David Coppedge v. JPL & Caltech — He’s Fired!

We finally have some news to report about this case, and it comes from 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).

Casey Luskin — our favorite creationist and seemingly the only non-fellow among the Discoveroids — has just posted NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab Fires Cassini Mission Senior Computer Admin Who Filed Discrimination Lawsuit. But first, here’s some background information. Most of you can skip next few indented paragraphs:

This is 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 (or did until recently) 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 initially waged 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, which is here, but which seems to have languished for months.

The official information source for the Coppedge case requires payment of a small fee to the court clerks here: Superior Court of California, Los Angeles. At the box for “Case Number” you need to enter BC435600. Some minimal information is available for free — the names of the parties and their lawyers, a list of what documents have been filed, what proceedings have been held, and what future hearings have been scheduled.

The case is scheduled for trial starting on 15 June 2011, and news has been scarce for months. The Discoveroids’ last post about Coppedge was in June of 2010. But now their silence has ended. Casey says, with bold font added by us:

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) just dumped a lot of fuel on the fire of David Coppedge’s discrimination lawsuit by firing him on Monday.

That’s news! Let’s read on:

This could potentially expose JPL to a claim of wrongful termination and increase the merits of Coppedge’s claim that JPL retaliated against him. According to Coppedge’s attorney William Becker, JPL claims the firing resulted from downsizing in the face of budget issues, but Coppedge is the most senior member of the team that oversees the computers on NASA and JPL’s Cassini Mission to Saturn. Coppedge doesn’t seem at all like the first person who would normally be forced to leave in such a situation, but. Obviously, JPL has other considerations.

Casey has his opinion, but reality may be different. We doubt that Casey knows why JPL decided to part company with Coppedge, but it’ll all come out in the trial. The rest of Casey’s post is just a rehash of material that the Discoveroids have said earlier: Coppedge was a great man, he “occasionally had friendly discussions about ID with fellow employees,” JPL was intolerant, etc. For example, Casey says:

Coppedge was then demoted and threatened with losing his job if he persisted in purportedly “unwelcome” and “disruptive” discussions of ID. Part of JPL’s “Origins Program’s” mission is purportedly to study questions like “How did we get here?” One would think that a little friendly conversation about intelligent design in the workplace would therefore be tolerated. Sadly, the gag order applied to no other JPL employees, and in fact JPL has openly tolerated anti-ID speech from its other employees. David Coppedge was singled out and prevented from speaking in favor of ID.

What intolerance! Creationism was banned but other ideas weren’t. How could JPL be so blind?

If you want the full Discoveroid treatment, click over to Casey’s post and read it all. But the only news is that Coppedge is gone. The remarkable thing, in our humble opinion, is that JPL kept the guy around as long as they did. Anyway, the trial is still scheduled, so we’ll have more to say about this case as it develops. Stay tuned.

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

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13 responses to “David Coppedge v. JPL & Caltech — He’s Fired!

  1. Looks like JPL isn’t very scared of the legal maneuverings of the IDiots.

    Could that be the point, to look like they’re sure of themselves? I doubt it, rather, if Luskin et al. had more than gerbil teeth, JPL would be treading lightly at this point. They probably looked at all of the records and asked why they’ve tolerated such a nuisance when they have so much against him.

    Go ahead and spin your little wheel, though, Casey. I hear it’s good exercise for rodents.

  2. As a former supervisor and manager in a large corporation, my opinion is that both Coppedge and his suit are toast.

    First of all, JPL (and their HR, and Coppedge’s supervisors) is well aware of the pending suit and the entanglements that might ensue should Coppedge be terminated. They could have fired him two years ago or any time since. I’m guessing “fired for cause” is not the case.

    Downsizing is a different, more subtle animal that isn’t based on performance; it’s based on situation. If a group is eliminated from the org chart (and I’ve seen and experienced this and I’ve seen entire groups and very qualified people vanish) then the employees in that group have several options: they can volunteer to quit and take the downsizing severance package if one is offered, they can elect to retire because the severance rules are a little different for retirees, or they can find themselves another position in another group.

    That last option is important because it makes it incumbent on the employee to find himself another position. If another group doesn’t take the employee then it’s Game Over.

