March 13, 2012

NASA Employee Sues Over Intelligent Design Firing

A NASA computer specialist who was fired for expressing his belief in intelligent design, will now face his former employer in court, suing for wrongful termination.

David Coppedge, who worked as team leader on the Cassini project at NASA´s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, claims he was discriminated against because he engaged his co-workers in conversations about intelligent design and handed out DVDs on the controversial subject while at work.

Intelligent design is the belief that a higher power is responsible for all of creation because life is far too complex to have developed through evolution alone.

Coppedge was demoted in 2009 and was terminated last year after 15 years of work on the Cassini mission that explored Saturn and its moons.

In an emailed statement to The Associated Press, JPL dismissed Coppedge´s claims. Lawyers for the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), which manages JPL, said Coppedge received a written warning because his coworkers complained of harassment. And his demotion from team lead was due to ongoing conflicts with other employees.

The Caltech lawyers said Coppedge was one of two Cassini technicians and among more than 240 other JPL employees that were let go last year due to planned budget cuts.

Supporters of intelligent design, such as civil rights group The Alliance Defense Fund and the Discovery Institute, are supporting Coppedge.

The National Center for Science Education, an opponent of intelligent design, is also watching the case and has posted legal filings on its website.

Opening statements in the case were scheduled to begin today. Coppedge´s attorney, William Becker, contends his client was singled out by his employers because they perceived his views to be religious in nature. Coppedge had a reputation as an evangelical Christian around the workplace, and interactions with coworkers led some to label him as a Christian conservative, Becker said.

Coppedge is seeking attorney´s fees and court costs, damages for wrongful termination and a statement from the judge that his rights were violated, said Becker.


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