California Senate Minority Leader Launches Probe into California Science Center’s Alleged Violations of First Amendment Rights

Sacramento — Senate Minority Leader Dennis Hollingsworth has sent a letter to the California Science Center (CSC) requesting documents related to the Center’s cancellation of a screening last October of the pro-intelligent design documentary “Darwin’s Dilemma.” The screening was sponsored by the American Freedom Alliance (AFA), a private group that had rented the Center’s IMAX theater.

Senator Hollingsworth’s letter follows two lawsuits filed against the state government-operated Science Center charging that it violated both the First Amendment and California’s open records law in its effort to stop the screening and then cover up the real story behind the cancellation.

“The constitutional implications of [the Science Center’s] actions are concerning” wrote Senator Hollingsworth in the letter, citing various court decisions protecting private parties against viewpoint discrimination. “It is fundamental that when a governmental 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.”

“The California Science Center’s assault on free speech should alarm everyone,” said Casey Luskin, Program Officer in Public Policy and Legal Affairs 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?”

“Senator Hollingsworth is to be commended for launching this inquiry,” added Dr. John West, Vice President for Public Policy and Legal affairs 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 Dr. 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 which discuss the event and the topic of intelligent design versus Darwinism.