Calif. Science Center Sued For Nixing Intelligent Design Film

Amir Efrati
The Wall Street Journal Law Blog
December 29, 2009
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We hadn’t planned on watching “Darwin’s Dilemma: The Mystery of the Cambrian Fossil Record,” a documentary that criticizes Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution. But we know we probably won’t see it at well-established science centers and museums anytime soon.

A lawsuit on the West Coast is accusing LA’s California Science Center of canceling the October screening of the documentary, which promotes the theory of intelligent design — that an intelligent being or “designer” is responsible for shaping life on Earth, rather than natural selection — after being pressured by The Smithsonian and other academics.

The suit was filed in October in Los Angeles Superior Court by LA-based American Freedom Alliance, which says it has no official position on intelligent design but says it was concerned that the scientific establishment was stifling debate.

Here’s the story from LAT . We also recommend clicking here for Margaret Talbot’s fascinating piece about  Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, in which a federal judge heard the first case to test whether it was constitutional for public-school classes to present the argument of intelligent design. (After a 2005 bench trial, the judge ruled it wasn’t because the theory was a form of Creationism.)

LAT says this kind of awkward situation has happened before: In 2005, The Smithsonian approved the rental of an auditorium at its National Museum of Natural History for a screening of a different film promoting intelligent design. That led to an outcry from the scientific community. But, having signed a contract, the Smithsonian allowed the screening to go forward, trying to distance itself from the event by returning the $16,000 rental fee and emphasizing that the Smithsonian did not endorse the screening.

In the LA case, the science center said that a news release about the screening by the Discovery Institute, an intelligent design think tank, violated a standard contractual requirement that all promotional materials for outside users’ events must be submitted to the museum before they can be made public.

The AFA calls that argument a “false pretext.” It says that in failing to be honest and open about its reasons for negating the contract, the science center committed a contract fraud that should now expose it to punitive damages. A pretrial hearing is scheduled for Jan. 26.