Discoveroids Spin Recent Coppedge Rulings

You all know about the soon-to-be-tried case filed by David Coppedge, a creationist, who claims he was wrongfully demoted (and later fired) by his employer because he was promoting Intelligent Design (ID) on the job. He used to work (until he was let go in a downsizing back in January) as a computer technician for Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). He also maintains a creationist website: Creation-Evolution Headlines [which was recently moved here].

Our last update on the case was David Coppedge v. JPL & Caltech (27 Oct ’11). That post has background information on the case, which most of you can skip. In that post we reminded you that:

[B]oth sides had filed motions for Summary Judgment, each accompanied by an extensive Statement of Facts and a supporting Legal Memorandum. Essentially, such motions claim that there are no material facts in dispute so there’s no need for a trial, and the court should rule for the moving party as a matter of law. One of those motions for Summary Judgment had been set for 26 October — that’s yesterday. The trial had been set to start on 19 October 2011, but that’s now changed to 14 December. Bear in mind that this will be a jury trial, which is inherently unpredictable.

The news in our last update was this:

There’s been a “TENTATIVE RULING” on the 26 October motion for Summary Judgement, but we don’t know what the order says. … Until we see the pleadings, we won’t know what’s going on, but something obviously happened yesterday.

We still haven’t seen the judge’s ruling, so we’re writing this in the dark, but the case is still set for trial on 14 December, and no more hearings are scheduled on either party’s Motion for Summary Judgment, so it’s obvious that neither side won its motion. That is, what Coppedge’s supporters had been touting as a sure thing wasn’t quite enough of a sure thing. There were unresolved factual issues, so the judge couldn’t rule for him. Nor did the judge rule that JPL’s defense case was a slam-dunk. So this mess is going to trial.

But now there’s a very peculiar post at the blog of the neo-theocrats at the Discovery Institute‘s creationist public relations and lobbying operation, the Center for Science and Culture (a/k/a the Discoveroids, a/k/a the cdesign proponentsists).

The Discoveroids’ post is Judge Sends NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab to Jury Trial for Firing Employee Who Discussed Intelligent Design. There’s no indication of an author, but we suspect it’s Casey. It appears that he’s been working closely with Coppedge’s lawyer.

The Discoveroids’ post is a wildly one-sided account of the latest proceedings, as you can see from the opening paragraph:

A Los Angeles County Superior Court judge ruled Friday that a jury will decide whether NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL) unlawfully discriminated against a former employee for discussing the scientific theory of intelligent design (ID) at work.

It goes on and on, reciting their untested legal theory that a creationist has a right to run wildly through the halls of his place of employment harassing everyone in sight about the wonders of creationism, and if the company reprimands him, counsels him, and eventually demotes him, the company has committed an horrendous act of “viewpoint discrimination.”

Well, that’s a slightly exaggerated description the general idea behind the lawsuit. We assume that Coppedge was a bit more restrained than “running wildly through the halls,” but he did approach a lot of people about his “science,” and there were numerous complaints about him.

The Discoveroids make no mention of the fact that Coppedge lost his Motion for Summary Judgment, but we think it’s obvious that he did. Anyway, the Discoveroids are already treating this as a great victory.

It’s possible that Coppedge could win in court. Jury trials are always risky. Or JPL could pay Coppedge some money to drop the case and go away. We think that’s likely, considering the uncertainty of a jury trial. If that happens, the Discoveroids will claim they’ve won a great legal victory, when all that really happened is that a creationist got paid to stop being a nuisance.

Anyway, that’s the latest. Don’t be misled by the Discoveroids’ post. It’s just a wee bit slanted.

Copyright © 2011. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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6 responses to “Discoveroids Spin Recent Coppedge Rulings

  1. A slanted Discoveroid post? I’m shocked!

    “The court’s ruling allows a jury to vindicate David Coppedge’s rights,” said Joshua Youngkin, a legal affairs policy analyst with Discovery Institute. “California law forbids employers who view an employee’s expression as religion to punish or diminish the employee on that basis.”

    “Although ID is not religion, it can’t be singled out by JPL or other employers in this way,” added Youngkin.

    Am I missing something? Per their comment above, the case centers on a state law against religious discrimination. So, it would seem that if the court determines that ID is not a religion, as the Discoveroids assert, then the very law they base their case on would not apply. On the other hand, if the court determines that ID is actually a religious belief, and therefore protected expression, then the DI’s efforts to spin it as a science and not religion will be seriously undermined. On the surface it would appear that they lose either way.

    According to Youngkin, “The upcoming JPL trial will remind employers that it is costly to discriminate against ID in the workplace.”

    The DI is looking more and more like Scientology every day.

  2. If ID is not a religion it’s not protected. You can get fired for lots of reasons that have nothing to do with work: poor hygiene, being a jackass, a romance with a coworker. If I went around my place of work trying to get people to look at my DVDs about the free energy suppression conspiracy I would probably get fired.

    As usual, they say it’s religious when they think it benefits them and not when they think it doesn’t.

  3. The actual case will hinge on the reasons Coppedge was disciplined, which had to do with his behaviors in the workplace, rather than the content of DVDs he distributed. In fact, his uber-enthusiastic workplace campaign for Prop 8 was probably more of disruption amongst his coworkers and managers immediately before his discipline than was his longstanding ID ministry.

  4. They did the same victory dance before the Dover trial. Those who do not learn from history…

  5. Tomato Addict

    Too bad we can’t harness all that spin to generate electricity.

  6. The DI is already popping the champagne corks! The jury trial in their eyes is a mere formality to dot the i’s and cross the t’s of a slam-dunk discrimination case. Worst case, of course, is that their dreams come true, Coppedge is reinstated, recipient of a fat settlement that will fund his creation safari ministry for a thousand years and a legal precedent that will keep Luskin in book royalties into old age. Ah, a grand dream.

    My dream would be the jury finding in favor of the defendants on all counts with Coppedge saddled with court costs, a clear confirmation that ID is a religious proposition and that the work place can establish clear religious boundaries.

    The most likely outcome, however, will be something in the middle. Something reasonable that the jury will decide. The DI is always puppy-happy about jury trials because they think the jury will be composed of Elmer Gantrys or Elmer Fudds, when, in reality, they are people from a cross-section who come together in that jury room, weigh the evidence and render a verdict.

    A sad conclusion would be for JPL to simply pay Coppedge to go away. Expedient, yes. And, in reality, how many Coppedge’s are there in industry? Pitifully few, I suspect. So it’s not as if the JPL workplace will be inundated with ID fanatics. Chances are Coppege was the only one and putting him in the rear view mirror is the best thing to do in the long run.

    Shades of Freshwater!