David Coppedge vs. JPL (08 Jun 2010)

OUR last post on this topic was David Coppedge vs. JPL: Strange Silence. The next few indented paragraphs provide background information, which most of you can skip:

This is about a suit by a creationist, David Coppedge, who claims he was wrongfully demoted by his employer because he was promoting Intelligent Design (ID) on the job. He works for Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), He also maintains a creationist website: Creation-Evolution Headlines.

This is a big case for the neo-theocrats at the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture (a/k/a the Discoveroids). They’re trying to establish some new kind constitutional right — an employee’s “freedom to promote creationism” in the workplace. One of their top legal talents, Discoveroid Casey Luskin, is advising the lawyer for Coppedge — that’s William J. Becker, Jr., who seems to be mostly a personal injury and workers’ comp lawyer.

To promote the issue, the Discoveroids are waging a public relations campaign which we described here: The Coppedge Case: A Study in Tactics and Strategy. They’ve set up a page devoted to this case: Background on David Coppedge and the Lawsuit Against NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

The peculiar silence in this case which has gone on for several weeks has come to an end. At the website of the Christian Post, which describes itself as “the nation’s most comprehensive Christian news website” and “a member of the Evangelical Press Association, a member of the National Association of Evangelicals, and a global partner of the World Evangelical Alliance,” we read Demoted Employee for NASA Mission Fights Discrimination. Here are some excerpts, with bold added by us:

An amended complaint was filed Monday in a lawsuit against a NASA laboratory in California on behalf of an employee who was demoted for discussing his beliefs about intelligent design.

That, when it gets served on the defendants, will give them another 20 (or is it 30?) days to respond. Let’s read on, as the article apparently recites from the amended complaint:

His supervisor, Gregory Chin, allegedly received complaints from employees and threatened the long-time employee with termination if he persisted with his intelligent design discussions. Coppedge said he would comply with the orders not to discuss the theory, politics or religion in the office but felt his constitutional rights were violated.

He later received a “written warning” which stated that his actions were harassing in nature and created a disruption in the workplace. Thereafter, he was removed from the team lead position in order to “lessen the strife” in the work area. His demotion was announced on a memo that was distributed on April 20, 2009.

Okay, then what happened? The article continues:

According to the amended complaint, Coppedge said he was never told by a co-worker that his discussion of intelligent design was unwelcome or disruptive to their work. He was offered no specific details of the charges allegedly made by other co-workers.

He didn’t know! They never told him anything. Oh, how horrible! Here’s more:

Since the incident, Coppedge continues to suffer embarrassment, emotional distress, humiliation, indignity, apprehension, fear, ordeal and mental anguish, the complaint states. Specifically, he has remained constrained in his ability to express his personal views and has been “kept a prisoner of JPL’s systemic ideological culture.” The JPL employee also “endures each working day under a cloud of suspicion and a threat of termination lest he say anything by which someone might take offense.”

Embarrassment. Emotional distress. Even fear! Truly, working among scientists is a creationist’s nightmare. This is the article’s last paragraph:

ADF [Alliance Defense Fund] Senior Counsel Joseph Infranco commented, “Mr. Coppedge has always maintained that ID is a scientific theory. Regardless, JPL has discriminated against him on the basis of what they deem is ‘religion.’ The only discussion allowed is what fits the agenda. Stray, and you are silenced and punished. It just doesn’t fit with JPL’s otherwise fine reputation in the industry.”

Hey, JPL is a science organization. What would a creationist expect at a place like that? Anyway, we’ve learned of an online copy of the amended complaint. The link can be found in this article at the website of the Alliance Defense Fund, with which Coppedge’s lawyer appears to be associated in some way.

The amended complaint is a 24-page pdf file: First Amended Complaint. We haven’t studied it. There will be plenty of time for that. We did, however, look at the end of it where court pleadings say that they were served on opposing counsel, and their names and addresses are given. There’s nothing like that, so we still don’t know if this thing has been served on anyone yet.

Anyway, the case is still alive. Stay tuned to this blog; we’ll keep you informed.

Next update: See: David Coppedge vs. JPL (10 Jun 2010).

Copyright © 2010. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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11 responses to “David Coppedge vs. JPL (08 Jun 2010)

  1. Poor widdle Coppedge has no place to vent his opinions, except his widdle website (Google “creation evolution headlines”) where he spouts off 1000 words a day against science, scientists and in particular evolution.

