“Darwin’s Dilemma” Case: Update 29 May ’11

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, thus 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. In other words, 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 on 05 Feb ’11, plus some information we added in a comment to that post a month later. That was the post’s only comment, so we assume that no one but your Curmudgeon thinks this case is very interesting. Anyway, at that point the latest information was that the Science Center Foundation had filed a cross-complaint, AFA (the creationist plaintiff), had responded by trying to get it dismissed, and the court let the cross-complaint stand. Now each party has a claim against the other. The trial date was reset for for 25 July 2011.

Okay, let’s look at the NCSE archive to see what new pleadings have been filed. With the trial date only two months away, we see that the parties are starting to stir things up. The Science Center is moving for summary judgment, and the NCSE archive is loaded with their statements and memoranda in support thereof. They’re all pdf files, as you’ve come to expect.

If you care to read the pleadings, this is the motion filed by the Science Center Foundation and Jeffrey Rudolph, it’s president: CSC Motion for Summary Adjudication (on their cross-complaint, presumably), and this is CSC’s and Rudolph’s Memo in support of the motion. That’s a discussion of the legal issues, citing loads of cases; it’s 25 pages long. If you’re really hooked on this case, you’ll enjoy their Statement Supporting the motion. It’s a columnar summary of the evidence, pro and con, regarding each issue. Very neatly done. It’s 26 pages long.

We’re not linking to them, but NCSE’s archive has several other statements and memos that were filed in support of the same thing, some of them quite long. Also, the Science Center (not the Foundation) has filed a for motion for summary judgment on AFA’s 3d amended complaint, plus a memo and a statement in support of that. In layman’s terms, they’re throwing a lot of paper at the creationists, which makes it expensive for the creationists to pursue their goal.

We don’t see any indication that the creationist plaintiff is also moving for summary judgment, which is a bit surprising. When one side moves for summary judgment, the other often does too. For some reason that hasn’t happened here — at least not yet. Nor do we see anything filed by the creationist plaintiff to oppose the Science Center’s motions. That may be coming soon.

There’s nothing yet to indicate that the court has made any ruling on the summary judgment motions. If the motions are denied, the case will to go to trial — which starts in two months. We won’t have to wait much longer to see how this thing works out. Stay tuned.

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

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12 responses to ““Darwin’s Dilemma” Case: Update 29 May ’11

  1. It appears the CSC is basing its case on fact, and the AFA is basing its case on wishful thinking.

    Typical.

  2. The “statement supporting the motion” is very strong. It’s one side of the story, true, but it’s hard to imagine that AFA will come up with anything to refute those facts except, as Doc stated, wishful thinking.

  3. Ed says: “The “statement supporting the motion” is very strong.”

    Yes, and it ought to be enough to win at trial, where a preponderance of evidence does the job (proof “beyond reasonable doubt” is only for criminal cases). . However, I’m told that the standard for wining a summary judgment is more difficult. If there is any relevant fact that is in dispute, then the case has to be tried. But I won’t attempt to guess the outcome here.

  4. Seeing the name Stephen Meyers reminded me of something. My high school newspaper recently published an opinion article by a student who had been taking out of school lessons that involved videos by Stephen Meyer. The article involved a request by the student to see the teachers here “teaching the controversy”. It’s interesting, and more than a little sickening. In response, I’m preparing an article to distribute at school. Here’s a link:

    http://www.myhsj.org/Schools/Newspaper/tabid/100/view/frontpage/newspaperid/2212/categoryid/36932/Default.aspx

    If you click on the pdf section and then the edition from may 6, it will be on page 12.
    I know it seems like nothing, but if the students call for it, then it presents… problems.

  5. It seems weird to comment that I have nothing to comment about, but it also seems the Curmudgeon is tracking the popularity of his posts this way. I do find this case, and the other cases you update us on, interesting and hope you continue. As my opinion on these posts seems to ressemble yours, I have held off , lest I appear syncophantic. Please keep up on this and the JPL case -and any others- as time permits.

  6. surprises aplenty says:

    Please keep up on this and the JPL case -and any others- as time permits.

    I intend to. Welcome aboard.

  7. The DI via the AFA thinks it’s a First Amendment case because they mistakenly thought, and crowed about, having had a contract with the CSC, a California state agency, when in reality they had a contract with the private CSC Foundation.

    Oopsie!

    Second, there is that wonderful email between the AFA and the DI where the AFA authorizes the DI to issue publicity, and the DI gloats about how much trouble it’s going to raise (by deliberately linking the showing of the creationist film to the Smithsonian).

    Oopsie!

    I hope the AFA and the DI are practicing their Who Me puppy-dog faces. They’re going to need it.

  8. #33 and #34 in the supporting document are really telling. Those detail how, during deposition, AFA staff admitted that they had no evidence of any content-based discrimination. I think CSC may get their summary judgement based on those two alone.

  9. eric says:

    during deposition, AFA staff admitted that they had no evidence of any content-based discrimination.

    Yes, that’s good stuff that will be used against those witnesses if they testify at a trial. But judges are usually reluctant to grant summary judgment. I donno … it certainly looks like the creationists have no case at all, but we’ll have to wait and see what the judge does.

  10. It’s not worth an entire post, but the creationist plaintiff has filed some responses to the Science Center’s motions for summary judgment. They’re at the NCSE archive. We looked at their Response to the breach of contract motion. It seems to be a massive effort at nit-picking.

    Of more interest, because it’s funny, is their submission of books and a DVD to the court. It’s a list of creationist books, and the DVD is — get this! — it’s a copy of the Ben Stein “documentary” Expelled!

  11. I absolutely second surprises aplenty’s comment about keeping up on these cases. I’ve been trying to follow both on-and-off since their start and it’s difficult to find any information apart from this blog. So, what I’m trying to say is…

    Thank you so much!!! !!! Even more question marks!!!

    I was a little worried about these cases at first, perhaps because I learned of them from ID propaganda (I belong to a Facebook group called “Academic Freedom”), but I’m now fairly confident the creationists will be handed their hats as they come to a close. Again, thanks for all the coverage!

  12. Matthew Washington says: “Thank you so much!!! !!!”

    That’s what we do around here. Good to hear from you.