Coppedge Trial Update: Fox News, AP, Washington Post, UCLA First Amendment Scholar Weigh In
On Monday, March 12, the trial of David Coppedge vs. Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) will commence before Judge Ernest M. Hiroshige in the Superior Court of California, County of Los Angeles, department 54 of the Stanley Mosk Courthouse in downtown Los Angeles.
Fox News, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, London's Daily Mail and other outlets are carrying a quite balanced Associated Press story on the Coppedge affair. It was good to see the article on the Fox front page with comments from our own John West and UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh.
"It's part of a pattern. There is basically a war on anyone who dissents from Darwin and we've seen that for several years," said John West, associate director of the Center for Science and Culture at the Seattle-based Discovery Institute. "This is free speech, freedom of conscience 101."Volokh gives a similar take, with a suggestion on what might determine the ultimate verdict:
While the case has attracted interest because of the controversial nature of intelligent design, it is at its heart a straightforward discrimination case, said Eugene Volokh, a professor of First Amendment law at the University of California, Los Angeles School of Law. The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees such basic rights as freedom of speech and religion.Want more facts? Here they are.
"The question is whether the plaintiff was fired simply because he was wasting people's time and bothering them in ways that would have led him to being fired regardless of whether it was about religion or whether he was treated worse based on the religiosity of his beliefs," said Volokh. "If he can show that, then he's got a good case."
Coppedge has waived his right to trial by jury and has elected to try the case before Judge Hiroshige who will decide all matters of fact and law.
On Monday morning Judge Hiroshige will hear oral argument before trial on questions of evidence, what gets in, what's out. Later in the day, Coppedge and JPL will give their opening statements of the case. The following day, Tuesday, Coppedge takes the stand.
After JPL demoted Coppedge from his team lead systems administrator position for lending to a coworker an intelligent design DVD, labeled by JPL as religion, Coppedge sued JPL for religious discrimination in violation of California's Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA).
After Coppedge filed suit, JPL terminated his employment. Coppedge later added a claim for retaliatory termination. The trial is expected to take place over the course of several weeks. See you there.