Coppedge Trial: Klinghoffer on Day Three

This is from 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).

It’s by David Klinghoffer: In the David Coppedge Trial, Intelligent Design Is Where the Threads All Intersect. If you disregard his spin, there is a wee bit of news about what happened at the third day of the David Coppedge trial. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us:

David Coppedge at last took the stand today, for under an hour before the day’s business concluded.

That’s probably true. We’re not sure about the rest of his lead paragraph:

The balance of the day had been consumed with unsuccessful attempts by his former employer, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab, to bar the media from covering future testimony by Coppedge’s ex-colleagues bearing on the sources of their religious and political animus.

We’re not yet sure how the judge ruled. Becker, the lawyer for Coppedge, seems to want to conduct some kind of inquisition about the religious views of JPL’s witnesses. If he can show that they don’t share the religious views of Coppedge, then — it will be argued — they were prejudiced. JPL doesn’t want the press to have access to that questioning about such private matters, but the judge may let it all hang out. Let’s read on:

In his testimony, Coppedge described his religious background as the son of a Christian pastor whose writing encompassed creationism and intelligent design. Coppedge made a useful distinction between the two.

“Useful distinction”? It serves the purposes of the Discoveroids to claim that their magic designer isn’t a deity, but their “theory” is creationism, no doubt about it. We continue:

In this small and cluttered Superior Court room in Los Angeles, the Coppedge affair is unfolding on two different planes. On the legal plane it’s an employment discrimination case. On the cultural plane, it’s a story about the extent to which the culture of Big Science forbids people in the world of science from freely debating the merits of certain ideas, creating an illusion of “consensus.”

That pretty well describes the utterly irreconcilable worldviews that are clashing in the courtroom. Here’s more:

JPL in the person of Coppedge’s superior Greg Chin instructed Coppedge that he was forbidden from discussing ID with his colleagues. No one had complained to Coppedge himself that he should stop talking about the subject with them — a request that, had it been made, he would have respected and by which he would have abided.

Poor Coppedge. He had no clue that his creation “science” was unwelcome. Moving along:

Here’s the key to the whole affair. Never did JPL forbid expressions of contempt for ID. If you were anti-ID, you could advertise and advocate that view to your heart’s content. JPL only forbade expressions of support for ID. Coppedge was under a gag order on the topic, a constraint that no ID critic in the lab faced.

Oh, how unfair! JPL employees were free to be contemptuous of pseudo-science, but Coppedge wasn’t free to advocate it. Truly, it was a nightmare of discrimination. Another excerpt:

Get the point? JPL allows employees to informally share their views on a variety of subjects and reflecting scientific views of all kinds. In 2009 it made an exception and imposed limits on intelligent-design advocate David Coppedge alone, whose ID views were erroneously categorized as “religion” by ignorant colleagues. His views were not only dismissed but silenced.

Yes, we get the point. JPL’s scientists were allowed to freely discuss science, and nobody wanted to hear what Coppedge had to say about creationism. How could Coppedge accept such a situation? Here’s Klinghoffer’s conclusion:

Judge Ernest Hiroshige must evaluate whether JPL engaged in a selective policy driven by animus to David’s perceived religious beliefs. On that question the ultimate verdict will — or should — turn.

So there you are. That’s the Discoveroids’ — and Coppedge’s — thinking about what’s involved in this case. We trust that the judge has the intelligence and wisdom to reach the proper decision.

Copyright © 2012. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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24 responses to “Coppedge Trial: Klinghoffer on Day Three

  1. Ceteris Paribus

    “[w]hose [Coppedge’s] ID views were erroneously categorized as “religion” by ignorant colleagues.

    So where is the legal argument that the DI is making? The legal record in Kitzmiller at least, shows that ID = creationism = religion.

    If Coppedge’s colleagues categorized ID as religion, then his scientific colleagues were just acting as a subset of the larger group of citizens of all occupations who happened to be up to date on what the courts have decided to be true as a matter of law, and not mere personal opinion.

  2. Klinghoffer said:

    Never did JPL forbid expressions of contempt for ID. If you were anti-ID, you could advertise and advocate that view to your heart’s content. JPL only forbade expressions of support for ID. Coppedge was under a gag order on the topic, a constraint that no ID critic in the lab faced.

    What a complete, total and utter load of strawman shinola. Wait, what am I saying? Klinghoffer is doing what creationists do. Make up strawmen because they have zero evidence to back up said strawmen.
    Guess I shouldn’t be surprised, but half of me wants to laugh; the other half realizes that this will play with the undecideds.

  3. Ceteris Paribus

    @Gary:

    The “undecideds” will always be undecided because among other things they don’t understand is that free speech exists only out in the public square, and speech is permitted to be limited inside corporate walls.

