Discovery Institute Finds “Viewpoint Discrimination”

YOU probably remember what we’ve been calling the “Darwin’s Dilemma Exhibition Case.” The next few indented paragraphs provide background information, which most of you can skip:

A lawsuit filed by the American Freedom Alliance (AFA) charges that the California Science Center (CSC) violated both the First Amendment and a contract to rent its theater when it canceled a screening of Darwin’s Dilemma. The AFA is an outfit promoting the controversy about evolution — in the interest of what they call “academic freedom.” The film they wanted to show is being heavily hyped by the Discoveroids. The theater owner getting sued is the California Science Center, which canceled a contract for showing the film, alleging that a Discoveroid press release violated a contract clause requiring their prior approval of all promotional materials.

The AFA alleges that the contract violation was a “false pretext” for cancellation of the screening contract. It’s really discrimination and a violation of the First Amendment, thus a violation of the AFA’s constitutional rights. The National Center for Science Education has all the court pleadings available online. See: American Freedom Alliance v. California Science Center et al.

Our last post about this was Discovery Institute Wins Minor Victory. That discussed the settlement of a separate piece of litigation — the California version of a Freedom of Information Act case, which resulted in the CSC’s turning documents over to the Discovery Institute. The documents requested were about CSC’s canceling the film’s screening.

Was there a smoking gun in those documents? They’ve been studied by the neo-theocrats at the Discovery Institute‘s infamous Center for Science and Culture (a/k/a the Discoveroids, a/k/a the cdesign proponentsists — described here: Missing link: “cdesign proponentsists”). The shocking truth now appears at the Discoveroid blog.

We present some excerpts from Documents Reveal Intolerance Towards Intelligent Design at the California Science Center. It’s by Casey Luskin, everyone’s favorite creationist. Casey says, with bold font added by us:

Per the terms of the settlement [described above], CSC was to deliver to Discovery Institute many of the documents which we originally requested. Those documents have now been delivered, and combined with other previously known documents, they reveal striking evidence of CSC’s viewpoint discrimination against intelligent design (ID) in AFA’s case.

“Striking evidence” of “viewpoint discrimination” has been found! This is big news indeed. Let’s read on:

For starters, multiple individuals within CSC expressed animus towards ID:

[Casey quotes something that allegedly says:] I personally have a real problem with anything that elevates the concept of intelligent design to a level that makes it appear as though it should be considered equally alongside Darwinian theory as a possible alternative to natural selection. In other words, I see us getting royally played by the Center for Science and Culture resulting in long term damage to our credibility and judgment for a very long time.

[Back to Casey:] That’s Ken Phillips, a curator at the California Science Center, claiming that allowing a showing of Darwin’s Dilemma is somehow getting “royally played,” because ID (for one evening at the CSC IMAX) could then be considered as a possible alternative to Darwinism.

We like Ken Phillips — he has a solid understanding of the situation. But learning about Phillips’ attitude seems to have shocked Casey to the core. This is his reaction:

Phillips’ words are significant: He has a problem with “anything” that makes ID appear to be considered equal with Darwinism. Of course he has the right to disagree with ID, but he doesn’t even want anyone or “anything” to have the opportunity to hold or express a different view.

That’s stretching things a bit, but we’ve come to expect such tactics. Casey goes on to say:

While it’s perfectly fine for CSC administrators to hold and express views that oppose ID, their animus extended further in that they wished to limit freedom of speech and equal access to government facilities for those who support ID.

Hey Casey, they’re a state-financed science museum. They can’t be in the religion business. [* Curmudgeon sighs *] Let’s continue with Casey’s amazing revelations:

Thus, another high level CSC staff members made the following statements:

[Casey’s alleged quote:] “A science center should not even be asked to partner w/ any group associated w/ debating Darwinism – it’s not our place”

“their topic of Darwinism and the nature of their controversial approach is likely not a good fit to partner w/ a Science Center.”

[Back to Casey:] Another CSC staff member asked, “Why on earth were we going to show this film in the first place?!”

Can you imagine, dear reader, the effect this is having on Casey? It must be like finding a hidden batch of letters written by one’s mother saying things like: “I can no longer deny it — my son is a creationist idiot!” Here’s more:

Phillips wasn’t the only intolerant member of the LA science elite, nor was CSC the only intolerant institution. At other institutions, such as the University of Southern California and the LA Museum of Natural History, academics reacted with horror at the ghastly prospect of an hour long movie on intelligent design being screened at CSC’s public theatre.

