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California Science Center sued over documentary attacking evolution

December 29, 2009 |  5:11 am

Darwin It may not have the dramatic sweep of "Inherit the Wind," but a local court case involving a documentary film that addresses the origins of life on Earth has bigwigs in the museum world talking.

The California Science Center, located in Los Angeles' Exposition Park, has been sued for allegedly canceling an October screening of a documentary that criticizes Charles Darwin's theory of evolution.

A group called the American Freedom Alliance has sued the L.A. museum, claiming that the center violated both the 1st Amendment and a contract to rent the museum’s Imax theater when it nixed the screening of “Darwin’s Dilemma: The Mystery of the Cambrian Fossil Record.” 

The AFA, which sued the museum in L.A. Superior Court, is seeking punitive damages and compensation for financial losses, as well as a legal declaration from the court that the science center violated the United States Constitution and cannot refuse the AFA the right to rent its facilities for future events.

"Darwin's Dilemma" explores fossil records that some say point to the appearance on Earth of animal-like organisms without the evolutionary steps Darwin had predicted.

Also dragged into the legal mess is the Smithsonian Institution, which counts the California Science Center as one of its affiliates. Though not a defendant, the Smithsonian is mentioned prominently in at least one document that is now an exhibit in the lawsuit.

The AFA alleges that the California Science Center improperly bowed two months ago to pressure from the Smithsonian, as well as e-mailed complaints from professors at USC and others.

The American Freedom Alliance is an L.A.-based group that one of its officials describes as a nonprofit, nonpartisan "think tank and activist network promoting Western values and ideals."

Click here to read Mike Boehm's full story.

-- Mike Boehm and David Ng

Photo: Charles Darwin. Credit: Associated Press

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