Judge Set to Rule on NASA Intelligent Design Case

David Coppedge Claims He Was Fired for Sharing His Christian Faith

Closing arguments are underway in the case involving a lawsuit filed by a former NASA mission specialist claiming he was demoted from the position of team leader and later fired because of his open beliefs in intelligent design. A judge is set to rule on whether his views really were the cause of his termination.

David Coppedge, a former computer specialist with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, was well-known around his workplace for promoting the idea of intelligent design and arguing that the complexity of life shows evolution alone is not enough to explain how life came to being, The Associated Press reported.

The five-week trial examined evidence from Coppedge's attorneys, who tried to prove that many others at NASA were resentful of the computer specialist's views on intelligent design as well as his Christian beliefs. NASA, however, has argued that computer specialist's demotion and subsequent termination were based on his constant harassment of others and trying to force his beliefs on them.

Coppedge, who for 14 years worked as an information technology specialist on the Cassini mission to Saturn, allegedly handed out DVDs promoting intelligent design to his colleagues while at work. The DVDs, showing scientific evidence purportedly proving intelligent design, were made by Illustra Media, of which Coppedge is a board member.

Lawyers for the California Institute of Technology, which manages the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory program, have said that the organization sent Coppedge written letters warning him to stop with the alleged harassment, but he apparently did not heed the warning and continued "evangelizing" at the workplace.

Coppedge, who has maintained that intelligent design is a scientific theory, has stated that he only offered the DVDs when the co-worker expressed interest. The JPL veteran was demoted in 2009, and terminated in 2011 after filing a discrimination complaint.

"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," argued William Becker, Coppedge's lawyer.

"He's not apologizing for who he is. He's an evangelical Christian," Becker added.

The Discovery Institute, an intelligent design think tank, has argued, "Evidence shows that JPL demoted and terminated Coppedge because he expressed a pro-ID scientific viewpoint disliked at JPL and labeled 'religion' by JPL decision-makers."

After both sides agreed to forgo a jury, the case will now be decided by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Ernest Hiroshige. Coppedge is seeking damages for wrongful termination and compensation for attorney's fees and costs.