It’s time to take another look at what we’ve been calling the “Darwin’s Dilemma Exhibition Case.” The actual case name is American Freedom Alliance v. California Science Center, California Science Center Foundation, Jeffrey Rudolph, et al. It’s sometimes abbreviated AFA v. CSC.
Our last update was “Darwin’s Dilemma” Case: Premature Climax? 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 or “Science Center”) 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 includes appearances by Richard von Sternberg, Jonathan Wells, and Stephen Meyer, all “senior fellows” with the Discovery Institute (the “Discoveroids”), claiming that the Cambrian “explosion” is evidence of intelligent design.
The theater owner getting sued is the California Science Center, along with the two other defendants: the Science Center Foundation (the actual party to the contract for showing the film), and Jeffrey Rudolph, who is president of both the Science Center and the Foundation. The Foundation canceled its contract with the AFA, alleging that a Discoveroid press release (which the Science Center hadn’t approved) violated a contract clause requiring their prior approval of all promotional materials. Technically, although two Discoveroid “senior fellows” were scheduled to conduct a discussion session after the showing of the film, the Discovery Institute wasn’t a party to the exhibition agreement.
Thus there’s an issue as to whether the unauthorized publicity sent out by the Discovery Institute gave the Science Center (and the Foundation) grounds to cancel the contract. It’s also an issue whether the Discovery Institute was working so closely with the AFA (the plaintiff) that their unauthorized publicity notices were issued with the AFA’s knowledge and tacit consent, breaching the contract.
The AFA alleges that the contract violation was a “false pretext” for cancellation of the exhibition contract. It’s really discrimination and a violation of the First Amendment, thus a violation of the AFA’s constitutional rights. The Science Center thinks this is a contract case; the AFA is treating it as a civil rights case.
The National Center for Science Education (NCSE) has many of the court pleadings available online. See: American Freedom Alliance v. California Science Center et al.
Three new pleadings have been filed since our last update, all of them stamped 08 November. To put them in context, recall that the original complaint was filed back in October of 2009, and the plaintiff has filed three amended complaints after that. Each new complaint supersedes the one before it. We discussed the Third Amended Complaint (the “TAC”) in our 03 Sep ’10 Update. It was all loaded up with snippets from the Science Center’s email which — according to Discoveroid Casey Luskin — support his allegations about viewpoint discrimination, what we call VD.
Two of the newest pleadings are the defendants’ answers to the TAC. The first answer (here, with 9 Affirmative Defenses) was filed by a private law firm representing the Foundation and its president, Jeffrey Rudolph. The second one (here, with 11 Affirmative Defenses) was filed by the California Attorney General’s office, representing the Science Center and the same individual in his capacity as president of the Science Center (yes, Jeffrey Rudolph is represented by both sets of lawyers). A brief glance is all we had time for, but both of these answers seem similar, and neither is remarkably different from the defendants’ answers to the earlier complaints.
The third of the new pleadings is the one that interests us today. It’s a Cross Complaint (11-page pdf file) filed by the private firm on behalf of the Foundation (but not its president). Some states call such a pleading a “Counterclaim,” but a Cross Complaint seems to be the same idea: “You’re suing me on that contract? You’ve got it all wrong, buster; I’m suing you!”
Bear in mind that the California Science Center Foundation is a different entity from their co-defendant, the California Science Center (without “Foundation” in its name). We hadn’t appreciated that before, but it’s an important distinction. All the rhetoric surrounding this case is about an alleged conflict between the Discoveroids and the Science Center, but the actual contract in question here was between the AFA and the Foundation.
If you’re interested in this case, we recommend that you click on that link to where the pleadings are archived at the website of the National Center for Science Education and read the Cross Complaint in its entirety. It’s difficult for us to excerpt any of it, because each page is a graphic, so we we can’t cut-and-paste. We have to re-type what’s there. Rather than do too much of that (we will do a bit), we’ll merely describe some of the major points. Except as indicated, the bold font was added by us.
The Foundation raises funds for the Science Center, and as part of their activities they arrange for private affairs after hours at the Science Center, including wedding receptions and high school proms. It’s the Foundation that contracted with AFA (the plaintiff) to show the creationist film. The Cross Complaint says, at paragraph 2 on page 2:
[T]he Foundation was aware that [the scheduled movie event] involved a screening of a film entitled “Darwin’s Dilemma,” which purports to be a movie challenging the concept of evolution and promoting intelligent design as an alternative theory. The Foundation was not concerned about the content of the film because it was, after all, to be show [sic] at a private event. … In an effort to be helpful, the Foundation even made an adjustment to its standard payment terms and gave AFA [the plaintiff] a discounted rate.
That doesn’t sound like there was much VD going on. Paragraph 3 discusses the reasons for the contractual requirement of prior approval for press releases. It says:
[T]he Foundation is very attentive to ensure that private groups do not appropriate the reputation of the Science Center for their own benefit for private events that the California Science Center is not sponsoring.
Sounds reasonable. Now the plot thickens. In paragraph 4, at the bottom of page 2, we read:
Based upon information and belief, AFA [the plaintiff] and the Discovery Institute viewed the chance to hold an event at the California Science Center as a potential source of publicity and controversy. Thus, AFA coordinated publicity with the Discovery Institute, which released several unapproved press releases with AFA’a assistance, in clear violation of the alleged agreement between AFA and the Foundation. … [T]hese press releases implied that the California Science Center and the Smithsonian Institution were sponsoring the Event [the creationist movie show].
Thus the Foundation canceled the contract. The next few pages enhance those allegations. In paragraph 13 on page 5, they quote someone named Joe Peterson of the AFA “who was apparently out of the loop regarding AFA’s coordinating publicity with the Discovery Institute” as commenting on the press releases:
Talk about waving a red flag in front of a bull. It seems like they were deliberately trying to screw this up!!!
One of AFA’s allegations in all of its complaints is that the unauthorized press releases were from the Discovery Institute, which wasn’t a party to the film screening contract, so such activities didn’t justify the cancellation of the contract. On that point, the Cross Complaint says, in paragraphs 16 & 17 on page 5, that the AFA and Discovery Institute “consistently communicated and collaborated.” They mention an AFA communication to Discoveroid John West stating: “I would like to coordinate our efforts.” Then they mention a response a week later from Discoveroid Robert Crowther saying: “Before we begin aggressively promoting this …”
In paragraph 18 on page 6 they quote an email from West to AFA saying that the “national media might get interested because the California Science Center is the west coast affiliate of the Smithsonian.” Paragraph 19 quotes a Crowther email saying “Once we let the jinni [sic] out of the bottle it’s likely all hell will break loose.”
We can’t keep typing from the Cross Complaint. As we said, if you’ve been following this case you’ll want to read it all for yourself. And bear in mind that, as we discussed in Blood in the Water?, the Science Center is still trying to get email between Discoveroid Casey Luskin and William J. Becker, Jr. (AFA’s lawyer) in a further effort to show coordinated activities.
Stay tuned to this blog, dear reader. The fun in this case has only just begun.
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