A lawsuit between Jet Propulsion Labs and a NASA mission specialist who claims he was demoted for his beliefs begins Wednesday, the latest in a series of court cases featuring intelligent design proponents suing former employers.
David Coppedge was employed at the JPL for 14 years and served as an information technology specialist on the Cassini mission to Saturn before being demoted. He first took his case to court in the summer of 2010 and was later fired in Jan. 2011.
In the complaint, Coppedge alleges that he was demoted and disciplined for discussing intelligent design with co-workers and distributing DVDs on the subject.
Proponents of intelligent design believe that an intelligent power is responsible for the world, and that life did not come about by random occurrences.
Other JPL employees were not penalized for expressing similar views in opposition of intelligent design, according to Coppedge's lawyers.
According to Coppedge's supervisor, other employees complained about his actions, saying they were harassing in nature and disruptive to the workplace. The supervisor also says that Coppedge received a written warning prior to his demotion.
Coppedge's complaint claims that he was also discriminated against for asking that the JPL "holiday party" be renamed the "Christmas party," as well as discussing Proposition 8, the California amendment to define marriage as between one man and one woman.
"Employees shouldn't be threatened with termination and punished for sharing their opinion with willing co-workers just because the view being shared doesn't fit the prevailing view in the workplace," said Coppedge's attorney, William Becker.
NASA and the JPL have remained relatively quiet with regard to Coppedge's case and could not be reached for comment.
The case has received the support of both the Alliance Defense Fund and the Discovery Institute, who have frequently spoken out on behalf of intelligent design.
"Mr. Coppedge has always maintained that intelligent design is a scientific theory, but JPL has illegally discriminated against him on the basis of what they deem is 'religion,'" said the ADF in a release.
In the first direct challenge to intelligent design theory in the U.S. courts, Kitzmiller vs. Dover Area School District, the majority opinion stated that intelligent design could not be taught in biology classes because it "cannot uncouple itself from its creationist, and therefore religious, antecedents."
However, as the Discovery Institute points out, "Since 2011, the California Science Center, University of Kentucky, and the journal Applied Mathematics Letters each paid settlements ranging from $10,000 to more than $100,000 to avoid trial for suppressing Darwin-doubting viewpoints."