There are other disclosures in Casey’s blog article, similar to those excerpted above, and Casey promises to disclose still more shocking “evidence” in subsequent posts. What’s Casey’s opinion of all this? Here it comes:

Let’s think about this for a minute. Are Darwin’s defenders so paranoid that they are afraid of a single night’s movie showing? The evidence would indicate that the answer is “yes.” The evidence also shows that the showing was cancelled precisely because of that paranoia. This presents troubling implications for CSC because such viewpoint discrimination has repeatedly been held illegal and unconstitutional.

If the day ever comes that the courts hold sanity to be unconstitutional, that will officially signal the end of the Enlightenment in America.

Update: See “Darwin’s Dilemma” Case: 03 Sep ’10 Update.

Copyright © 2010. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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13 responses to “Discovery Institute Finds “Viewpoint Discrimination”

  1. Ah must rest! Ah do believe ah have a case of the vapours!

  2. I had to look it up:

    Viewpoint discrimination — A regulation is considered to discriminate on the basis of viewpoint when it attacks a particular individual’s or group’s message, as opposed to the mode in which that message is conveyed. Such laws are facially unconstitutional and are considered an especially egregious form of content discrimination. For example, a law prohibiting cross-burning in general have been found to be unconstitutional, whereas a law banning cross-burning with the intent to intimidate have been found not to be unconstitutional.

    So Casey can burn a cross if he wants, but he can’t do it on my lawn; nor I think, in a state-owned facility.

  3. Gabriel Hanna

    If a state-owned facility allows the public to show movies there, then it can’t discriminate on viewpoint, all they can do is say nobody can show movies there.

    This is why we can’t have nice things.

  4. Gabriel Hanna

    When the government establishes a “limited public forum,” it is not required to permit any and all speech within that forum. It may “reserve its forum for certain groups or for the discussion of certain topics”. However, the government may not discriminate against speech on the basis of its viewpoint, and any restriction it imposes must be reasonable in light of the purpose served by the forum.

    The Court saw no distinction between the viewpoint discrimination in this case and the viewpoint discrimination in two of its earlier cases: Lamb’s Chapel v. Center Moriches Union Free School District, 508 U.S. 384 (1993), and Rosenberger v. University of Virginia, 515 U.S. 819 (1995). In Lamb’s Chapel, the Court held that a school district violated the First Amendment’s Free Speech Clause when it excluded a private group from presenting films at the school solely on the basis of the religious perspective of the films on family values. And in Rosenberger, the Court held that a university’s refusal to fund a student publication because of that publication’s religious perspective violated the Free Speech Clause. Milford’s exclusion is indistinguishable from the exclusions at issue in Lamb’s Chapel and Rosenberger, and so the Court did not need to decide “whether it is unreasonable in light of the purposes served by the forum.”

    “Milford has opened its limited public forum to activities that serve a variety of purposes, including events pertaining to the welfare of the community.” Milford had asserted before the Second Circuit that it would have allowed a public group to use Aesop’s fables to impart moral values to children. Milford also allowed the Boy Scouts to “influence a boy’s character, development, and spiritual growth”. Likewise, the Good News Club also sought to teach moral values to children, albeit from an explicitly Christian viewpoint.

    According to the majority, the Court’s prior decisions in Lamb’s Chapel and Rosenberger determined the outcome of the Good News Club’s free speech claim. In Lamb’s Chapel, the Court had ruled that a different New York public school had engaged in unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination when it forbade a religious group from using its facilities to show films that taught “family values from a Christian perspective”. It saw no difference between the films that the religious group in Lamb’s Chapel proposed to show and the songs and lessons the Good News Club used in this case. And in Rosenberger, the fact that a state university subsidized the publication of some student newspapers but refused to subsidize a student newspaper with a religious viewpoint was also unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination.

    In spite of these decisions, the Second Circuit had ruled in this case that the religious nature of the Good News Club’s message meant that it “fell outside the bounds of” speech related to “pure moral and character development”, and hence was not entitled to First Amendment protection. The majority on the Supreme Court “disagreed that something that is ‘quintessentially religious’ or ‘decidedly religious in nature’ cannot also be characterized properly as the teaching of morals and character development from a particular viewpoint. What matters for purposes of the Free Speech Clause is that we can see no logical difference in kind between the invocation of Christianity by the Club and the invocation of teamwork, loyalty, or patriotism by other associations to provide a foundation for their lessons.” Instruction related to morals and values from a religious perspective does not somehow “taint” that instruction so as to alter the viewpoint such instruction takes. Accordingly, Milford’s exclusion of the Good News Club constituted unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination.

