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California Senate Minority Leader Launches Probe into California Science Center’s Alleged Violations of First Amendment Rights

John G. West

SACRAMENTO—California Senate Minority Leader Dennis Hollingsworth has sent a letter to the California Science Center (CSC) requesting documents related to the Center’s cancellation of a screening last October of the pro-intelligent design documentary “Darwin’s Dilemma.” The screening was sponsored by the American Freedom Alliance (AFA), a private group that had rented the Center’s IMAX theater.

Senator Hollingsworth’s letter follows two lawsuits filed against the state government-operated Science Center charging that it violated both the First Amendment and California’s open records law in its effort to stop the screening and then cover up the real story behind the cancellation.
“The constitutional implications of [the Science Center’s] actions are concerning” wrote Senator Hollingsworth in the letter, citing various court decisions protecting private parties against viewpoint discrimination. “It is fundamental that when a governmental entity or sub-unit (such as CSC) opens its facilities as a public forum, it is not constitutionally permissible to censor speech based on viewpoint or content.”

“The California Science Center’s assault on free speech should alarm everyone,” said Casey Luskin, Program Officer in Public Policy and Legal Affairs for the Discovery Institute. “If the government can ban a private group from renting a public auditorium to show a film favoring intelligent design, it can ban private groups from showing films in support of Darwin’s theory. Where does it stop?”

“Senator Hollingsworth is to be commended for launching this inquiry,” added Dr. John West, Vice President for Public Policy and Legal affairs at the Institute. “Free speech is the foundation of a free society. Government agencies have no right to discriminate against citizens because of their legally-protected viewpoints.”

Hollingsworth’s letter is directed to Dr. Joel Strom, Chair of the California Science Center Board of Directors, requesting that he instruct the museum’s management to provide copies of documents pertaining to the cancellation of the event, including e-mail communications from Science Center staff, employees, and board members which discuss the event and the topic of intelligent design versus Darwinism.

John G. West

Senior Fellow, Managing Director, and Vice President of Discovery Institute
Dr. John G. West is Vice President of the Seattle-based Discovery Institute and Managing Director of the Institute’s Center for Science and Culture. Formerly the Chair of the Department of Political Science and Geography at Seattle Pacific University, West is an award-winning author and documentary filmmaker who has written or edited 12 books, including Darwin Day in America: How Our Politics and Culture Have Been Dehumanized in the Name of Science, The Magician’s Twin: C. S. Lewis on Science, Scientism, and Society, and Walt Disney and Live Action: The Disney Studio’s Live-Action Features of the 1950s and 60s. His documentary films include Fire-Maker, Revolutionary, The War on Humans, and (most recently) Human Zoos. West holds a PhD in Government from Claremont Graduate University, and he has been interviewed by media outlets such as CNN, Fox News, Reuters, Time magazine, The New York Times, USA Today, and The Washington Post.

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