    There must be entire legal textbooks of the ways an employer may limit speech or activities, from selling Amway products on company time, to sending and receiving personal emails, to submitting to drug testing, and bans on smoking tobacco products even away from the job place.

    Basically Coppedge is claiming he is being discriminated against for selling Amway products on company time.

    On the other hand, some long time back the Jehovah’s Witnesses successfully received Supreme Court approval to continue canvassing door to door in search of converts, since requiring them to first obtain a permit from a town or city would constitute a government infringing on their free speech rights in the public square.

    Next time the Jehovah’s Witnesses appear on your door step, take a moment to thank them.

  4. @Ceteris Paribus

    You say, “Basically Coppedge is claiming he is being discriminated against for selling Amway products on company time.”

    This is incorrect, Clark Burgess who was Coppedge’s boss said this on April 16, 2009 in response to David, “I believe the investigation was triggered by the discussion you had with Greg [Chin] on April 13th, when he demanded you stop passing out DVDs and discussing them in the workplace. When I first conversed with HR, they mentioned they were going to conduct an investigation based on that encounter.”

    One discussion, one encounter! You tell me how many workplaces would have their HR investigate an incident after one discussion where the boss told him to stop his one encounter? Normally a boss will tell a person to pipe down unless it’s work related. There is no HR investigation over that! If the person continues the boss might be more stern and perhaps give him a written warning after the verbal if serious enough, when termination becomes the option then HR gets involved with an investigation. Normally written warnings are handed out if one really messes up the job that they are doing for example, if one produces many bad parts that caused the company to loose a lot of money.

    NO, he wasn’t selling DVDs, by the way who told you David was selling them? Where did you read that? He passed them out, he wasn’t selling them. And here is a very important aspect in the case, there is no evidence that David continued to pass out the DVD’s after he was told by his boss not to do it anymore! And since there was compliance by David, JPL is in big trouble and let me tell you, he was fired because he dared to expressed his views which they deemed to be religious.

  5. Michael, enjoy it while you can. Your time here is very short, and may be past by the time you read this.

  6. One discussion, one encounter! You tell me how many workplaces would have their HR investigate an incident after one discussion where the boss told him to stop his one encounter?

    You have failed on two levels here, Michael. First the one encounter refers to the meeting with his supervisor, not how many times he tried to pass out tracts DVDs. Second, any company with the slightest shred of competency would initiate an investigation after one encounter, if the persons behavior during that encounter was sufficiently aggressive or inappropriate.

  7. Ceteris Paribus

    @Michael:

    If you poke into the preliminary trial documents or other info that has already been in print, I believe you will find a co-worker or maybe it was a supervisor of Coppedge, who states he did pay $2 or something nominal for one or more DVDs.

    Jehovah’s Witnesses gladly hand out their tracts free of charge at your doorstep, but there is no doubt in any body’s mind that they are “selling” something. But if a Jehovah’s Witness did that at work, the constitution would not protect them.

    And we are not talking about criminal activity in the workplace such as selling drugs. We are talking about behavior in the workplace, behavior that the employer can rightfully take action to control outside of the criminal justice system.

    What might matter in this trial is whether or not JPL can document a history of constructive intervention intended to amend of Coppedge’s behavior toward his work obligations. It would not be sufficient for JPL to just have his supervisors make black mark notations in his personnel record, and finally take action to dismiss him when some quota had been reached.

    And we know that Coppedge was well aware of his situation, since he himself initiated a review of a situation which had produced a written notice, and got it reduced to the status of a verbal notice. The question would be whether Coppedge made any attempt to take advantage of the reprimand to demonstrate a change of behavior, or just plowed on regardless.

    The tougher thing for Coppedge might be to support his claim of unfair religious discrimination when his termination came at the same time that large numbers of employees were being dismissed as the Cassini mission was winding down, and even his atheist Darwinist co-workers were being shown the door.

  8. Lawyers always frame cases the way most likely to prevail for their own position. If the law is on their client’s side—push the law. If emotional issues—push emotion. We constantly highlight what favors our ‘take” on the case, and minimize the other’s side.

    Coppedge is placing the focus on what was presented—intelligent design; JPL is focusing how it was presented—in a manner disrupting the office. Reading JPL’s trial brief, it is repeatedly stated Coppedge was not barred from talking about Intelligent design; he was barred from being so pushy about it. Coppedge kept focusing on the content; JPL focused on presentation.

    Coppedge (like many Christians who assume victimship) wants to whine he was being singled out for his precious beliefs—not recognizing he was being instructed because of how he was sharing them. It is very possible his supervisors eventually got to the point of saying, “Look, don’t talk about Intelligent Design” because Coppedge did not have the maturity to understand discretion.

    Nuts, he kept a list of who he talked to, their feedback, and “Try again.” Talk about an agenda!

