’s the meat:
According to it’s 2009 press release, the AFA filed the lawsuit alleging that CSC officials conspired to drop the event because they did not want the museum to be viewed as legitimizing intelligent design as a scientific theory. “It alleges that the CEO/President, Jeffrey Randolph, was pressured to cancel the event by colleagues at the Smithsonian Institution, the University of Southern California, the Huntington Library and elsewhere. The complaint further alleges that because the CSC is a state agency, it violated AFA’s First Amendment right of free speech by attempting to suppress legitimate discussion of the controversial topic.“
That’s right, the film promoted Intelligent Design as science, a viewpoint that the majority of scientists overwhelmingly reject and which one, Paleontologist Steven Newton of the National Center for Science Education, told the Post was about as accurate as a film about the Civil War concluding that the South won.
“It’s a distortion of what real scientists think about the Cambrian Period,” he said. “The way the film does this is by showing snippets of real paleontologists next to people who have never published a paper on paleontology talking about creationism.”
Reason enough for an institution devoted to real science cancelling the showing, correct?
Except the California Science Center says that’s not why they did it:
The dispute arose out of unapproved press releases that had been issued relating to a private event that the AFA had intended to hold at the California Science Center’s IMAX Theater. The press releases, for which AFA was responsible, falsely implied that the Foundation or the Science Center were sponsors of the AFA’s event. They were not, and as a result of these false and misleading press releases, the Foundation cancelled the AFA’s event.
The AFA then sued the Foundation and the Science Center for breach of contract and violation of the First Amendment, claiming that the Foundation’s cancellation was based upon the purported content of the AFA’s program. This was not the case, and the evidence demonstrated that the Foundation was right. Indeed, the fact that the Foundation booked the AFA’s event in the first place affirmatively demonstrated the lack of merit to AFA’s argument.
Through discovery, the Foundation also discovered other evidence that undermined AFA’s claims. For instance, although the AFA asserted that the offending press releases were issued by an entirely independent third party (the Discovery Institute), it was uncovered that the AFA and the Discovery Institute actually had been secretly coordinating the publicity efforts and were intentionally trying to make the publicity that led to the cancellation as provocative and controversial as possible. One email among Discovery Institute individuals talked about “letting the jinnie out of the bottle” when “all hell will break lose.” The Foundation was certainly entitled to cancel the AFA’s private event.
The Center, in fact counter-sued the AFA for breach of contract (both CSC and AFA dropped their suits as part of the settlement).
From the Post:
“The cancellation was never about the content of the program, as indicated by the fact that the foundation was willing to have the event in the first place. It was about the false and misleading press releases that the Discovery Institute and AFA issued,” the science center said in a statement Monday.
Predictably, though no wrong-doing was admitted and and no apology issued, the other side ( ) is claiming victory:
“This is an historic victory for the ID movement,” said Casey Luskin, an attorney and policy analyst with Discovery Institute’s Center for Science & Culture. “The First Amendment forbids government preference for one viewpoint over another, yet evidence disclosed in this case shows the CSC, Smithsonian Institution, and LA County Museum of Natural History attempted to stifle dissent from Darwinism. The result was illegal state-sponsored suppression of protected speech.”
And that there was an apology (WP):
“Even though the AFA has no interest in returning to the IMAX theater, they at least feel by being invited back they have been vindicated. The invitation represents a form of apology,” said attorney William J. Becker Jr., who represented the alliance.
You can find more information about the American Freedom Alliance and the other issues that concern it (the threat of a global world government, the conspiracy to claim climate-change is real, etc.) here. You can learn more about the Discover Institute here.
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