An employee who sued a NASA laboratory in California last summer over religious discrimination was fired Monday.
The Discovery Institute, an intelligent design think tank following the case, said the firing of David Coppedge only adds fuel to his lawsuit against Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
Coppedge, who had been with the company for more than a decade, was reportedly fired as a result of downsizing. But the Discovery Institute suspects budget issues wasn't the main reason for letting him go.
"Coppedge doesn't seem at all like the first person who would normally be forced to leave in such a situation. Obviously, JPL has other considerations," Casey Luskin, an attorney with the think tank, stated.
Before being let go, Coppedge was demoted in 2009 after he was accused of "pushing religion" on his co-workers. The longtime employee had begun engaging colleagues in conversations about intelligent design – a theory that life and the existence of the universe derive not from undirected material processes but from an intelligent cause – and offering DVDs on the subject when the co-worker expressed interest.
Though Coppedge, an information technology specialist, has maintained that intelligent design is a scientific theory, his employers reportedly have deemed it religion.
He received a written warning that described his actions as harassing in nature and a disruption in the workplace. Thereafter, he was removed from the "team lead" position on JPL's Cassini mission to Saturn.
Coppedge filed a complaint last year, alleging that he has been "stigmatized in such a way that career advancement opportunities have been foreclosed to him." The complaint contends that Coppedge was deprived of his constitutional right to freely speak.
It also accuses his employers of creating, tolerating and condoning a work environment that is pervasively hostile to Coppedge on account of viewpoints he holds regarding intelligent design.