A decision at a popular museum in Los Angeles to shut down debate over Darwin’s theory of evolution has prompted a lawsuit alleging officials violated the First Amendment rights of supporters of a documentary exploring Intelligent Design.
The lawsuit was filed by the American Freedom Alliance, which said the California Science Center inappropriately canceled an event that was to feature films exploring both evolutionary theory and Intelligent Design.
Intelligent Design challenges the fundamental foundation of evolution, arguing the incredible complexities of life bear evidence of a designer.
The complaint alleges free speech rights violations occurred when the science facility abruptly reversed a decision to allow the showing of the films at the museum’s IMAX Theater.
CSC officials did not respond to a WND e-mail request for comment.
Alliance officials said the program was balanced, since it included a pro-evolution film, but museum officials were fearful of having Intelligent Design discussed in any context.
Alliance officials said they believe the lawsuit is the first since 2005 to focus specifically on the public’s right to learn about Intelligent Design.
“AFA’s lawsuit alleges that the museum violated its First Amendment rights by caving in to demands within the scientific and academic communities to deny Intelligent Design a public forum for discussion,” the organization’s announcement said.
“The center is a public institution and our event was planned as a debate with both sides of the controversy represented,” said Avi Davis, AFA’s president. “It is Orwellian when a public institution tries to suppress particular ideas it deems unsavory. It can be likened to a public library removing certain books from its shelves because the librarian disagrees with the viewpoints expressed in them.”
The museum was chosen because one of the two films scheduled to be shown required a 3D IMAX projection system, Davis said.
The pro-evolution film, “We Are Born of Stars,” was meant to provide balance to a discussion about life’s origin. The other film, “Darwin’s Dilemma: The Mystery of the Cambrian Fossil Record,” argues against evolution by questioning the absence of any fossil record predating the Cambrian period.
AFA reported when the screening was canceled, officials tried to find an alternative venue but were forced to drop the “We are Born of Stars” because it needed the 3D IMAX format.
The lawsuit alleges science center officials dropped the event because they did not want the museum to be viewed as legitimizing Intelligent Design as a scientific theory.
It claims museum CEO Jeffrey Rudolph “was pressured to cancel the event by colleagues at the Smithsonian Institution, the University of Southern California, the Huntington Library and elsewhere.”
But as a state agency, it is not allowed to “suppress legitimate discussion.”
“Certain museum officials and their cronies in academia and throughout the scientific community are part of a subtle but effective movement to marginalize a scientific theory that challenges their world view,” said William J. Becker Jr. of the Becker Law Firm in Los Angeles and the attorney for the alliance.
“The public should be allowed to make up its own mind whether Intelligent Design has any merit. Any time public officials stand in the way of legitimate debate, they reveal their hostility toward intellectual freedom, which the Constitution is designed to safeguard,” he said.
The screening was scheduled to launch “The Darwin Debates: A Forum for Dialogue,” a series of nonpartisan events in Los Angeles sponsored by AFA exploring competing theories for life’s origin, Darwinian evolutionary theory and Intelligent Design theory.