California Lawmaker demands answers over museum censorship

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
WorldNetDaily

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.

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15 Responses to California Lawmaker demands answers over museum censorship

  1. DonaldM,
    So is your view that censorship, without exception, is a bad thing and should be avoided at all costs?

    I.E. you have to let your opponents speak their mind, even if you don’t like what they are saying?

    Or is censorship OK sometimes, for example on TV or blogs where the “owner” of the TV show or blog might disagree with what somebody is saying but have no answer for it, but given that it’s their TV show or blog then they have the “right” to censor anyway by virtue of owning the media in question?

    Or is censorship always immoral, every time?

  2. h.pesoj -

    I think you are confusing public and private censorship. Public censorship of ideas should not be allowed, provided they aren’t encouraging someone to actively break a law.

    The science center, as a government facility, did not have to open up its facilities to the public, but, since it did, it is required to not censor the contents of it.

    It would be a completely different story had it been a private facility.

  3. Public censorship of ideas should not be allowed, provided they aren’t encouraging someone to actively break a law.

    What venues do you consider to be publiv venues then?

    The science center, as a government facility, did not have to open up its facilities to the public, but, since it did, it is required to not censor the contents of it.

    While that may well be true don’t you think that judgement should wait until it’s been determined that it is in fact such a censorship issue rather then a contract issue, as they claim?

    It would be a completely different story had it been a private facility.

    So you indicate that censorship is not considered by you to be immoral every time. Thanks.

    Tell me, if you owned a private meeting room would you be happy to exclude some groups of people from using and hiring that meeting room on the basis of a particular charateristic that the group had in common?

  4. I’m not at all confused. The article is about the University of California system.

    It said ” The Ninth Circuit affirmed the trial court’s ruling that the University of California’s policy was constitutional on its face and as applied, writing (PDF), “The plaintiffs have not alleged facts showing any risk that UC’s policy will lead to the suppression of speech. … the plaintiffs fail to allege facts showing that this policy is discriminatory in any way. … The district court correctly determined that UC’s rejections of the Calvary [Baptist School] courses [including a biology class that used Biology: God's Living Creation] were reasonable and did not constitute viewpoint discrimination. …”

    Creastion/ID is not science. It has no place in science class or at a Science Musium, .

    It’s not just me who said that,
    Even a GW Bush appointed, conservative, federal judge, (self proclaimed born again Christian Boy Scout Leader), Ruled in the Dover Pa trail that ID is nothing more than creationism and is not science. He also said the DI people were fundamentally dishonest.
    Judge Jones said…

    “The proper application of both the endorsement and Lemon tests to the facts of this case makes it abundantly clear that the Board’s ID Policy violates the Establishment Clause. In making this determination, we have addressed the seminal question of whether ID is science. We have concluded that it is not, and moreover that ID cannot uncouple itself from its creationist, and thus religious, antecedents. [...]
    The citizens of the Dover area were poorly served by the members of the Board who voted for the ID Policy. It is ironic that several of these individuals, who so staunchly and proudly touted their religious convictions in public, would time and again lie to cover their tracks and disguise the real purpose behind the ID Policy. With that said, we do not question that many of the leading advocates of ID have bona fide and deeply held beliefs which drive their scholarly endeavors. Nor do we controvert that ID should continue to be studied, debated, and discussed. As stated, our conclusion today is that it is unconstitutional to teach ID as an alternative to evolution in a public school science classroom.”

    Sounds very definitive to me

    Jonny B
    Can you tell me what a scientific theory is?

  5. h. pesoj -

    For the record, do you agree or disagree with the censorship of ID in a public venue as is clear to be the case here? You seem to be fond of putting words in people’s mouths so I thought I would instead allow you give us a yes or no answer to that question.

  6. Adam K,

    Creastion/ID is not science. It has no place in science class or at a Science Musium, .

    What is Creastion? And what is a Musium?

  7. Clive ,,,I keep answering your questions fully and you ignore mine and others.

    What is a Scientific Theory?

    And by the way, I think it is ironic that they use the rotary flagellum at the top of the page. That was the center-peace of the Discovery Institutes I argument at the Dover Pa trail where it was completely discredited and ruled so by Judge Jones.
    Clive ,,,I keep answering your questions fully and you ignore mine and others. .

    What is a Scientific Theory?

    And by the way I think it is ironic that they use the rotary flagellum at the top of the page. That was the center pece of the Discovery Institutes I argument at the Dover Pa trail where it was completely discredited and ruled so by Judge Jones.

  8. Adam, I think it’s past your bedtime.

  9. I had a good nights rest , thanks
    so please Barb, can you tell me what a scientific Theory.
    can anybody?

  10. A theory is a set of statements or principles that describe facts or phenomena; a theory differs from a hypothesis in that a theory has been repeatedly tested and/or widely accepted and can be used to make predictions.

  11. Sorry Barb, he wants to know what a Scientific Theory is. None of this plain old “theory” stuff will do.

    You see, scientific theories are different from regular old theories.

  12. Adam

    Creastion/ID is not science. It has no place in science class or at a Science Musium, .

    Answer your own question about what a scientific theory is and tell me how it is you know scientifically that neither creationism nor ID (and they are NOT one and the same all attempts by Darwinists to conflate them notwithstanding) are scientific? What are the necessary attributes that determine what is and is not scientific and how, specifically, do either creationism or ID fail to meet those conditions?

    So far, all you’ve offered up is a legal opinion (and a pretty poor one at that). Surely you don’t mean to suggest that the courts determine what is and is not scientific?

  13. h.pesoj in #1

    So is your view that censorship, without exception, is a bad thing and should be avoided at all costs?

    I don’t see how your question is relevant to the OP. My view of censorship is not at issue here. What IS at issue is the California legislator calling the constitutionality of the censorship into question. Its a pretty good stretch to go from my providing an update on the California situation with virtually no comment to what amounts to a pretty loaded question on your part.

  14. Donald

    Evolution is the scientific theory that best explains how the diversity of life came to be.
    It has innumerable supportive evidence behind it. Most all (99.95% ) scientists are in agreement on the basics.

    Creation/ID have been proven in the science lab, field, Universities and in a court of law to NOT be science.

    So I don’t really care what you think it is, to me it’s a big waste of time.

    When you make the claim the earth is flat,, it is up to you to prove your right,, not that the rest of us are wrong.

    If you think you have better evidence than the Discovery Institute did in the 6 weeks of the Dover Pa trail, please present it here and now.

  15. i should have said the it’s not up to us to prove your worng, you need to prove to us your right.

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