LOS ANGELES (AP) — A judge has tentatively ruled that a former computer specialist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory was not dismissed because he advocated his belief in intelligent design while at work.
Superior Court Judge Ernest Hiroshige said Thursday he is leaning in favor of JPL’s argument that David Coppedge instead was let go because he was combative and did not keep his skills sharp.
Hiroshige, who presided over the lawsuit’s trial in April, ordered a final ruling to that effect be drawn up and distributed within 30 days.
Coppedge’s attorney, William Becker, declined to comment until the final ruling is issued. JPL officials also had no immediate comment.
Coppedge, a self-described evangelical Christian, had worked on NASA’s Cassini mission to explore Saturn for 15 years until he was dismissed in 2011.
In his wrongful termination suit, Coppedge claimed he was demoted in 2009, then let go for engaging his co-workers in conversations about intelligent design and for handing out DVDs on the topic while at work. Intelligent design is the belief that life is too complex to have developed through evolution alone.
Becker argued at trial that a supervisor told Coppedge to “stop pushing your religion,” and that Coppedge was retaliated against for disputing a written warning and filing a lawsuit against the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
JPL attorney Cameron Fox, however, contended Coppedge was a stubborn and disconnected employee who decided not to heed warnings to get additional training, even when it became clear the Cassini mission would be downsized and computer specialist positions eliminated.
Coppedge often was confrontational and insensitive to customers and colleagues, who had complained about his behavior and his advocacy of intelligent design, Fox said.
Coppedge is active in the intelligent design sphere and runs a website that interprets scientific discoveries through the lens of intelligent design. His father wrote an anti-evolution book and founded a Christian outreach group.
Coppedge also is a board member for Illustra Media, a company that produces video documentaries examining the scientific evidence for intelligent design. The company produces the videos that Coppedge was handing out to co-workers, Becker said.