A religious kook who previously worked for NASA is now apparently suing them. His suit alleges that he was demoted — and then let go — for promoting his views on intelligent design.
I’m all for folks having the freedom to believe whatever they wish, and to also promote their utterly insane beliefs in their own time. That stance is rooted in well-established human rights such as “Freedom of Thought”, so I do wonder just how far this guy went to actually get fired. NASA, like many employers these days, promotes “Equal opportunity in employment”. This simply means that they provide equal opportunity in Federal employment regardless of race, color, gender, national origin, religion, age, disability, sexual orientation, or status as a parent.
So what really happened?
This appears to be a to be a fairly straightforward employment law case. The report in the press reads …
David Coppedge, who worked as a “team lead” on the Cassini mission exploring Saturn and its many moons, alleges that he was discriminated against because he engaged his co-workers in conversations about intelligent design and handed out DVDs on the idea while at work. Coppedge lost his team lead title in 2009 and was let go last year after 15 years on the mission.
The press article goes on to clarify …
In court papers, lawyers for the California Institute of Technology, which manages JPL for NASA, said Coppedge received a written warning because his co-workers complained of harassment. They also said Coppedge lost his “team lead” status because of conflicts with others.
Caltech lawyers contend Coppedge was one of two Cassini technicians and among 246 JPL employees let go last year due to planned budget cuts.
Ah, so things become a little clearer, it is indeed a discrimination case. I might not like his views, I might not support his views, and so regardless of belief, he may or may not have a claim here. The key is to perhaps ask yourself this question …
Was he fired because he was wasting people’s time and bothering them in ways that would have led him to being fired regardless of whether it was about religion or not … or … did NASA treat him badly because of his beliefs? If he can indeed show that he was fired simply for his beliefs alone (even if they are wrong and truly daft) he might indeed have a case. However, with his fellow employees complaining about harassment, I suspect he has no case.
The trial starts Monday and so it will be up to the court to resolve that question.
So why am I blogging about this? Well, not simply because yet another religious nut has been sufficiently crazy enough to cause his fellow employees to complain about harassment, but rather to point out a concern here. There is a risk that this has the potential to rapidly spin out of control, and not just because it is NASA. That only motivates a “NASA being sued” feeding frenzy for a day or two in the press, but rather because of who else is now attempting to stick their finger into the pie and really stir things up.
Apparently the fact that this chap just happens to be a Creationist and was promoting Intelligent Design means that the following are all lining up to scream about some “Intolerance” here … the additional players include …
- The Alliance Defence Fund - A bunch of homophobic bigots who wish to fight for the promotion of their specific religious beliefs within public bodies: in other words demolish Jefferson’s wall of separation between church and state
- The Discovery Institute – Yep, kook central for ID
John West, a director from the Discovery Institute is quoted as saying …
It’s part of a pattern. There is basically a war on anyone who dissents from Darwin and we’ve seen that for several years,
Sigh! …(Insert face-palm here)… No John, there is no war, you simply have 99.98% of scientists who roll with the mountains of evidence and view evolution as a well-established fact … vs …. the lunatic fringe of 00.02% crazy scientists who are quite sure “God did it” is the right answer on the basis of exactly zero credible evidence. John, there is no war here, you are quite free to believe whatever you wish, and so when challenged with valid criticism you don’t get to call it “war”.
Sadly, what should in fact be a simple discrimination case is instead being pushed into a new direction and is being promoted as a conspiracy against “Intelligent Design” – it will no doubt greatly muddy the waters.