A computer system administrator and creationism activist has filed suit against his employer, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), alleging that a recent and unspecified demotion was the result of his views on Intelligent Design (ID). ID is a pseudoscience promoted as an alternative theory to evolution, but the program has been recognized by the courts as creationism, a non-scientific, religious belief.
In the suit (download), long-time anti-evolution commentator David Coppedge names three defendants and sues fifty unidentified defendents, saying he was “charged with violating his employer’s anti-harassment and ethics policies by promoting his religious views” for discussing ID with co-workers. Coppedge was allegedly told that JPL had received numerous complaints from other employees about his activities.
In the court document, Coppedge seems particularly troubled that his supervisor referred to ID as religiously-based, and that he was asked to stop distributing DVDs on the subject at work. “Such overt discrimination and harassment had a powerful impact on Plaintiff, since it clearly communicated to him the message that his views were misunderstood, misperceived and challenged an entrenched ideological orthodoxy…” says the suit.
Given that personnel issues are legal matters seldom commented on publicly by companies, it is unlikely that JPL will provide any details. Nevertheless, the Discovery Institute suggests that the failure of JPL to comment is an indication that the agency is “cloaking the investigation in secrecy” and that “investigators may have twisted the comments of those they interviewed to justify the investigators’ predetermined conclusions.”
News of the suit was first released by the Discovery Institute, which created Intelligent Design and has been actively trying to see it taught in public schools nationwide. Versions of the Discovery Institute text on the suit began to appear on creationist websites April 19th, and the Associated Press (AP) picked up on the story with a sketchy report that JPL had not yet received the suit and could not comment on it.
As soon as the AP story appeared, so did a blog from the Discovery Institute saying that the mainstream media had begun picking up on the story, linking to the one AP article, and stating that “The AP report is short, but this is just the beginning.”