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2nd lawsuit filed over museum censorship

A second lawsuit has been launched against a public science center in California after it refused to allow the screening of a movie on intelligent design – the concept that life is far too complex to have “evolved” from primordial sludge.

The newest action comes from the Discovery Institute, which is accusing the California Science Center of unlawfully refusing to disclose public documents sought under the California Public Records Act.

Discovery officials filed the request for the documentation about the center’s decision-making process when it rejected the video “Darwin’s Dilemma” Oct. 9. The center canceled a contract with the American Freedom Alliance to show the film Oct. 26.

The center released 44 pages of documentation Nov. 2 and claimed “no documents have been withheld.”

However, the Discovery Institute, in a statement about the controversy, accused the center of withholding information.

“California Science Center’s claims are not true, and we know for a fact that e-mail communications exist, including communications with the Smithsonian Institution, that should have been disclosed in response to our public documents request, but weren’t, showing clear violation of California’s Public Records Act,” said Casey Luskin, program officer in public policy and legal affairs at the Discovery Institute.

“The center withheld public communications by decision-makers who cancelled the contract with AFA,” said Luskin. “We believe the reason the California Science Center withheld these public documents is simple: the e-mails show evidence of discrimination against the pro-intelligent-design viewpoint.”

The action is separate from an earlier case over the intelligent-design film shut down by a museum. That case was filed by the AFA itself for the contract cancelation.

“We also have evidence that the California Science Center had written communications with the Smithsonian Institution expressing angst over the AFA’s pro-intelligent-design event,” explained Luskin. “Yet not a single e-mail, letter, or other document disclosed by the California Science Center mentions the Smithsonian, even though our public documents request specifically asked for documents referencing the ‘Smithsonian’.”

The California Public Records Act guarantees public “access to information concerning the conduct of the people’s business is a fundamental and necessary right.”

“If the center wrongfully refused to disclose certain now-known public documents, how many other public documents remain to be uncovered that evidence the California Science Center’s viewpoint discrimination?” asked Luskin.

The lawsuit was filed in State Superior Court in Los Angeles County.

The earlier case by the American Freedom Alliance said the Science Center canceled its event inappropriately.

The AFA 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 their 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.”