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Newly Disclosed Documents Show California Science Center Fishing for a Reason to Cancel Intelligent Design Event

Casey Luskin

For some evolutionists, the First Amendment is less important than enforcing strict Darwinian dogma. In October 2009, the California Science Center (CSC) cancelled a showing of Darwin’s Dilemma, which led to a lawsuit alleging viewpoint discrimination and breach of contract filed by the group whose event was cancelled, American Freedom Alliance (AFA). The lawsuit revolves around one crucial question: Was the showing cancelled because of a contractual violation (as CSC claims), or was it cancelled because the publicly operated Science Museum discriminated against AFA on the basis of its pro-intelligent design (ID) viewpoint? Recent internal CSC emails disclosed by CSC per the terms of its settlement of Discovery Institute’s open records lawsuit show that AFA’s contract was cancelled for reasons that stemmed from CSC’s viewpoint discrimination against ID.

The official stance of CSC is that the showing of Darwin’s Dilemma was cancelled because AFA violated terms of the event contract. If CSC is telling the truth, it would seem that only an actual violation of the contract would have caused the CSC staff to seek to cancel the contract. Presumably, until CSC officials knew if and how the contract was violated, they would have had no desire or motivation to cancel a legally binding agreement. Yet the CSC emails tell a different story. CSC staff are seen fishing for a contractual pretext to cancel the contract to show the film. The key point is this: CSC wanted to cancel the event before they even knew whether there was a violation of the contract (which there wasn’t).

In an email to Chris Sion, the Vice President of Food & Event Services at CSC, Shell Amega , CSC’s Vice President of Communications, begins a fishing expedition for that pretext. She writes:

Hi Chris – Jeff (Rudolph; CSC’s President and CEO) just called and is wondering if they violated an agreement – like was this supposed to be a private screening or did they say it was a public screening? If they misrepresented the event, then we can cancel them. He would like to chat with you about it and will talk to you tonight.

There are a couple things wrong here.

First and most obvious, Jeff Rudolph, the man responsible for cancelling the event, is “wondering” whether he can cancel the showing based on the contract. He doesn’t even know if the contract has been violated, yet he wants to cancel the event. Why? It’s because he doesn’t like the fact that CSC is viewed publicly as renting its facilities for a pro-ID event. Having already decided that the showing should be cancelled, Rudolph is searching for a legal excuse to do just that.

Second, it’s clear that both Amega or Rudolph are clueless as to what contractual excuses are available. Amega suggests that “misrepresent[ation]” might be a good pretext, but since everything that Discovery Institute and AFA said in their press releases was accurate, this approach never made it past the email stage. In the end, the CSC grabbed hold of an entirely different excuse; the promotional materials approval clause in the contract. This sort of haphazard and desperate search for any sort of escape route demonstrates CSC’s illegal motive for cancelling the contract.

Chris Sion eventually found shelter in the promotional materials clause and shared the excitement with Amega in a reply email:

They did receive an agreement w/ the following language – hope this covers us well! I will work it out w/ Jeff…. PROMOTIONAL MATERIALS: It is required that the Event Services Office approve, for technical and factual accuracy, all promotional materials mentioning the California Science Center produced for your event (including invitations, programs, press releases, etc.) prior to printing or broadcast…

Besides lack of any clear justification for cancelling AFA’s contract over the broad and unspecific boilerplate language of the promotional materials clause, the most telling line in this email is when Sion says she “hopes” the clause “covers us well!” She doesn’t know whether it covers them but hopes that it will give them an excuse to cancel the contract.

The decision to cancel the contract was made regardless of whether there were a legitimate reason. A government entity deciding that a particular viewpoint isn’t acceptable is a violation of First Amendment. After-the-fact attempts by CSC to claim that the motivation for the cancellation was the violation of a vague clause in the contract are not only manipulative; they’re also dangerous.


Casey Luskin

Associate Director, Center for Science and Culture
Casey Luskin is a geologist and an attorney with graduate degrees in science and law, giving him expertise in both the scientific and legal dimensions of the debate over evolution. He earned his PhD in Geology from the University of Johannesburg, and BS and MS degrees in Earth Sciences from the University of California, San Diego, where he studied evolution extensively at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. His law degree is from the University of San Diego, where he focused his studies on First Amendment law, education law, and environmental law.



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