    A few other points. First, the DI lies about everything, especially Luskin. The Gerb tries to downplay why Coppedge was disciplined in the first place by saying he had a few, casual conversations, etc. We all know that’s crap. In my experience you have to do something pretty extraordinary to get a reprimand. You have to be a Royal Pain in the Ass, not just a little weird.

    Second, a person soils his own nest by suing his employer and by this I refer back to downsizing. What group would take this radioactive person? What supervisor would say, “Oh, a troublemaker, give him to me!” It’s also called burning bridges, shooting yourself in the foot, getting hoist by your own petard or simply antisocial behavior.

    We’ll see which way it goes. Did Luskin spin out another lie? Most likely.
    Did JPL’s HR make a reckless decision? Least likely.

  3. Doc Bill says:

    It’s also called burning bridges, shooting yourself in the foot, getting hoist by your own petard or simply antisocial behavior.

    Typical “Darwinist” attitude — immoral, cruel, and insensitive. Casey knows that JPL has shot itself in the foot — both feet! Coppedge is the only one at JPL who knows creation science. He and he alone can show them the way to the stars. But will JPL listen? No. Instead, Coppedge has been Expelled!

  4. Coppedge sued about demotion. It was never clear if he lost pay. Now that he’s not an employee how can he change the suit to wrongful termination. I’d think he would have to drop the first suit and file a new one.

  5. Doc Bill says:

    I’d think he would have to drop the first suit and file a new one.

    The trial’s not until June. The judge might let him amend the complaint to add a new count. Same parties, same lawyers, just one more new item to take depositions about.

  6. One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind!

  7. LRA says: “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind!”

    Don’t feel bad about Coppedge. He’ll probably be able to get a job at Ken Ham’s Ark Park. Shoveling dinosaur droppings over the side or something.

  8. The LASC pay site isn’t showing any documents more recent than November 2010. I’ll keep an eye on it.

  9. Like it or not, everything JPL has done to silence Coppedge has been one blunder after another. Unless they have evidence that he did something egregiously unethical or showing that he somehow lapsed into some sort of inability to perform his duties, I think they should be blasted (and hard) for firing him. His ID beliefs have clearly had no adverse impact on his ability to perform his duties at JPL for well over a decade.

  10. Coppedge’s job as a computer systems administrator for the Cassini Mission would have given him access to and control over the data being collected — the primary product of the mission. If Coppedge is a true believer in creationism/young earth/young universe/Answers in Genesis, etc. then he clearly harbored thoughts that were hostile to the goal of the mission: the collection of accurate, unbiased data. The Cassini data has great potential to undermine the creationist view. (E.g. Jason Lisle claims that the heat given off by planets proves that they are no more than a few thousand years old. New data on any aspect of the planets that is consistent with mainstream old-universe astrophysics is a threat to creationism). IMHO it would have been irresponsible for JPL to have kept Coppedge in a position where he would have had both motive and opportunity to sabotage or distort the Cassini data. The Cassini Mission cost millions of dollars and took years of work to achive. JPL did the right thing by removing a potential saboteur. Coppedge should never have been on the Cassini team in the first place, IMHO.

  11. “If Coppedge is a true believer in creationism/young earth/young universe/Answers in Genesis, etc. then he clearly harbored thoughts that were hostile to the goal of the mission: the collection of accurate, unbiased data.” That is quite a slippery slope to automatically assume that someone would sabatoge a very important mission to further personal beliefs. Assuming that just because of his beliefs he might do something to undermine that is quite foolishly biased. I seem to recall non-ID, atheist scientist doing the changing of data for their personal beliefs in the “climate-gate” scandal. Should we not hire any Muslims with the belief they might blow up something or try to impose sharia law in the workplace? Intelligent ignorance and bias is just as bad as redneck morons in the south with sheets.

  12. I seem to recall non-ID, atheist scientist doing the changing of data for their personal beliefs in the “climate-gate” scandal.

    If by “recall” you mean “invented from whole cloth”. You need to read those emails again, because no one “changed any data”.

    Intelligent ignorance and bias is just as bad as redneck morons in the south with sheets.

    Be that as it may, if you insist on harassing your coworkers to read your religious tracts you are going to get fired anywhere you work.

  13. Oh, yeah, it would also be interesting to see which of those “climategate” emails established which climate scientists as “atheists”.

    If you had the truth on your side you wouldn’t need to invent things.