An interesting legal battle over a museum's right to protect and serve its mission and the Constitutional right to freedom of speech is heating up in California. The California Science Center in Los Angeles is being sued by the American Freedom Alliance, a self-described think tank promoting "Western values and ideals." The AFA is suing over the museum's cancellation of a scheduled showing of the film "Darwin's Dilemma: The Mystery of the Cambrian Fossil Record," an intelligent design documentary film attacking darwinian evolution. The AFA alleges that the Science Center violated its constitutional right to free speech by revoking the AFA's rental of the Center's IMAX theater.
It seems that a carefully crafted rental policy outlining the museum's right to refuse rentals to groups or individuals planning educational programs that conflict with the museum's own educational goals or stated mission, and a bit more oversight during the initial stages of the rental process might have avoided the whole legal mess, but perhaps not. There is no doubt that the Intelligent Design camp loves controversy and delights in dragging the evolution "debate" back into the news. The AFA may have planned a media assault on the scientific community even if the film showing went off without a hitch.
In any case, the current legal woes of the California Science Center certainly provide a cautionary tale for the rest of the museum community. It might be time to reconsider policy guidelines and review your rental agreement in light of these latest legal challenges.
Click here to read the article about the lawsuit in the LA Times:By Mike Boehm, Los Angeles Times
December 29, 2009
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