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.