The material facts underlying this suit are not in dispute. The Smithsonian Institution was created in 1846, pursuant to the trust of James Smithson, as "an establishment . . . for the increase and diffusion of knowledge among men." 20 U.S.C. § 41. The Museum is to receive "all objects of art and of foreign and curious research, and all objects of natural history, plants, and geological and mineralogical specimens belonging to the United States." 20 U.S.C. § 50. Over 100 scientists conduct research and care for the collections. The Smithsonian is financed in major part by federal funds.
Current displays at the Museum contain references to evolution as this theory pertains to the exhibits, without explanation. A major exhibit is being planned on the scientific theory of evolution, with emphasis to be on the diversity of life and adaptations which various forms of life have made to their environment and each other.
Neither the existing or current exhibits make any claim that evolution is the only credible theory of the origin of life. There is no mention of the Genesis or any other religious theory of creation.
The evolutionary theory of the origin of life is hostile to the religious beliefs of the plaintiffs, who believe that God created life.
The plaintiffs argue that certain material facts are disputed, specifically: 1) whether the exhibits are secular; and 2) whether evolution is a scientific theory, since it cannot be demonstrated in a laboratory. To accept either of these as factual issues, one must accept the plaintiffs' classification of evolution as, and only as, part of the religion of secular humanism, which the Court cannot do for reasons discussed below. As the court stated in Wright v. Houston Independent School District, 366 F. Supp. 1208, 1211 (S.D.Tex.1972), Aff'd, 486 F.2d 137 (5th Cir. 1973), "(s)cience and religion necessarily deal with many of the same questions, and they may frequently provide conflicting answers." Given that the Smithsonian does not treat evolution as a religious matter or express any overt hostility to religious theories of creation, the Court cannot accept plaintiffs' characterization of these issues as factual.
The plaintiffs' challenge to the Smithsonian exhibits is based on both statutory and constitutional considerations.
The Statutory Challenge
Plaintiffs' first argument is that the Smithsonian evolution exhibits involve interpretations of natural history specimens and therefore exceed the authority of 20 U.S.C. § 50 to display objects. While the defendants challenge plaintiffs' standing to make this statutory claim, the Court will assume standing and proceed because the merits go clearly against plaintiffs. See Chinese American Civic Council v. Attorney General, 185 U.S. App. D.C. 1, 5, 566 F.2d 321, 325 (D.C.Cir.1977).
This statutory argument is not well-taken. The Congressional mandate to the Smithsonian under § 41 is to operate so as to increase and diffuse knowledge among men. The Museum has, from inception, used its specimens for purposes of scientific research and educating the public on the current state of scientific knowledge. The record reveals that the Museum's presentation of the evolutionary theory does not go beyond this purpose. The exhibits are wholly secular, aimed at persons who have chosen to enter a museum of natural history, and well within the authority of the statute.
The First Amendment Challenge
The plaintiffs' second major argument is that the Smithsonian enabling legislation and the Museum's presentation of evolution exhibits violate the Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses of the First Amendment. They contend that the Museum, by espousing evolution without offering any information on other creation theories, has used public funds to establish a religion of "secular humanism" in violation of the government's role of religious neutrality. Defendants' promotion of this religion allegedly interferes with the rights of plaintiff Crowley and the other plaintiffs' members to exercise their religion freely, because they are forced either to violate their religious beliefs by entering the Museum or forsake their right of access to public property.
The First Amendment provides in pertinent part that
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof . . ..
The Supreme Court has established four criteria relevant to the question of whether a statute, or a government-related activity, is in conflict with the First Amendment.
First, does the Act reflect a secular legislative purpose? Second, is the primary effect of the Act to advance or inhibit religion? Third, does the administration of the Act foster an excessive government entanglement with religion? Fourth, does the implementation of the Act inhibit the free exercise of religion?