Earlier last week I heard rumblings about the Discovery Institute playing a movie entitled the Privileged Planet at the Smithsonian. As for the content of the movie, I am less opposed than usual since it is based on cosmological rather than anti-evolutionary arguments. For the Discovery Institute to emphasize that kind of argument is a step in the right direction in my opinion. All that being said the quality of the movie is not what I will be discussing. If you want to peruse the arguments pro and con I point you to the ASA. Both proponents and critics of ID are members and we regularly debate the merits of the arguments. But I digress...
The issue started when pro-ID blogger Denyse O'Leary trumpeted how the Smithsonian was softening to ID because they were showing the movie. I madly searched the Smithsonian web site and did not find the event she was referring to. Then on Saturday the other shoe dropped. The New York Times ran the story Smithsonian to Screen a Movie That Makes a Case Against Evolution. In the story, neither the Discovery Institute nor the Smithsonian advanced Ms. O'Leary's thesis. The PR person mentioned donations and special events policy. A ha! A hook to Google on. I found the policy and I will proceed to fisk it because I found something utterly astounding:
The Discovery Institute apparently made an unrestricted $16,000 donation to the Smithsonian!
Their movie was a party in celebration to said contribution. If I were them there would be some very nervous lawyers in Seattle. Let's analyze the policies! [All emphasis mine]
Please contact us by phone or e-mail to inquire about having your special event at Natural History! A Special Events Coordinator will be happy to answer your questions, check availability of dates, and suggest an appropriate contribution.
Note that this is a contribution and not a fee. This will be significant later.
Office of Special Events
P.O. Box 37012
NMNH 2209, MRC 139
Washington, DC 20013-7012
Constitution Avenue at 10th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20560-0139
Director of Special Events
Assistant Director of Special Events
Special Events Coordinator
Special Events Coordinator
Corporations and organizations making an unrestricted contribution to the National Museum of Natural History
STOP THE PRESSES! The Discovery Institute is now trying to say they paid a fee for a room. But, the policy is clear that this is for a contribution and more to the point an unrestricted contribution. The Smithsonian may spend the $16,000 on anything they want including promoting evolution. Denyse is also arguing that the movie was not anti-evolution. Fine. If you want to split hairs, go ahead. The Discovery Institute may be restricting themselves but there is no such restraint on the Smithsonian.
may co-sponsor an event in celebration of their gift.
There's our co-sponsor language. The sponsorship has to do with the fact they are celebrating a gift and not endorsing the giver. More later.
Your gift helps to support the scientific and educational work of the Museum. Personal events (i.e. weddings, etc.), fund raising events, and events of a religious or partisan political nature are not permitted.
This is the one positive I see for the DI here. The Smithsonian judged the movie as not religious. I've heard from those who are in contact with the Smithsonian staff they were looking for things being overtly religious. Nevertheless, DI scores some points here. Both sides are spinning this so heavy that it is hard not to get dizzy. My advise to Denyse and other supports of ID is to focus on this, because the rest is a lost cause.
Cash bars, raffles and the display or promotion of commercial products are also prohibited.
All events at the National Museum of Natural History are co-sponsored by the Museum and must be planned in conjunction with one of the Museum's Special Events Coordinators.
This co-sponsoring is a point of controversy. Denyse viewed this as an endorsement. But, according to the NY Times article neither the Discovery Institute nor the Smithsonian claim this. Further, the Smithsonian claims (and the policy confirms) that they have to co-sponsor the events.
The Special Events Coordinator will be required to approve all event plans, including invitation text, speaking program, the use of logos, and vendors. The name of the Museum and the Smithsonian Institution may not be used on any document without prior approval by the Museum.
On Denyse's blog is her invitation to the event that has the logo of the Smithsonian on it. The fact that her invite has the Smithsonian logo on it indicates that this event was under the policy. If this was some paying for the auditorium, the Smithsonian would have disallowed the use of their logo on the invite. I am assuming that the Discovery Institute is on the up and up here because if they used the Smithsonian's logo without approval then they are truly in a world of hurt.
Caterers working within the Museum must have the required $1 million liability insurance certificate on file at the Smithsonian. Although co-sponsors may work with the caterer of their choice, the Museum reserves the right to review and approve the choice of caterer in order to assure that they are capable of working safely within the Museum and are aware of the catering limitations within the building. The Museum's special events staff can also provide a list of caterers and other vendors who have successfully handled events in the Museum.
Once an event is approved, co-sponsoring organizations will receive a confirmation letter and an agreement form outlining the basic parameters of the event and the fees. Required fees include the tax-deductible contribution[!!] and direct costs (for overtime services which are provided by the Museum).
The Discovery Institute is claiming that they were just paying fees and there was a contract. This may be the root of the misunderstanding because there is a contract involved with the policy. I'll deal with the contractual aspects later. The whole contribution stuff is addressed again. There are both fees and an unrestricted donation and this may have confused the Discovery Institute.
The event will be confirmed when the signed agreement form and full payment are received by the Museum's Special Events Office.
Given this is all confirmed by the Smithsonian, all of the above have to have occurred.
Payment is required prior to the event. During periods of high demand, a non-refundable deposit may be required. In these instances, the deposit will be considered an advance payment on the required contribution.
For a complete copy of the Museum's special events policy, please contact us by phone or email.
DI should have done this. If I could find this out with a couple minutes of Googling their legal staff were not doing due diligence and should be fired. I say this because DI says they entered into a contract and all contracts should be approved by their legal counsel. Add to that the fact that a law professor is on staff at the Discovery Institute and the magnitude of the error becomes even more stunning.