    Oh, he also spends a lot of time bashing his own Casini team which he appears to think has no idea what they’re doing.

    But I’m sure he kept his all-consuming anti-science intellectual inferiority complex to himself at work, right?

  2. “he has remained constrained in his ability to express his personal views ”

    When you work somewhere , anywhere, your personal opinion does not belong in the workplace. I can not see where coding or IT work would require a discussion about any Intelligent Design other than the Design of the Network or the Code that he is producing. If you spend your time talking over the water cooler ABOUT ANYTHING not work related, you will find yourself in hot water with any management team.

  3. Sam – I’d amend that to say ‘if you spend an inordinate amount of time talking…’

    The new complaint sounds perfectly mundane. Team lead mouths off to team about personal views, team complains to management, lead replaced. Happens all the time. I doubt he’s going to get anything, given that one of the functions of management is this very job (i.e. to make sure teams are working together well and potentially move people around if they aren’t).

  4. You totally mischaracterize what happened at JPL. “…Mr. Coppedge was told by supervisors to no longer discuss ID, religion or politics under threat of termination, and though he complied with the unfair order he was nevertheless stripped of his team leadership position and reassigned to a job position with less responsibility, and fewer privileges… ” In other words he was told to knock it off, he did, then he got demoted and is now dealing with the embarrassment and lack of ever being promoted within the organization. All for merely expressing respectfully an alternative view to his contemporaries. Read the entire complaint before making snap judgments. Its here at http://www.discovery.org/scripts/viewDB/filesDB-download.php?command=download&id=6891.

  5. Scott says:

    Read the entire complaint before making snap judgments.

    To avoid making a snap judgment, I’ll wait to see what both sides have to say. After all, it’s possible that Coppedge just might be the first creationist we’ve ever encountered who has credibility. Until then, he gets the credibility that creationism and its advocates have earned.

  6. Hey, Scott, since you’re such an expert, how about you explain JPL’s HR policies. They’re on-line.

    What’s the Truth, man? I’m sure you so very, very, very interested in the TRUTH.

  7. In other words he was told to knock it off, he did, then he got demoted and is now dealing with the embarrassment and lack of ever being promoted

    Sometimes you’re told to knock it off while your management investigates what to. Not every “stop now” order from your boss is a ‘warning.’

    On embarrasment – yeah, its embarrasing to be demoted. So what? Does that mean no company should ever demote an employee?

    On future promotion – that remains to be seen. However, it is likely that he’s not going to be promoted until surpervisors are sure he’ll stick to business during business hours, and that may take some time. One thing is for sure: the more he loudly proclaims that he had a right to talk religion to the team he was supposed to be leading, the less likely he’s going to be promoted. You don’t get promoted by telling your bosses you plan on doing what they don’t want you to do.

  8. longshadow

    We did, however, look at the end of it where court pleadings say that they were served on opposing counsel, and their names and addresses are given. There’s nothing like that, so we still don’t know if this thing has been served on anyone yet.

    You don’t suppose…. this lawsuit is just a ruse, and instead of serving it on opposing counsel, they’ll just keep “revising” it, while their friends at the UnDyscovery Institute, et al keep up the PR drumbeat, hoping that JPL will cave and make an out-of-court settlement to make this Clown-show go away, after which the clowns will all claim they were victorious.

  9. Unfortunately, it is often cheaper and easier to settle things out-of-court, usually with a gag order preventing either side from discussing the case. Which means we may never hear both sides of this story. In the end it won’t matter if Coppedge is right or wrong in his allegations, it is whether JPL feels it is in their best interest to fight this in court.

  10. RogerE says:

    Unfortunately, it is often cheaper and easier to settle things out-of-court …

    I’ve been thinking about settlement. I just can’t see it here. If JPL, NASA, and Caltech can’t stand up for science and wage an all-out scorched-earth war against this madness, then there’s really no hope — for them or for the rest of us. The only settlement possibility I can see is if Coppedge dismisses his case quickly, before things start getting expensive, then they might not go after him for fees.

    Will it play out like that? I don’t know. But it would be an extreme disappointment if it went any other way.

  11. SC, “If JPL, NASA, and Caltech can’t stand up for science and wage an all-out scorched-earth war against this madness, then there’s really no hope…”

    Yeah, that would be nice but, it’s not realistic. To JPL, et al, this is a nuisance, not a call to battle. Other than the DI’s PR campaign, very little notice is being paid to this case.