U.S.

April 16, 2012

Ex-NASA worker: Firing was over intelligent design

by Gillian Flaccus
Associated Press

A former computer specialist with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory spent much of his free time advocating for the idea that a higher intelligence must have had a hand in creation.

Now, a judge will decide if his commitment to that belief cost him his job.

Closing arguments in the wrongful termination lawsuit filed by David Coppedge against Pasadena-based JPL began April 16 after a five-week trial that generated intense interest among proponents of intelligent design – the idea that life is too complex to have evolved through evolution alone.

The case will be decided by Superior Court Judge Ernest Hiroshige after both sides agreed to forgo a jury.

Coppedge, an evangelical Christian who worked on NASA’s Cassini mission exploring Saturn and its many moons, claims he was demoted then let go for promoting his views.

The former team leader alleges he was discriminated against because he engaged his co-workers in conversations about intelligent design and handed out DVDs on the topic while at work.

Coppedge lost his team leader title in 2009 and was let go last year after 15 years on the mission.

Coppedge was called to a meeting with a supervisor on March 2, 2009, and told to “stop pushing your religion,” his attorney William Becker said in his closing argument. The supervisor later claimed he was trying to help Coppedge, but Becker said the statement smacked of religious intolerance.

“Imagine if employees were told, stop pushing your gay agenda or stop pushing your feminist agenda, your civil rights agenda?” Becker said. “This is just another way that … shows it’s prejudice and it’s another shifting explanation to provide cover.”

JPL denies the claims. In court papers, lawyers for the California Institute of Technology, which manages JPL for NASA, have said Coppedge received a written warning because his co-workers complained of harassment.

They also said Coppedge lost his leader status because of ongoing conflicts with others.

Caltech lawyers also say Coppedge was one of two Cassini technicians and among 246 JPL employees let go last year due to planned budget cuts.

Coppedge, who began working for JPL as a contractor in 1996 and was hired in 2003, is active in the intelligent design sphere and runs a website that interprets scientific discoveries through the lens of intelligent design. His father authored an anti-evolution book and founded a Christian outreach group.

He is also a board member for Illustra Media, a company that produces video documentaries examining the scientific evidence for intelligent design. The company produces the videos that Coppedge was handing out to co-workers, said Becker, his attorney.

His main duties at JPL were to maintain computer networks and troubleshoot technical problems for the mission. In 2000, he was named “team lead,” serving as a liaison between technicians and managers for nearly a decade before being demoted in 2009.

He sued in April 2010 alleging religious discrimination, retaliation and harassment and amended his suit to include wrongful termination after losing his job last year.

Coppedge is seeking attorney’s fees and costs, damages for wrongful termination and a statement from the judge that his rights were violated.

 




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 

Headlines April 18, 2014

Business: Lockheed to Lose 17 F-35s Under Automatic Pentagon Cuts - Pentagon will cut 17 of the 343 F-35 fighters it planned to buy from Lockheed Martin in fiscal 2016 through 2019 unless Congress repeals automatic budget cuts, according to a new Defense Department report. DOD looking for ways not to break MH-60R helo deal - The...
 
 

News Briefs April 18, 2013

U.S. military deaths in Afghanistan at 2,177 As of April 15, 2014, at least 2,177 members of the U.S. military had died in Afghanistan as a result of the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan in late 2001, according to an Associated Press count. At least 1,802 military service members have died in Afghanistan as a result...
 
 
LM-F35-hours

F-35 fleet surpasses 15,000 flying hours

The Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II fleet recently surpassed 15,000 flight hours, marking a major milestone for the program.  “Flying 15,000 hours itself demonstrates that the program is maturing, but what I think is e...
 

 
nasa-cassini

NASA Cassini images may reveal birth of new Saturn moon

NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has documented the formation of a small icy object within the rings of Saturn that may be a new moon, and may also provide clues to the formation of the planet’s known moons. Images taken w...
 
 

NASA completes LADEE mission with planned impact on Moon’s surface

Ground controllers at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., have confirmed that NASA’s Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer spacecraft impacted the surface of the moon, as planned, between 9:30 and 10:22 p.m., PDT, April 17. LADEE lacked fuel to maintain a long-term lunar orbit or continue science operations and was intentionally sent...
 
 
Photograph courtesy of NASA Ames/SETI Institute/JPL-Caltech

NASA’s Kepler telescope discovers first Earth-size planet in ‘habitable zone’

Photograph courtesy of NASA Ames/SETI Institute/JPL-Caltech Kepler-186f resides in the Kepler-186 system about 500 light-years from Earth in the constellation Cygnus. The system is also home to four inner planets, seen lined up...
 




0 Comments


Be the first to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>