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NASA The Courts Science

JPL Employee's Firing Wasn't Due To Intelligent Design Advocacy, Says Judge 477

SternisheFan writes with an update to a story from earlier this year about a lawsuit in which David Coppedge alleged he was fired from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory for his advocacy of Intelligent Design. Now, a judge has ruled that Coppedge was legitimately dismissed for performance reasons. From the article: "n 2009, he apparently got a bit aggressive about promoting these ideas at work, leading one employee to complain. The resulting investigation found that he had also aggressively promoted his opinion on California's gay marriage ban, and had attempted to get JPL's holiday party renamed to 'Christmas party.' ... Coppedge was warned about his behavior at work, but he felt it was an infringement of his religious freedom, so he sued. Shortly after, as part of a set of cutbacks on the Cassini staff, he was fired. In court, Coppedge and his lawyer portrayed him as being targeted for promoting an idea that is, to put it mildly, not popular with scientists. But JPL's legal team introduced evidence that his aggressive promotion of it at work was part of a pattern of bad interactions with his fellow employees that dated back at least five years earlier."
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JPL Employee's Firing Wasn't Due To Intelligent Design Advocacy, Says Judge

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 03, 2012 @12:43PM (#41865179)

    I demand it, because you are the truly intolerant one who won't let me scourge the land of the heretics and unbelievers.

    See, my freedom is greater than yours.

    Don't you get it? Didn't that Blunt Amendment teach you anything? The right to DENY contraceptive coverage for religious reasons is FAR more important than people having the CHOICE to get what they want.

    Which would be to murder babies in gruesome ways, so you know I'm really doing what's right.

    Besides if they didn't want to get pregnant, they wouldn't. Their bodies have ways to shut it down.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 03, 2012 @12:51PM (#41865245)

    Is this what you would have told gay and lesbian co-workers 20 years ago?

    Defending the rights of those you disagree with is the hallmark of true freedom loving people. Its pretty clear "bad interactions" as the reason for firing him was based on the fact a lot of folks disliked him because of his personal religious beliefs - we call this sort of behavior discrimination.

  • by EmperorOfCanada ( 1332175 ) on Saturday November 03, 2012 @01:01PM (#41865331)
    Let's assume that he is even right for a moment on all his issues. He is in an environment of people who really don't like any of these positions; yet he keeps bringing them up and pushing them in others' faces. Can you imagine what this tool was like to work with on normal issues?

    I suspect he was fired for not being able to read others and play well with others. In an engineering/science world this would be quite an accomplishment to stand out by having poor social skills.

    I know a parent at a private school who was equally religious about her health-food lifestyle and was always pushing it down people's throats. The other parents suddenly had important texts to send when she showed up. Where she crossed the line was when she began to try an enforce her view on the other kids arguing it was unfair to her kids to have to see them eating junk food like milk, wheat based bread, and cheese. The school asked her not to enroll the next year.

    There are people who don't understand boundaries and they can create a poisonous atmosphere.

    It is like fat people being angry when skinny people eat donuts. Fat people aren't the problem, donuts aren't the problem, it is the fat people imposing on the skinny that is the problem.
  • Sharia law (Score:5, Interesting)

    by fermion ( 181285 ) on Saturday November 03, 2012 @01:12PM (#41865411) Homepage Journal
    It is interested that practicing and promoting Christian sharia law while accepting taxpayer handouts is acceptable, even mandatory, by the wing nut right, and considered protected speech, but any other religious law is considered illegal activity. Case in point. We have holiday parties because some don't want taxpayer money to be used to indoctrinate their kids into the some Christian ideal that physical gifts, not love or the acceptance of the savior is the critical parts of Christmas. We see this in the fact that many Christians want Christmas sales, not holiday sales, to cement the connection between manufactured secular good and a very important, at least to some, Christian festival. This promotion is to such a point that many have called such separation between religion and the money changes a 'war on Christmas.' It seems simple enough to say we don't like sharia law, and it is cause for termination to promote it, but obviously if one is Christian wasting taxpayer money to annoy your workers is a god given and constitutional right.
  • Re:First (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 03, 2012 @01:24PM (#41865521)

    This, ever so much.

    I personally do not believe in a god.
    My workplace however is full of religious people, primarily christian I believe.

