Judge Sends NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab to Jury Trial for Firing Employee Who Discussed Intelligent Design
A Los Angeles County Superior Court judge ruled Friday that a jury will decide whether NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL) unlawfully discriminated against a former employee for discussing the scientific theory of intelligent design (ID) at work.
David Coppedge, a 14-year JPL veteran and team lead computer administrator on the Cassini Mission to Saturn, was demoted for lending ID-related DVDs to coworkers, behavior that one JPL complainant called "harassment," and another branded "pushing religion." After he filed suit to vindicate his free expression rights, JPL terminated Coppedge.
Evidence shows that JPL demoted and terminated Coppedge because he expressed a pro-ID scientific viewpoint disliked at JPL and labeled "religion" by JPL decision-makers.
"The court's ruling allows a jury to vindicate David Coppedge's rights," said Joshua Youngkin, a legal affairs policy analyst with Discovery Institute. "California law forbids employers who view an employee's expression as religion to punish or diminish the employee on that basis."
"Although ID is not religion, it can't be singled out by JPL or other employers in this way," added Youngkin.
In its ruling, the court found there "are triable issues of fact as to whether Plaintiff's demotion, written warning, negative performance evaluations, and ultimate termination were adverse employment actions" that involved discrimination.
Coppedge is represented by William J. Becker Jr. of the Becker Law Firm, who was supported in the case by Alliance Defense Fund. The case number is BC435600.
In the past year, the California Science Center, University of Kentucky, and the journal Applied Mathematics Letters each paid thousands of dollars to avoid trial for suppressing Darwin-doubting viewpoints.
According to Youngkin, "The upcoming JPL trial will remind employers that it is costly to discriminate against ID in the workplace."
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