    If I understand this, then if the California Science Center wants to restrict showing films in some way, they have to do so in a neutral fashion. If they say, “you can’t show films on religious topics here”, then the Discovery Institute could show a film on what’s wrong with evolution and CSC can’t do anything about it. They’d have to write their rules very narrowly.

  5. Gabriel Hanna says:

    If I understand this, then if the California Science Center wants to restrict showing films in some way, they have to do so in a neutral fashion. If they say, “you can’t show films on religious topics here”, then the Discovery Institute could show a film on what’s wrong with evolution and CSC can’t do anything about it.

    I donno. There are enough cases that say creationism is religion. And there’s Kitzmiller that says ID is creationism. So I’d guess they can sey: “We exhibit only science films.” Then they may need to have what would amount to Kitzmiller II. If that fails, then all science museums will have to close their theaters to outside groups.

  6. Gabriel Hanna

    There are enough cases that say creationism is religion.

    Yes, but let’s say they show a movie that never mentions God, creation, intelligent design, whatever–it just says “here’s a problem with evolution, and here’s another, and here’s another”, discussing only fossils and gene sequences and the like.

    Then the CSC has to commit to screen for scientific accuracy or something…at any rate doesn’t help them with THIS case. They didn’t change the rule yet.

    If that fails, then all science museums will have to close their theaters to outside groups.

    Yeah, unless they make very narrow and tailored rules which have to apply to everyone.

    Which is why we can’t have nice things.

    You have to court with the Supreme Court precedents that you have, not the ones you wish you had…

  7. Leilani Hagberg

    By the end of your report I was hoping shocking Casey would be literal not figurative,I’m sorry. I’m curmudgeon-ally sans sensuous. You really write a wicked sentence.

  8. Leilani Hagberg says:

    I’m curmudgeon-ally sans sensuous.

    You’re half-way there. Keep working at it.

  9. However, the DI has no STANDING in this “case” since the DI is in no way, whatsoever, no how, no way, absolutely not involved with showing the film.

    So, Casey’s panty bunching is for nothing. Who cares, Casey? It’s not the DI’s film, nor is it the DI’s film showing.

    So, Casey, old fruit, what you have to say about somebody else’s problem is just your personal fart, lit or not. Flame on, buddy.

  10. Shirley Knott

    To parapharse Dilbert, when did a woeful mix of stupidity, ignorance, and mendacious intellectual pornography become a viewpoint?

    no hugs for thugs,
    Shirley Knott

  11. Assuming the CSC exists to serve the community and promote science education, then it would have grounds to reject “Darwin’s Delimma” on the grounds that it accomplishes neither goal. They would make the same decision with respect to an anti-vaccination movie, or a movie extolling the virtues of homeopathy, or any other pseudo-science hokum. They should simply assert that the movie doesn’t rise to the level of legitimate science education and isn’t appropriate for showing by a science museum.

    Of course, as an alternative, the CSC could promote the evening as a “comedy night”, show a cheesy 1950’s sci-fi movie before Darwin’s delimma, have a stand-up comic or two to warm the crowd up for the main feature, and maybe even do some rifs during the film – a la MST3K. There would have to be a fun party afterwards, with little finger foods representing the various “kinds” of life and pints of “missing link ale” and …

  12. The DI failed to turn over the film’s promotional materials to the CSC, in violation of the contract terms signed by the AFA. There is reasonable documentation to establish the connection between the DI and the AFA on this business of promoting the film. Therefore, it’s reasonable to conclude that AFA effectively violated the contract.

    “Viewpoint discrimination” is a sideshow. The AFA and the DI will have a high standard of proof to demonstrate otherwise.

  13. Ed: …maybe even do some rifs during the film – a la MST3K…

    There’s a web project for someone. It’d be fun to have to professionally done MST3K version (complete with robots, of course). Or perhaps a ‘pop-up video’ version where little bubbles show up correcting the speaker every time the video says something stupid (yeah, lots of bubbles).