World Magazine has an excellent report on the David Coppedge story with new insights into his background — and new reason to do something about the discrimination he’s suffered.
About 14 years ago, Coppedge, now 59, got a dream job working with computers on the lab’s Cassini mission to Saturn. One of the most advanced outer planet missions in NASA’s history, the satellite has been sending back spectacular images since orbiting Saturn in 2004, after a nearly seven-year voyage.
Back in California, where Coppedge worked, he would occasionally offer to loan DVDs about intelligent design to co-workers. “I would only approach people I was friendly with, not strangers” he said. “I tried to be sensitive, and if somebody was not interested, I stopped.”
This continued once or twice a month for about a decade. Then, in March 2009, Coppedge’s manager called him into his office and told him to stop. “He claimed that I was pushing my religion,” Coppedge said. “It came out of the blue.”
After a heated discussion, Coppedge says he obeyed and stopped handing out DVDs. But a month later, Coppedge was demoted and given a written warning that he had violated the laboratory’s ethics policy. Coppedge filed a discrimination suit last April under California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act. Then last month JPL fired Coppedge.
Note again how Coppedge ceased his activity (of friendly conversation) before he was demoted — and now he’s lost his job.
It’s an all-too-familiar story for those who follow the intelligent design debate. As the article quotes Coppedge’s attorney:
“It has become pandemic in this nation’s scientific community,” said Becker, “to discriminate against people who hold views about the origin of life that are contrary to the 150-year-old theory of evolution.” In another case, the California Science Center is being sued for canceling a screening of a film promoting intelligent design. And the University of Kentucky recently paid $100,000 to settle a discrimination lawsuit against an astronomer who was denied a job because of his belief in creation.
Becker hopes a similar victory for Coppedge will vindicate the rights of those who want to advance the public’s understanding of intelligent design. Coppedge says he mainly wants his job back: “I’m not ready to retire.”
David Coppedge deserves better from NASA’s JPL, and we deserve better from our taxpayer-supported institutions than a witch-hunt against intelligent design. Send a message to NASA and call or least email Charles Bolden, NASA’s administrator, to express your outrage at the fact that Coppedge was fired. Phone: 202-358-1010 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.