Every so often there’ll be a media story revealing some gross abuse of public resources by government personnel: say, management at a given federal agency who are using a startling percentage of their government work time to look at Internet pornography on government computers — that sort of thing. Everyone gets outraged for a day then we forget all about it.
The ultimate government resource, much more so than time or computers, is power, especially the power to coerce and punish. So let us not forget all about the violence that’s been done to the public trust in the David Coppedge case at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Get ready now to call (preferably) or at least email Charles Bolden, NASA’s administrator, to express your outrage at the fact that Coppedge was fired this week. Here’s that contact information: phone: 202-358-1010; email: email@example.com.
From all appearances, supervisors at NASA’s JPL abused their power in order to persecute Coppedge, a top computer specialist on the Cassini Mission to Saturn and a Darwin doubter. NASA’s involvement means the affair is not like the recent Martin Gaskell case at the University of Kentucky which, in terms of generating taxpayer anger, stood to stir up residents of Kentucky in particular since they were paying for the whole thing. Here, with NASA being the federal space agency, every American has a direct stake in the matter.
What did Coppedge do to get himself in trouble? He occasionally chatted with interested colleagues about the scientific case for intelligent design, he passed around a couple of pro-ID DVDs, which made good sense since JPL’s officially defined mission includes the exploration of questions relating to the origin and development of life on earth and elsewhere. His supervisor severely chastised him for this, humiliated and demoted him.
Now he’s been fired. JPL claims it was a cost-cutting measure. But as Casey Luskin noted, when an agency or business needs to trim its payroll, the first jobs to go would not ordinarily be those of senior staff like Coppedge — who is, in fact, the most senior on his team. The truth will emerge when Coppedge’s lawsuit comes to trial, but the appearance here certainly suggests a final strike at Mr. Coppedge for his offense of introducing fresh ideas to co-workers.
Meanwhile, it’s important to take a moment now and call or write to Charles Bolden at NASA. Remind your friends to do so as well. Believe it or not, sometimes folks in government turn out to be sensitive to the thoughts of their constituents and employers — namely, you. Be respectful but firm in expressing your indignation at JPL’s truly indefensible attempt to silence a prominent, thoughtful, and well informed Darwin-doubter in their midst.
It’s bad enough when private universities clamp down on the free exchange of ideas. But public institutions have often seemed to be the worst offenders of all in this respect, and that is something taxpayers have every right to protest.
Visit this page for more information on the David Coppedge case.