    It irks me when the press considers an objection overruled as some great victory on a party’s part. JPL objected to talk about Intelligent Design, because they are claiming that is not what the case is about. JPL is trying to win a legal case; Coppedge is trying to win some public relations points with people who already believe as he does.

  9. Tomato Addict

    Michael wrote: One discussion, one encounter! You tell me how many workplaces would have their HR investigate an incident after one discussion where the boss told him to stop his one encounter?

    Plenty of workplaces would do this. Harassment is bad business, and employers may be sued if they fail to act on a complaint. I’ve seen a single complaint result in a hearing and dismissal with no public reference to other bad behavior.

  10. Tomato Addict

    Klinghoffer wrote: Here’s the key to the whole affair. Never did JPL forbid expressions of contempt for ID.

    My employer has never forbidden me from doing any manner of things, that doesn’t give me permission to do whatever I like. However, it does give me an idea how I might work off some of that Pi-day pie.

  11. Rubble says: “Michael, enjoy it while you can. Your time here is very short, and may be past by the time you read this.”

    Very prescient.

  12. The one discussion mentioned above was the one in which Coppedge told Chin that he felt Chin was harassing him – not the other way around. (He may have said that Chin was creating a hostile work environment). Chin then called HR because he was concerned that he might have done something wrong, and asked them to look into it. This happens often in office environments, where a manager turns to HR as a neutral party to make sure that his actions are appropriate. That appears to be what happened; HR looked into both Chin’s actions and Coppedge’s behavior.

    Secondly, per the court filings, the lead designation was transferred to another systems administrator due to a number of complaints from Coppedge’s customers over the years. One of them had already refused to work with him and obtained her own dedicated SA. If anything, Chin should have made the reassignment years earlier, but apparently Chin believed he could successfully coach Coppedge on his interpersonal skills. Eventually, he bowed to the pressure. The complaints from coworkers most likely contributed, but it is difficult to say whether he would have been reassigned had that been the only problem. The lead designation was passed to someone who was evidently rated high on working with customers. At the end of the day, a manager can reassign duties among his staff for any reason whatsoever, as long as he does not create a pattern of favoritism or discrimination – he could rotate the lead position once a year if he wanted to. The fact is that Coppedge held the role for many years during which he promoted his DVDs. An organization which did not allow such speech would have stopped it years earlier, and reassigned him long before it did.

    Finally, Coppedge was let go with other members of the team in a large reduction in staff. If JPL replaced him after the lay-off, it would create a perception that the layoff was a convenient opportunity to fire him, but there has been no indication that the position was re-established. The program is making do with the fewer number. Also, JPL contends that the SAs had differing expertise on differing systems, and that Coppedge’s specific skills were less necessary than others.

    His warning notice, incidentally, addressed communicating his personal views, not ID. That encompassed political matters such as Prop 8 and his views on whether the holiday party should only be for christians, along with pushing DVD’s expressing personal views on others.

    He lost no pay or benefits for the warning or reassignment.

    Somehow in all this, Coppedge has to show that he was disciplined (he was only warned), demoted (he wasn’t), and fired (he was laid off in a general reduction), based on a misperception by coworkers that his scientific views were actually religious, and that somehow JPL is either anti-christian or part of a great Darwinist conspiracy against ID.

    No wonder they wanted to settle this case.

  13. @Ed:

    You should write for the press… that’s about the best, most succinct “article” on the subject I’ve seen.

  14. Curmudgeon “Useful distinction [between creationism and ID]”?

    It’s called a “bait and switch,” and I may be the only “Darwinist” who doesn’t fall for it. ID – both the scam that it is, and the sugar-coated caricature that ID peddlers want us to think is is – is not what most people have in mind when they think of “creationism.” But ID is a subset of “creationism” as it is defined by most “Darwinists” and most self-described creationists who rave about ID. But while ID peddlers throw tantrums whenever a “Darwinist” equates ID with creationism, they just bite their tongue and look the other way when their fans do the same.

  15. This is a wretched situation from a blogger’s point of view. There’s no other news going on, and virtually nothing is coming out of the trial except the Discoveroids’ spin and some old, endlessly re-printed news stories that still repeat the nonsense that this is a case against NASA. So I’ll just keep looking …

  16. The judge is allowing the media full access to testimony. However, the judge will be limiting questions about religious belief and practices. Pasadena Star

  17. The attorney-attorney brouhaha that got resolved by the Judge today involved an intended line of questioning that would probe the religious and political beliefs of the JPL witnesses.

    JPL argued that of the 15 or so witnesses only about 5 of them had any involvement with Coppedge’s reprimand or layoff and, thus, opinions of people not involved were irrelevant.

