Advocacy of ‘Intelligent Design’ Gets Scientist Fired


David Coppedge spent 15 years working for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. He was wrongly terminated, he said yesterday, during opening arguments in his civil suit against JPL, not because of the quality of his work, but for expressing his views on “intelligent design.”

JPL spokeswoman Veronica McGregor insists that Coppedge’s suit “is completely without merit.” The lab, which is operated by California Technical Institute under contract with NASA, maintains that its former veteran systems administrator was among 246 employees laid off as part of a downsizing plan.

JPL’s defense seems plausible: Coppedge, who worked on the lab’s ambitious Cassini program, the largest interplanetary mission ever launched, was not singled out for termination. He was but one of 246 unfortunates let go in a cost-cutting measure.

But JPL did not leave it at that. Administrators claim that Coppedge created a “hostile workplace” by expressing his views on intelligent design – the belief, whuch happens to be shared by more than three-quarters of Americans, that God created the universe and life as we know it.

As JPL’s HR department apparently saw it, Coppedge was no different than an employee guilty of sexually harassing a coworker, or uttering a racial slur or threatening workplace violence.

What really got Coppedge in hot water with his supervisor was his distribution of a couple DVD documentaries, “Unlocking the Mystery of Life” and “The Privileged Planet,” which present biological and cosmological arguments for intelligent design.

The supervisor told Coppedge that his co-workers felt coerced to watch the DVDs and harassed by his Christian views. The supervisor threatened the scientist with termination if he continued to “(push) his religion.”

Of course, if Coppedge had distributed a couple DVD documentaries on evolution – whose adherents hold fast to the faith that mankind descended from apekind – his coworkers wouldn’t have felt coerced, wouldn’t have felt harassed.

He’d probably still have his job at JPL.

This entry was published on March 14, 2012 at 10:10 AM. It’s filed under Science and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

5 thoughts on “Advocacy of ‘Intelligent Design’ Gets Scientist Fired

  1. My problem is with double standards in the workplace. If Coppedge had been a union activist, exhorting coworkers at JPL to support Democratic candidates and causes, he almost certainly wouldn’t have been accused of coercion. Had he been an atheist agitator, handing out literature to coworkers that mocked religion as it idolized Darwin, he wouldn’t have been accused of harassment.

    • Tafacory on said:

      Can you make any of those claims with absolute certainty? Do you really think that if he had been promoting anything else besides religion it would’ve been ok? I disagree. I think it is quite plausible that he would have been fired regardless of whatever he was peddling. I think you exaggerate how the law harms Christians. Your faith tradition is not the victim here.

    • Yea, I’m pretty sure he probably would have had the same complaints if he were trying to push atheistic ideas on people not interested. There are plenty of people who are religious at JPL. There is no double standard here. He was being an unprofessional J/A and deserved to be fired for it. And anyways, he was fired as part of a group of layoffs and is now just starting a frivolous lawsuit. Stinks of idiocy.

      • Are there really “plenty of people” at JPL who are religious? If so, did the agree with JPL management that Mr. Coppedge created a “hostile” workplace? Did they feel “coerced” to watch his videos deconstructing evolution and “harassed” by his Christian views?

  2. Tafacory on said:

    You don’t see the problem with this? It’s extremely unprofessional. Religion ought to be something personal. If they had asked for explanations or showed curiosity, then he could have done it. But they didn’t. He forced them upon them. And if he continued to do it, it was only making them more uncomfortable. I side with the JPL on this one. Even if that was their intent, I’d still say they’re in the right.

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