Faithandthelaw's Blog

The law as it relates to Christians and their free exercise of religion

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory Sued for Discriminating Against Intelligent Design Proponent

Posted by faithandthelaw on April 24, 2010

Supervisors at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory illegally harassed, demoted and humiliated a computer specialist and high-level system administrator for his beliefs about intelligent design, according to a lawsuit filed in California Superior Court.

David Coppedge is an information technology specialist and system administrator on JPL’s international Cassini mission to Saturn, the most ambitious interplanetary exploration ever launched. A division of California Institute of Technology, JPL operates under a contract with the federal space agency. Coppedge held the title of “Team Lead” System Administrator on the mission until his supervisors demoted and humiliated him for advancing ideas that superiors labeled “unwelcome” and “disruptive.”

Intrigued by scientific research that raises questions about Darwinian explanations of life’s history, Coppedge would offer DVDs to coworkers exploring the case for intelligent design in cosmology and biology. Coppedge’s supervisor alleged that he received complaints about the DVDs from colleagues of Coppedge that he refused to identify. In 2009, this supervisor first angrily harassed Coppedge, claiming that “intelligent design is religion” and that Coppedge’s sharing of these DVDs with co-workers amounted to “pushing religion.”   After Coppedge complained about this harassment, the supervisor retaliated by getting JPL to launch an investigation of Coppedge, which resulted in harassment charges against Coppedge and severe limitations upon Coppedge’s free speech rights to talk about intelligent design.  Coppedge was targeted for investigation and punishment despite the fact that other JPL employees are allowed to express a wide variety of views in the workplace, and despite the fact that other supervisors eventually admitted they had never received a single complaint regarding Coppedge’s conversations about intelligent design prior to their investigation.  In gross violation of JPL internal procedures and the principles of due process, Coppedge was kept in the dark about the nature of JPL’s investigation, only being informed after the fact of the accusations against him, the investigation procedures, and the verdict at a final meeting in which he was demoted and threatened with losing his job if he persisted in purportedly “unwelcome” and “disruptive” discussions of intelligent design.  Given that Coppedge maintains he was never pushy and never raised the topic of intelligent design if a co-worker indicated they were not interested, this effectively silenced his ability to discuss intelligent design at the workplace.  To this day, Coppedge has yet to be informed of the identities of his alleged accusers or even of the specifics of any of their complaints so that he might have the opportunity to rebut them.

Coppedge is represented in the action by Los Angeles First Amendment attorney William J. Becker, Jr., of The Becker Law Firm.

Courtesy of


One Response to “NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory Sued for Discriminating Against Intelligent Design Proponent”

  1. […] Several of the reports on blogs and pro-ID and -YEC sites have emphasized that Coppedge has not been informed of who complained about him handing out material. They make this seem sinister and under-handed, but to me it makes perfect sense. Say you’re working in an office, and your supervisor does something you think is very bad, but you’re afraid that if you tell him about it he’ll fire you. Instead, you go to his boss and complain about it and ask that your identity be kept confidential in order to avoid reprisals. Even if your supervisor wouldn’t have fired you, it could still unconsciously have affected your job evaluations or future promotions if they knew it was you. Keeping your identity secret is the only way to prevent this, though in a lawsuit you would likely necessarily be called as a witness. In this sense, making a big deal about Coppedge not being “informed of the identities of his alleged accusers or even of the specifics of any of their complaints so that he might have the opportunity to rebut them” seems perfectly reasonable, in my opinion. (source for that particular quote) […]

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