Our last post on this topic was “Darwin’s Dilemma” and VD. That was just a couple of days ago, so we won’t repeat all the background information here.
What prompts today’s post is something we found at the blog of the neo-theocrats at the Discovery Institute‘s creationist public relations and lobbying operation, the Center for Science and Culture (a/k/a the Discoveroids, a/k/a the cdesign proponentsists).
The Discoveroid blog has yet another article on the Darwin’s Dilemma exhibition case. As expected, it’s by Casey Luskin: How Smithsonian Institution Pressured the California Science Center. Casey says, with bold font added by us:
At the same time that the CSC [California Science Center] learned that a pro-ID group had booked its facilities, on the other side of the country, head staff at the Smithsonian Institution were outraged that one of their affiliates was allowing a pro-ID event.
Yes, Casey has found still another smoking gun in his crusade to attack the evil of VD (viewpoint discrimination). You can read Casey’s whole article to learn what he’s ranting about today. As we’ve said before, the issue of VD should be irrelevant here, because if the Science Center was justified in considering the film exhibition contract breached, it wouldn’t matter if they were happy to cancel the show, nor would it matter why they were happy.
But let’s look into this a bit farther. What if the court decides that the Science Center didn’t have good grounds to cancel the scheduled showing of the creationist film? Even then, where does VD come into the picture? It’s a breach of contract, and whatever the penalties are, that should be the deal. Right?
Wrong! The latest complaint against the Science Center is asking for all kinds of damages — and attorneys’ fees — because of the alleged constitutional issues, so VD would have to be considered.
To get a feel for the legal issues involved, it’s worth paying attention to the US Supreme Court decision Casey mentioned earlier, which we briefly touched on in our prior post. It’s Lamb’s Chapel v. Center Moriches School District, which is summarized in this Wikipedia write-up. That case involved a public school that denied after-hours use of its facilities for the exhibition of a film series dealing with family and child-rearing issues. It was a six-part film series containing lectures by Doctor James Dobson.
The school board had rules allowing social, civic, and recreational uses of its schools, but Rule 7 prohibited use by any group for religious purposes. The church that wanted to show the Dobson lectures claimed that the school board’s policy violated the First Amendment’s Freedom of Speech Clause. And they won their case in the Supreme Court.
But before that final decision the church had lost in the lower courts on the grounds that the school district’s rule treated all religions and all uses for religious purposes alike. The Supreme Court, however, said that approach …
… does not answer the critical question whether it discriminates on the basis of viewpoint to permit school property to be used for the presentation of all views about family issues and child rearing except those dealing with the subject matter from a religious standpoint.
You can see why Casey thinks the case helps the creationists’ cause regarding the Darwin’s Dilemma film. The Supreme Court also said:
The film series involved here no doubt dealt with a subject otherwise permissible under [the school district’s rules], and its exhibition was denied solely because the series dealt with the subject from a religious standpoint.
The court’s opinion is long and at times complex; it discusses lots of other cases. After reversing the lower court and ruling for the church, there are some concurring opinions that invoke slightly different reasoning. Interestingly, there are no dissents.
So we may be confronting a real mess. If the Science Center wrongly canceled the exhibition contract, were they engaged in — gasp! — VD? That is, did they discriminate against religion (presumably a no-no), or did they only reject pseudo-science? If they can show that it was merely pseudo-science they were against, would that make a difference?
Is there any limit to this VD business? How far can the Discoveroids ride their “academic freedom” train? Do state universities and other public institutions have to treat every maniac as if he were a serious scholar with a legitimate viewpoint? Can nothing be banned, except perhaps “hate speech”? Must science-oriented institutions, like the California Science Center, give access to practitioners of the occult to promote their worthless lore?
We don’t know the answers. But if the Science Center can’t show that the Discoveroids’ unauthorized press releases violated the exhibition contract, things may get sticky. Stay tuned.
Copyright © 2010. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.