California Lawmaker demands answers over museum censorship
|January 15, 2010||Posted by DonaldM under Education, Evolution, Biology, Intelligent Design, Darwinism, Science, Legal, Courts, Laws, Constitution, Culture, Media, Ethics, Free Speech, Cambrian explosion, Intellectual freedom, Evolutionary biology|
Apparently round two of the controversy over the California’s Science Center’s cancellation of Darwin’s Dilemma is getting ready to take place. This was reported and discussed here back in October, as well as here and here in December.
Now, a California State Senator is calling the constitutionality of the censorship into question.
Lawmaker demands answers over museum censorship
‘Constitutional implications of Science Center’s actions are concerning’
Posted: January 14, 2010
12:30 am Eastern
By Bob Unruh
Scene from “Darwin’s Dilemma”
A senior California lawmaker is taking an interest in a dispute that already has prompted two lawsuits after the public California Science Center reportedly canceled a scheduled film event because one of the presentations would have challenged Darwin’s theory of evolution.
“The constitutional implications of [the Science Center’s] actions are concerning,” Sen. Dennis Hollingsworth, the Senate’s minority leader, wrote in a letter. “It is fundamental that when a government entity or sub-unit (such as CSC) opens its facilities as a public forum, it is not constitutionally permissible to censor speech based on viewpoint or content.”
WND reported earlier on the lawsuits. One case is from the Discovery Institute, which is accusing the center of unlawfully refusing to disclose public documents sought under the California Public Records Act.
Discovery officials filed the request for the documentation about the center’s decision-making process when it rejected the video “Darwin’s Dilemma” Oct. 9. The center canceled a contract with the American Freedom Alliance to show the film Oct. 26.
(Story continues below)
The action was separate from an earlier case over the intelligent-design film shut down by the museum. That case was filed by the AFA itself for the contract cancelation.
The AFA complaint alleges free-speech-rights violations occurred when the science facility abruptly reversed a decision to allow the showing of the films at the museum’s IMAX Theater.
CSC officials did not respond to a WND e-mail request for comment.
Alliance officials said they believe their lawsuit is the first since 2005 to focus specifically on the public’s right to learn about intelligent design.
“AFA’s lawsuit alleges that the museum violated its First Amendment rights by caving in to demands within the scientific and academic communities to deny Intelligent Design a public forum for discussion,” the organization’s announcement said.
“The center is a public institution and our event was planned as a debate with both sides of the controversy represented,” said Avi Davis, AFA’s president. “It is Orwellian when a public institution tries to suppress particular ideas it deems unsavory. It can be likened to a public library removing certain books from its shelves because the librarian disagrees with the viewpoints expressed in them.”
The museum was chosen for the presentation because one of the two films scheduled to be shown required a 3D IMAX projection system, Davis said.
The pro-evolution film, “We Are Born of Stars,” was meant to provide balance to a discussion about life’s origin. The other film, “Darwin’s Dilemma: The Mystery of the Cambrian Fossil Record,” argues against evolution by questioning the absence of any fossil record predating the Cambrian period.
Hollingsworth’s letter seeks a long list of documents relating to the dispute.
“The California Science Center’s assault on free speech should alarm everyone,” said Casey Luskin, program officer in public policy for the Discovery Institute. “If the government can ban a private group from renting a public auditorium to show a film favoring intelligent design, it can ban private groups from showing films in support of Darwin’s theory. Where does it stop?”
“Sen. Hollingsworth is to be commended for launching this inquiry,” said John West, vice president for public policy at the institute. “Free speech is the foundation of a free society. Government agencies have no right to discriminate against citizens because of their legally-protected viewpoints.”
Hollingsworth’s letter is directed to Joel Strom, chair of the California Science Center board of directors, requesting that he instruct the museum’s management to provide copies of documents pertaining to the cancellation of the event, including e-mail communications from Science Center staff, employees and board members that discuss the event and the topic of intelligent design versus Darwinism.
The situation makes it appear “that CSC engaged in viewpoint and content based censorship of a scheduled scientific exhibition,” the letter from Hollingsworth said. “This is especially disturbing in light of CSC’s Mission Statement. … ‘We aspire to stimulate curiosity and inspire science learning in everyone by creating fun, memorable experiences. …'”
His letter requests copies of “all documents” that address the dispute, including papers or e-mails that reference intelligent design, the Discovery Institute and the American Freedom Alliance.