NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) just dumped a lot of fuel on the fire of David Coppedge's discrimination lawsuit by firing him on Monday. Coppedge's lawsuit against JPL alleges discrimination because he was prevented from talking about intelligent design (ID).This certainly makes it look bad for JPL and Caltech in terms of how they treated Coppedge for seemingly exercising his First Amendment rights. Luskin contines:
This could potentially expose JPL to a claim of wrongful termination and increase the merits of Coppedge's claim that JPL retaliated against him. According to Coppedge's attorney William Becker, JPL claims the firing resulted from downsizing in the face of budget issues, but Coppedge is the most senior member of the team that oversees the computers on NASA and JPL's Cassini Mission to Saturn. Coppedge doesn't seem at all like the first person who would normally be forced to leave in such a situation, but obviously, JPL has other considerations.
Those other considerations began in 2009 when the administration found out that Coppedge had occasionally had friendly discussions about ID with fellow employees. Coppedge was not pushy in these conversations; if a colleague wasn't interested, Coppedge dropped the matter. Nonetheless, one administrator yelled at Coppedge and ordered him to stop "pushing religion," which led to Coppedge filing a claim of harassment.We will have to wait for more information from the trial, itself before more can be said. This may, in fact, be an incidence of discrimination. That would be sad, not just for David Coppedge, but for those of us who think that scientists ought to behave better.
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