    My boss, whom is self-adamantly religious, is one of the nicest, kind and generous people I've had the pleasure of meeting. My boss is also the founder and one of three owners of the company.

    Other than as side effects, the fact he is religious has never once come up. The fact that I am not has never once come up.
    He has mentioned in conversation details that indicate he is, such as "a friend from church" and such. He has never once pushed anything religious on me or anyone else that I'm aware of.
    In fact I have no idea if he is even aware of my own beliefs.

    Recently I spoke with him about hiring another person for my department. He took my requirements list and went to make a posting on a job site.
    The next day he came back with a resume, saying this was a friend from church he's known for some time who he wanted me to consider.
    This was the first time religion was ever discussed between us, and then it was only to state flat out that I shouldn't base my hiring decisions on the fact this is his friend, or that he is from his church. I should base it on nothing but his qualifications just as with any other resume sent in.

    What matters about a person is not what religion they are, if any, but if they are the kind of person that does not force their ideals on others.
    People who can't take the hint that you don't want to talk about a subject, and especially so after being told, are the problem. People who force whatever ideal they have on others out of context are the problem.
    As you say, the ones that are nuts.

    I too have had the displeasure of knowing such an atheist, which might have been a little worse as he assumed I would be a kendered spirit and help push his arguments or something.
    I couldn't stand being around him any more than the religious nuts who do the same thing.

    It really shouldn't be this hard to keep your personal crap personal, and can't understand why so many people feel such a strong need to piss off others and make them hate your cause by proxy of your poor behavior. It's like enticing someone with pain and stabbing instead of cookies and chocolate. But they can't grasp all humans are not clones and do not believe the same things.

    The world would be such a better place if we could round up all the nuts and fling them off into the sun :/

  • by mewyn ( 663989 ) on Saturday November 03, 2012 @01:27PM (#41865547) Homepage
    Well, if an atheist were going around the way that Coppedge is reported to, yeah that would be trouble. You just should act like a dick. Civil discussion is fine where it's appropriate, but being a pushy dick isn't. Coppedge does have the right to say whatever he wants, and as the results of this court case shows, he was not fired for that.

    Secondly, this whole thing is a tactic that the Christian right of getting into scientific or academic positions, being loudmouthed about their beliefs, and finally getting themselves canned for other reasons and shout that they are fired for being Christian. They do this to try and promote the idea that Christians are being persecuted, and that they need more recognition. It's a scummy tactic that these evangelical groups are trying to use to gain power. No, evangelicals, you are not being persecuted in this country; just because someone tells you to be quiet in a place you aren't supposed to be mouthing off about anything doesn't make it an oppression of your religion; no, because something is offensive to your beliefs does not make it an attack on your beliefs, you have no right to be not offended.
  • by erroneus ( 253617 ) on Saturday November 03, 2012 @01:34PM (#41865591) Homepage

    I want Christmas to remain Christmas. I'm an atheist. I don't care for the name "saturnalia" or whatever else it may be called. There is history behind it and its practices and people respond to it with happiness and that's why I like it too. Don't change Christmas. But also, don't change Halloween. Don't change Easter. I liked the way things were. There's a lot of human heritage there.

    Most "religious people" aren't really religious. I find that comforting and reassuring. Even people that claim to be devout just really aren't... they are merely selective about which rules they follow. I find that reassuring as well... knowing this keeps me comfortable in the face of even the most rabit of "religious" situations. But those situations bring out a kind of snarky pity from me... "I forgive you" is my attitude to those... it's what Jesus would do.

  • Noah's freakin' Arc (Score:4, Interesting)

    by poly_pusher ( 1004145 ) on Saturday November 03, 2012 @01:55PM (#41865773)
    I work with a guy who through the years has slowly shown his beliefs. We often have cigarette breaks together and talk about whatever. He knows that I'm really interested in science and archaeology and one day he says "So did you hear they found Noah's Arc?" My blood boiled at this statement alone. A couple Korean evangelicals had claimed to have found the Arc. There wasn't even strong evidence that this could be the Arc but here he goes claiming it is Noah's freaking arc... I corrected him, probably with some visible agitation. Then he came back with "Yeah, well wouldn't that be cool if it was Noah's Arc?" I replied "not really," that isn't what I believe in so it wouldn't be pretty cool for me. What I will give you is that it would be amazing, not just that they found it but that every animal on earth was in fact put on one boat by God's orders, that would be amazing." My response pissed him off too, he paused and his cheeks flushed.

