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Judge Lets NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab Off the Hook for Discrimination against Intelligent Design Proponent

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LOS ANGELES -- Despite clear evidence of discrimination presented at trial, a California Superior Court Judge has turned down an anti-discrimination claim filed against NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL) by a former employee subjected to mistreatment after sharing his views on intelligent design (ID) with some of his co-workers.

David Coppedge, a 14-year JPL veteran and team lead computer administrator on the Cassini Mission to Saturn, faced harassment and retaliation after occasionally lending ID-related DVDs to coworkers. After an angry supervisor forbade him from continuing to circulate the DVDs or even from mentioning the subject of intelligent design, Coppedge immediately complied, but he was reprimanded and demoted nonetheless. Coppedge eventually had to file suit to protect his rights, but JPL then terminated him.

"JPL denied that it targeted Coppedge for his intelligent design views, but evidence from private emails, testimony, and other documents clearly showed otherwise," said Joshua Youngkin, an attorney and public policy and legal affairs analyst with Discovery Institute's Center for Science & Culture. "JPL also tried to smear Coppedge as a bad employee. But the record shows that he received excellent job evaluations until after he was attacked for his intelligent design views."

According to evidence revealed during the case, JPL gives free rein to employees who attack intelligent design in the workplace, even as the lab singled out and punished Coppedge.

Youngkin called on Congress to make sure that this kind of egregious discrimination doesn't happen again at a federally funded institution: "This case is part of a clear, longstanding nationwide pattern of illegal discrimination against proponents of intelligent design. Congress needs to make sure that the labs and other agencies that taxpayers fund through NASA don't continue to trample on the viewpoint rights of scientists and other staff members. This is especially important now that the courts have failed to hold JPL accountable in the Coppedge case."

"The scientific merits of intelligent design were never on trial in this lawsuit, but it's a miscarriage of justice that the court failed to recognize that David Coppedge's rights were grossly violated. Everyone who values the free and open exchange of ideas should be concerned," said Youngkin. "Workers at taxpayer-funded science labs shouldn't lose their jobs simply because they think nature displays evidence of intelligent design rather than a blind and undirected cause."

Coppedge was represented by William J. Becker, Jr. of The Becker Law Firm, who has been supported in the case by Alliance Defending Freedom. The case number is BC435600.