David Coppedge v. JPL & Caltech (18 Feb ’11)

Our last post on this topic was David Coppedge Ponders His Next Move. If you’re new to this, for background on David Coppedge’s lawsuit against Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and & Caltech, see David Coppedge v. JPL & Caltech — He’s Fired!

The only news we can glean from the court’s docket is that Coppedge has requested leave to file an amended complaint and for a continuance of the trial. The request, presumably unopposed, was granted on 14 February. There’s no indication that the amended complaint has been filed yet. Otherwise, the start of the trial date has been moved from 15 June to 19 October of this year.

There’s one other bit of news we can report, and this is on the public relations front. There’s an article about the case appearing at the website of something called World, which describes itself as follows:

We like to report good news but we don’t make it sticky-sweet. We also report bad news because Christ’s grace becomes most meaningful when we’re aware of sin. … We stand for factual accuracy and biblical objectivity, trying to see the world as best we can the way the Bible depicts it. Journalistic humility for us means trying to give God’s perspective.

Their article on the Coppedge case is Design flaw? A fired NASA employee says he was let go because of his belief in intelligent design. It’s sympathetic to Coppedge’s side of things, which is understandable because there’s nothing else available. JPL and the other defendants have been silent about their version of the facts.

The one thing we found interesting in their article is this description of Coppedge’s behavior on the job. As you read this, bear in mind that World‘s information is probably coming entirely from Coppedge and his lawyers. They say, with bold font added by us:

Back in California, where Coppedge worked, he would occasionally offer to loan DVDs about intelligent design to co-workers. “I would only approach people I was friendly with, not strangers” he said. “I tried to be sensitive, and if somebody was not interested, I stopped.”

This continued once or twice a month for about a decade. Then, in March 2009, Coppedge’s manager called him into his office and told him to stop. “He claimed that I was pushing my religion,” Coppedge said. “It came out of the blue.”

That is what Coppedge or his lawyers admitted to World. We have only silence from the defendants, so let us be magnanimous and assume that Coppedge’s creationist outreach activity on the job occurred only twice a month for a decade. That’s probably 240 instances of what we assume was creationist proselytizing. But let’s not get carried away. We’ll be conservative and say it’s only 200 separate incidents. Only 200! Think about it.

We can imagine the reaction of the JPL science staff (the mildest of which may have been: “Get lost, you creep!“), so our guess is that Coppedge wouldn’t have done this to the same person more than once. Therefore, being fair about the numbers, we assume that there were 200 separate people who were affected by Coppedge’s behavior. This estimate comes from what he himself or his lawyers admitted to World magazine.

The Discoveroids have an article at their blog about the piece in World: World Magazine Reports on the David Coppedge Case. They refer to it as:

… an excellent report on the David Coppedge story with new insights into his background — and new reason to do something about the discrimination he’s suffered.

Obviously, opinions vary. Your Curmudgeon’s opinion is that if those facts are the best that Coppedge has in his favor, the outcome of his trial is unlikely to be to his liking. But we’ll have to wait and see.

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

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6 responses to “David Coppedge v. JPL & Caltech (18 Feb ’11)

  1. We can also assume that “once or twice a month” is an understatement.

    I think it is telling that he describes have “a heated discussion” with his manager when he was told to stop his activity. That’s an insight into how passionately he viewed his missionary activity in the workplace.

  2. Somehow, I suspect that if a Wiccan had been proselytizing like Coppedge did, the IDiots would be about as welcoming of that as they would be of pagan origination myths being taught in science classes.

    As always, freedom of religion means that they get to co-opt government resources to spread their religion, while no other religion is allowed to do so.

    Casey’s pathetic squeak is that JPL disparages religious non-science (ID) while religious non-science (ID) isn’t allowed at JPL. Duh. I wonder if JPL should be discussing the merits of religious objections to relativity.

    And yes, I was rather struck by the heated discussion Coppedge had when told not to use government time to boost his religion. He doesn’t seem friendly and conversational regarding his religion, in fact. Of course World is only pleased that creationism is Coppedge’s lifelong “passion,” since spreading Xianity is its primary goal.

  3. Where to begin; rarely do I find such a wonderful opportunity. “We stand for factual accuracy and biblical objectivity, trying to see the world as best we can the way the Bible depicts it. Journalistic humility for us means trying to give God’s perspective. ”

    “biblical objectivity” , isn’t that an oxymoron? It is in my world.

    And then there is the dichotomy between “factual accuracy” and “biblical objectivity”; that is an apples and oranges comparison.

    “trying to see the world as best we can the way the Bible depicts it”; what is the matter, your own eyes don’t work? Are you on drugs and cannot figure it out for yourself?

    “Journalistic humility” , what is that, a new way of describing censorship?

    It wouldn’t be so scary if these people didn’t actually “believe” this tripe.

  4. “That’s probably 240 instances of what we assume was creationist proselytizing.”

    Presumably, this didn’t all occur during lunch or other break times, so it seems as though JPL was being extremely tolerant of Coppedge’s on-the-job waste of their time. And he has the chutzpah to complain about JPL’s telling him to stop! No — not just complain, but taking them to court!!!

    Oh, that poor, mistreated man, having his “rights” trampled so badly! (I would have used more exclamation points here, but I ran out.)

  5. “It came out of the blue”

    Usually it does. I wonder how much of this situation comes not from the underlying behavior, but from Coppedge having perceptions of his behavior which are “off” from how his colleagues saw him. I’m not saying that what he was doing was ok, just that he really may have been clueless about how badly he was irritating others.

    The whole explanation in the article — it was just “friends”, minimizing what happened, the long period of time, the “what, me?” undertone — sounds like it’s from someone with what we’ll politely call “underdeveloped” self-awareness. They’ll constantly do things that rub people around them the wrong way, and are often surprised when this backfires, usually after a long period of building tension that they don’t notice — so what could have been a small firecracker of a conflict builds into a volcanic explosion instead. It’ll be interesting to see what JPL/Caltech have to say about what he was doing, assuming this doesn’t end in a sealed settlement.

    Either way, I’d bet this ends with the other side getting itself a legal martyr, and no one involved will have learned anything useful from this. Ugh…

  6. Of course it’s easy to imagine that the creator -pun intended- of Creation Safari (http://www.creationsafaris.com/10.html) just simply drops the idea if the co-worker is uninterested. Hmmm!

    I also find two other things striking. While I can understand why no one at JPL is talking, I mean lawyers are probably telling everyone to save it for the trial. But why hasn’t any of Coppedge’s former co-workers said anything? Even discounting those would might have told him to STFU, if even one person reacted favorably, why hasn’t Coppedge or his lawyer paraded them around. I mean they seem to be trying to try the case in the court of public opinion, why is it we have only Coppedge and his lawyer? Of course I discount the Discovery Institute barrage of posts on it, i mean does the Discovery Institute really matter?

    The other thing I find striking is Coppedge’s Creation Safari is identified as a Ministry of the ‘Master Plan Association’, a non-profit ogr. This MPA’s predecessor was started by Coppedge’s Dad and on its website the ONLY thing listed is Creation Safari — even the only other website mentioned (http://crev.info/) is another Coppedge site. Just look at the ’email us’ link (http://creationsafaris.com/images/cehmail.gif). These are linked under http://masterplanassociation.org/3.html. The rest of the MPA website is nothing but empty pages.

    Sure the guy who set all this up and is busy asking for donations on all three of his sites (CS, MPS, and crev.info) is perfectly willing to drop the whole thing if someone appeared to be disinterested. Why don’t I believe that?

    Ted Herrlich