    Becker disagrees and says that their religious views tainted how they viewed Coppedge. In a court filing available on the NCSE site today Becker writes, yes, in bold uppercase:

    THE PUBLIC HAS A RIGHT TO KNOW THAT INDIVIDUALS WERE MOTIVATED TO FALSELY AND MALICIOUSLY ACCUSE PLAINTIFF OF THE INVIDIOUS ACT OF HARASSMENT BECAUSE OF THEIR OWN RELIGIOUS VIEWS AND PERSPECTIVES, AND BECAUSE THEY FELT INTIMIDATED BY COPPEDGE’S STRONG RELIGIOUS CONVICTIONS DUE TO THEIR WEAK CONVICTIONS.

    I find this kind of argument typical of creationists. “What are you afraid of?” “Darwinists won’t debate creationists because they’re afraid of the truth.”

    Worse of all is the line of reasoning that a person’s decisions are completely governed by their religious views. During Kitzmiller the creationists were peeing themselves with joy about Judge Jones, a fine, Republican, Christian man who would certainly rule in favor of Biblical principles in the war to return prayer to public school.

    However, judges rule by fact of law, not their own opinion, and the same creationists were peeing on Judge Jones, activist, Darwinist stooge that he was for the ruling and stinging rebuke citing the school board’s breathtaking inanity, that was handed down.

    Since Becker can’t play the Atheists Hate Believers card he is stooping to the bottom of the slime pit to play the Weak Believers Hate Strong Believers card. I find the whole affair quite soiling.

  18. Tomato Addict

    TJW: @Ed:

    You should write for the press… that’s about the best, most succinct “article” on the subject I’ve seen.

    And he does it while juggling and riding a unicycle. Damn he’s good! :-)

  19. Doc Bill excerpting Becker…

    …THEY FELT INTIMIDATED BY COPPEDGE’S STRONG RELIGIOUS CONVICTIONS DUE TO THEIR WEAK CONVICTIONS.

    That sounds like an admission Coppedge was proselytizing to co-workers on the job. JPL and his co-workers call this harassment. Coppedge and his attorney claim he has a right to engage in this behavior in the workplace. Really?

    Maybe one co-worker was overly sensitive, but 15? And with Coppedge unable to present a single co-worker witness who backs him up and supports him? If this is the meat of Coppedge’s case I think the judge may have an easy decision.

  20. More than 15! In the depositions Coppedge estimated that he bugged no more than two people a month. Over a 10 year period that’s 200 incidents.

    I worked in a great place. We had an employee who was supportive of every fundraiser her 4 kids were running and she was forever circulating to the group sign-up sheets, about twice a month. Cookies, cakes, popcorn, tools, wrapping paper, photo frames, nose hair trimmers – you name it, one of her kids was flogging it.

    I was only interested in two things: Girl Scout cookies and Band sausage. In fact, if the Girl Scouts came out with a sausage cookie, I’d only be interested in one thing.

    Anyway, it got so bad, but the supervisor didn’t want to drop the hammer on her because she was a nice, sincere and very efficient employee, so he decided to put up a bulletin board specifically for fundraisers, right next to the coffee pot. We weren’t bombarded with unnecessary desktop mail, she got more orders and everybody was happy. I think all of her kids work for Amway now.

  21. I forgot why I was commenting, but, yeah, Jack, in Coppedge’s original complaint he wanted a court injunction against JPL and Caltech to exempt him from further suppression of his free speech. Not only did he want his fake team leadership position restored, which he termed “prestigious,” a creationist’s favorite term, but he wanted to be left alone to ply his DVD’s and evangelizing. I haven’t gone back through the court documents but I think the judge threw most of that stuff out prior to trial.

    I don’t recall exactly what Coppedge wants but it’s not his old job back because that’s gone. I think he wants some money, attorney fees and a note from Mommy, er, the Judge saying his rights were violated.

    That last thing is just weird. Any legal beagles out there to comment on the reason and value of such a letter and if it is even possible? Could it be used for further litigation?

  22. Curmudgeon: “There’s no other news going on.”

    Unless you define “news” as something that was unknown 24 hr earlier, I would say that the biggest news of the year (regarding the “controversy” at least) is that the politiciian who is the most in-on-the-scam in the last 150+ years is running for president, and has come from close to last among ~10 Republicans to a close 2nd, with a decent shot of winning both the candidacy and the general election. And for all we know he (Santorum) could pick Jindal as a running mate.

  23. Tomato Addict

    Nehemiah Scudder 2012

  24. Doc Bill: “I don’t recall exactly what Coppedge wants….”

    Let me refresh your memory. He has a radical activist organization backing him. One that eats drinks and sleeps PR. One that is reportedly funded by a billionaire activist. One that is known to abandon the very ones they tirelessly support should they dare to lose a case (anyone with evidence that the DI paid Dover’s legal fees is free to prove me wrong).