    After a few moments we started talking about his dog, who I agree is probably one of the most awesome dogs around...

    So I do think he's pretty loony for believing in a literal interpretation of Noah's Arc. I thought he had a greater capacity for critical thinking but oh well that's my opinion and my belief. What matters is that was the moment he found out what I believe and I found out what he believes. From that point forward we both dropped it, we haven't talked about religion again. That is how you handle situations like this. If the non work-related conversation causes conflict at work, that conversation better not happen again. Why can't more people do this?
  • by supercrisp ( 936036 ) on Saturday November 03, 2012 @01:57PM (#41865799)
    I'll match your anecdote with another. I worked in a natural history museum where we had a Christian nut who harassed one of our Jewish employees constantly, putting Jews for Jesus tracts in her box, giving her Christmas cards, telling her Jesus loves her, etc. It doesn't sound so bad, but it was unrelenting and drove the Jewish woman to tears quite often. Sadly no one had the guts to can the Christian lady. She eventually converted one of my co-workers, turning a perfectly good astronomer into someone who proclaimed that various laws of physics were impious deceptions thrust upon us by Satan. So, now, there's my anecdote, canceling yours out, unless of course I'm just making this up to persecute all the poor long-suffering Christians in the world.
  • by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) on Saturday November 03, 2012 @02:14PM (#41865969) Journal

    Witch hunts are great fun. We should all get on-board and burn this guy.

    I couldn't find any comments supporting "burning" Mr Coppedge, so I don't know what you're talking about.

    And the article you linked to is on a religious, pro-Intelligent Design website. Mr Coppedge got his day in court, and after an extensive hearing, it was determined that he was not fired because of his beliefs. He was basically selling Amway on company property and during business hours. You can't do that at workplaces, even if it's during your "lunch break". Most workplaces have rules about that stuff.

    Our justice system is not biased for or against Intelligent Design, but the article you link to is absolutely biased in favor of Intelligent Design. As a society, should we believe you or our own eyes?

  • Re:Imagine that.... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Snotnose ( 212196 ) on Saturday November 03, 2012 @03:30PM (#41866703)

    Back in the mid-90s I worked with a hella great, hella smart guy. One of the best software engineers I've ever run across. He also believed every conspiracy out there. The hot one at the time was the face on Mars. He had every book on it, followed all the Usenet groups, and, given the chance, would talk your ear off about it. Not to mention the Kennedy assassination and every other whacko theory you can think of.

    But he wasn't a jerk about it. If you didn't ask he didn't bring it up.

    Wonder what ever happened to him? He went to work for HP, then transferred to one of their Colorado divisions because he didn't want to raise his kids in California. Hi John if you're out there.

  • Re:First (Score:4, Interesting)

    by fm6 ( 162816 ) on Saturday November 03, 2012 @04:48PM (#41867333) Homepage Journal

    Einstein wasn't religious at all. He did believe in God, but his notion of the deity was pretty abstract.

    Aside from that detail, I agree with your post. I'd even go one step further: many atheists like to label themselves "skeptics", a label which once described critical examination of fringe science, but which now is simply an excuse for bigoted, ad hominem attacks on anybody or anything that doesn't align with the prejudices of said "skeptic." Basically a fancy word for trolling.

    I should add that I myself am an atheist, but one that respects the beliefs of the religious. I can name many religious people who are intelligent, tolerant, and open-minded.

  • Re:First (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 03, 2012 @06:08PM (#41867945)

    Suppose you were gay, living monogamously with a partner, and wanted the same government-granted rights and privileges in your relationship that heterosexual couples enjoy.

    Further suppose that your boss was a Mormon who worked tirelessly for laws like California Proposition 8, designed specifically to deny you those benefits.

    Would you still be as favorably disposed toward his "free" exercise of religion, given his demonstration that he couldn't keep his delusions out of the voting booth?

"The one charm of marriage is that it makes a life of deception a neccessity." - Oscar Wilde