There is an interesting development in 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 six weeks ago — “Darwin’s Dilemma” Case: Sudden Turnabout. 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.
Thanks to the NCSE archive, we can see that three new pleadings have been filed since our last update. The Science Center Foundation’s cross-complaint we last posted about has been amended, but we didn’t notice anything in it that caught our attention. Then the parties filed a Joint Motion for taking videotape depositions of Discoveroids John West, Robert Crowther, and Casey Luskin. Presumably, they have the most knowledge of the alleged cooperation between the AFA and the Discoveroids in issuing the unauthorized press releases.
The motion mentioned that there were some details to be worked out because the litigation is in California and the depositions will be taken in Washington, presumably in Seattle. Also, the Discoveroids had “concerns that such video may be given to and misued by opponents of Discovery Institute’s work outside this litigation.” They wanted a protective order to safeguard their privacy.
That motion was signed on 10 December. At the same time they signed and filed a Proposed Order to which the parties had stipulated, with a space at the end for the judge’s signature so it can become the order of the court. It looks like the judge signed it on 21 December, so this document describes how the video depositions will be taken and how the videos will be handled thereafter.
It’s fascinating to see the exquisite care the Discoveroids are taking to protect these videotapes from falling into the “wrong” hands. It’s also interesting that the Science Center has gone along with these procedures — but it’s probably what they had to accept in order to get the depositions videotaped.
Except for use by the parties in the litigation, no copies can be made. The videos can’t be posted on the internet. If portions of the videos are used at trial — which is commonly done to contradict a witnesses’ trial testimony with what he said previously — those portions must be sealed from public disclosure. When the case is over, all copies of the videos must be destroyed — except that the Discoveroids will be able to keep their own copies and they can use them as they wish.
We can’t help but wonder if they’re planning to quote-mine those videos, but we’ll have to wait to see what happens. Written transcripts of those depositions aren’t affected by this order, so we assume they’ll be made available. That’s probably sufficient for our purposes; however, there’s no substitute for actually seeing the video of a witness squirming, whining, and soiling his pants. But then, who would be cruel enough to post something like that on his blog?
This case is just getting started and it’s going to get interesting. When there’s more news, we’ll let you know.
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