David Coppedge is an IT employee who has worked on JPL's Cassini mission since 1997, but he is also a Christian who edits a blog titled "Creation-Evolution Headlines." The blog promotes the theory of intelligent design - the idea that an intelligent being - not evolution or random processes - is responsible for creating life and the universe.On the other side of the fence, Dover looms large:
"I think it's unfortunate that JPL, which is interested in exploring the origins of the universe would be hostile to the argument of intelligent design," said Coppedge's attorney William Becker, Jr.. "If anything, JPL is the premier space exploration resource in the world, it ought to have an openness to this theory."
But a case like his probably won't have a shot in court, because courts have viewed intelligent design as a religious belief, rather than a scientific theory, according to Gary Williams, a professor at Loyola Law School.Mr. Coppedge's attorney may argue that Intelligent Design is science and does not fall under the restrictions to which religious speech is subject. If he does, and if it is applicable, the defense will argue that the Jones ruling in Dover in 2005 established that ID is religious in nature and is, in fact, subject to those restrictions. It is a question of how narrowly ruled the Dover decision was. If it can be extended, then this could turn out very badly for ID.
Certain kinds of religious activity are protected if they are not intrusive - such as wearing certain religious garb - but speech during work hours is not included, he said.
So even if intelligent design is viewed as a religious belief, employers have the right to restrict what their employees discuss in a work context, Williams said.
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