“Darwin’s Dilemma” Case: Update 05 Feb ’11

[Update notice: The Guardian has a link to this post, but it’s a bit out-dated. See our update of 29 May 2011.]

There has been more activity 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. 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.

Our last update was Discoveroid Privacy, about some video depositions the Science Center was going to take of Discoveroids John West, Robert Crowther, and Casey Luskin. That was more than a month ago, and we’ve seen no news about those videos.

At the NCSE archive we see that a four more pleadings have been filed. They’re nothing major, but if you’re following this case you may want to know about them.

You may recall that the Science Center Foundation filed a cross-complaint (known as a “counterclaim” in some states) against the American Freedom Alliance (AFA) — that’s the creationist plaintiff. We reported about that here: Sudden Turnabout. Now the AFA has responded to that cross-complaint. In California, such a response is called a “Demurrer.”

This is AFA’s response (5-page pdf file), and this is their memorandum in support of that response (20-[page pdf file). We’ve skimmed the stuff and found nothing new; it looks like routine defense material. AFA asserts that the allegations of the Science Center’s cross-complaint are vague, insufficient, fail to state a cause of action, AFA’s email exchanges with the Discoveroids and the Discoveroids’ press releases are meaningless, etc. There’s nothing we saw that seems remarkable there.

But there are two more new pleadings in the NCSE archive. First, the AFA (that’s the creationist plaintiff) has filed a Request for Judicial Notice (9-page pdf file) in support of its response that we just described. They’re asking that the court take notice of an excerpt from the transcript of an earlier hearing in this same lawsuit — and the relevant pages of that transcript are attached as an exhibit. It’s a technical discussion between Becker — AFA’s lawyer — and the judge about some theory regarding breach of contract. It’s boring to read.

The other new pleading is also a request for judicial notice, but this one (4-page pdf file) is from the Science Center Foundation and its president. They too want the court to take notice the transcript of that same hearing. Although there’s supposed to be a copy attached as an exhibit, it’s not in the NCSE archive. Our guess is that it’s a transcript of the entire hearing, not just the tiny portion that was attached to AFA’s motion.

If our guess is correct, it may be that the creationists were trying to take something the judge said out of context. We’re shocked — shocked! — that creationists might do such a thing.

So that’s it. Nothing we’ve seen in this latest batch of pleadings seems to be of major importance, but if you’ve been following this case, or if you’re a legal junkie, click over to the NCSE archive and indulge yourself.

Copyright © 2011. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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One response to ““Darwin’s Dilemma” Case: Update 05 Feb ’11

  1. No one seems to care about this case, and this post has languished without a comment. Instead of making another post about a potentially important new development I’ll just make an update here.

    As this post informed you, the Science Center Foundation had filed a cross-complaint (known as a “counterclaim” in some states) against the creationist plaintiff — the American Freedom Alliance (AFA). The AFA responded with a “Demurrer,” which seems to be some kind of motion to dismiss. They also filed a big memorandum of law to support their demurrer. That’s where we left things.

    Now the court has ruled on the demurrer. See: AFA’s Demurrer to Cross Complaint Overruled. It’s a one-page pdf file. The ruling was against the creationists, which means that the Science Center Foundation’s cross-complaint (counterclaim) against the creationists will stand. And the trial has been reset for 25 July 2011.

    Now that each party has a claim against the other, one would think that reasonable people would settle this thing without a trial. But we’re dealing with creationists here, so don’t count on it.