Creationist alleges “religious discrimination” at JPL

An Intelligent Design creationist is suing Caltech for allegedly firing him for espousing his beliefs at the workplace.

David Coppedge has sued Caltech, which operates Jet Propulsion Laboratory for NASA, claiming religious discrimination and retaliation, harassment and wrongful demotion. Officials removed Coppedge from a lead system administrator position on the Cassini mission to Saturn in 2010, and was let go in 2011. Some 200 workers were laid off that same year due to budgetary constraints.

Denying the allegations, in documents filed with the Los Angeles Superior Court, JPL officials allege that Coppedge received a written warning because Coppedge allegedly harassed co-workers about his beliefs.

It’s an interesting case. Coppedge was a sysadmin, so his views on creationism are pretty much irrelevant to the performance of his job duties. On the other hand, freedom of speech does not give him the right to harass his co-workers, regardless of the cause or content of his alleged harassment. He certainly has the right to express his beliefs at his place of employment, but not to the point that it interferes with other employees’ ability to perform their duties.

I’ll be very interested in seeing how this trial works out.


  1. random says

    So he’s claiming religious discrimination? But the ID people have insisted that ID is about science, not religion. Own goal.

  2. geocatherder says

    Years ago, as a lead engineer, I had a guy working on my team who could get a day’s work done in a few hours, and do it really, really well. Then he’d spend the rest of the day chatting with co-workers, wasting their time, and slowing them down. It got to the point where I was begging management to do something about it, when he quit. I was delighted. Fortunately, by that time I’d gotten through to my manager, and he’d explained to me the sequence of actions a company must take to fire an employee for cause without inviting a lawsuit. It sounds like JPL did all the right things, and if they’re decently represented in court JPL will win.

    Religious beliefs aren’t the only motivation for being a co-worker-bothering PITA in the workplace. Of course, some god-botherers will argue it’s the only justifiable reason for being such. Souls need saving!

    It sounds like JPL did all the right things, and if they’re decently represented in court JPL will win.

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