Reviewing David Coppedge’s Lawsuit Against JBL

This is a very interesting case one of which involves a System Administrator (computer specialist) employed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.  In September of 1996, Coppedge was outsource by JBL through another agency to work for them. It wasn’t until 1997, when JBL hired him outright to work on the Cassini mission.

His team was responsible for a series of tasks that include…configuation of systems, data storage, protecting data from security threats, troubleshooting, evaluating new products and so on. Three years later in September of 2000, Coppedge was promoted to “Team Lead” which he held for 8 years until a recent demotion which happened in April of 2009. As a result, he has made some pretty serious allegations against NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The suit alleges the following items…



According to the 71 page complaint which I now have, David Coppedge is passionate about intelligent design which differs from creationism and felt a need to display his views to his co-workers about it especially since JBL’s mission is to explain origins of the Universe. He even offered DVDs and then loaned them to those who were interested in the information (but this doesn’t means they agreed or disagreed with it). The complaint also says that Coppedge discussed his views after hours with his co-workers without coercion. If a person wanted to know more about intelligent design he would loan them DVDs.

Later on his supervisor held a meeting with him and said that he was getting complaints from his fellow co-workers who were claiming that he was pushing religion on them by talking to them about intelligent design and offering DVDs. According to the complaint, his supervisor then threaten to terminate him if he didn’t stop talking about religion. He was also ordered not to talk about politics to his co-workers either.

Coppedge told his boss he would comply with the order and not discuss either one to his co-workers even though he believed this was a violation of his constitutional rights. Let me stop here and comment on this lawsuit. This is not a case about whether or not intelligent design is a valid scientific theory. It’s a case about being demoted in such a way because of a person’s beliefs.

It is strange that intelligent adults could have not told Coppedge to his face that they were not interested in discussing intelligent design with them while the others could keep right on talking about it. Most of us know who work in the real world, people tend to talk about a variety of topics while working or on their breaks which we may or may not agree with.


There was obviously people whom Coppedge works with who have a deep hatred for ID especially in their working environment and if these allegations are true then some got scared that ID might be spreading in their taxpayer funded lab and wanted to put a stop to it by avoiding telling Coppedge they had no interest in ID and went around his back with their tails stuck between their legs to make a huge deal about it.

If it turns out Coppedge complied with his supervisor’s order that is illegal also for grounds for a demotion. It will be interesting to learn what JBL has to say about this, right now the case is pending and normally those being sued have not much to say right away as they have to formulate something first especially when it will be more public later on. In any event, it doesn’t look good for JBL.

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31 thoughts on “Reviewing David Coppedge’s Lawsuit Against JBL

  1. Proponents of Intelligent Design have, from the moment they began promulgating it, declared it is not a religious theory.

    Now they are suing on the grounds of “Religious Discrimination:.

    Care to address the contradiction?

  2. Michael, those three questions ….

    when are you finally going to answer those ?

  3. John Thomas Gillick,

    That’s a good question, one that David Coppedge should directly answer. All I can say is from my point of view, he was going by how some of his co-workers (the ones who wanted him removed) viewed ID and not what he believes it to be. In other words, his complaint suggests that since they believed ID was a religion, he was demoted on those grounds rather than on his work performance. He also banned from talking politics and this can stem from their dislike and view of ID too.

    How many people in his workplace can listen to something they disagree with from a person who has passion in what he or she believes? One of my co-workers was promoting Obama, she feels very strong about him. It’s not like the first time either, she has mentioned her political beliefs many times. But did I go to my boss and say, her speech is offending so make her stop? People have discussed Christianity with me in the workplace. Did any of us go to our bosses and tell one or the other to stop because it wasn’t fully up to a group’s acceptable standard? There are exceptions, for example, if a person doesn’t display manners if you know what I mean, then some do in fact tell the boss. Manners meaning, if he was asked to do something that he is suppose to be doing but curses the person out.

  4. The facts in this discrimination case have not yet been publicized in any detail. The Discovery Institute has weighed in with their usual invective, this time by Anika Smith—strange, because Casey Luskin is the DI’s legal terrier. Several blogs have marshaled the other side, including The Sensuous Curmudgeon. Not many facts on either side.

    The Discovery Institute seems to have latch3ed onto another martyr for their cause. Here, unlike Guillermo Gonzales, no one seems to have alleged that Coppedge’s activities impaired his job performance. (One might hope that the DI’s “defense” of Coppedge does not do as much damage to Coppedge’s career as their support of Gonzales did to Gonzales’ career :-)

    Of course, the Discovery Institute will never ever cite the 2007 case of Christine Comer, the director of the Texas Education Agency science curriculum, who was fired for sending one e-mail to several individuals and online communities announcing a local presentation to be given by professor Barbara Forrest, who had been a key anti-ID witness at the Dover School Board trial two years earlier. (Her lawsuit is still pending.)

    So we await a a modicum of facts before tearing off on a partisan crusade. Some of us do, at least.

    .

    Michael apparently composed this screed himself. The poor grammar. The conflation of several different thoughts in a single sentence. The logical non sequiturs. The unfocused, rambling flow. (Specific examples will be provided upon request, Michael.)

    No big deal on obtaining the complaint; it’s readily available online, if anyone really wishes to wade though its 70 pages. Michael’s 6-item text box, however, is a mystery. It looks very official and legalesey. Yet we should notice a few things. There is no such thing as a “Government Code.” How about it, Michael; what are you referring to here? Michael says that the suit “alleges” these items, yet only items 1-4 are allegations of any kind. Items 5 & 6 are requests for relief, an entirely different category. Perhaps Michael can explain the provenance of this list.. Or perhaps not. We’ll see, won’t we?

  5. Michael ( 2010-0501-1437): “Eelco, Which questions are you suggesting, pick them wisely!”

    Michael knows very well what the questions are. He’s been asked them several times a week since early February.

    (1) Blog readership numbers in response to Eelco’s February challenge that your readership asymptotically approaches zero’

    (2) Your qualifications to discuss any scientific subject, in response to Olorin’s February accusation of towering ignorance and gynormous falsehoods in your posts.

    (3) A substantive review of Signature in the Cell, promised for August 2009.

    Now answer them wisely—or at least truthfully.

  6. Thanks Upson Downes …

    Michael, don’t play the ignorant fool – you sure know which questions I was referring to, and they are now given again above.

    So, answers, finally, to these three questions !!!

  7. Michael: “John Thomas Gillick, That’s a good question, one that David Coppedge should directly answer”

    I hate to say it, but Michael is correct here Coppedge himself filed the suit, and as far as we know the Discovery Institute is not in charge of the legal strategy. The point that John raises is likely to provide some hilarity, however. If Coppedge feels that the ID material is religious in nature and must adduce evidence of that in support of his allegation of “religious” discrimination, then the Discovery Institute fox will be caught with the chicken feathers on its dirty little paws. .

  8. Yeah, I noticed that Michael did it himself. No one from one of the official places that I’ve read who are commenting on it (DI, AiG, CMI, ICR) would not have made the mistake of abbreviating “Jet Propulsion Laboratory” as “JBL.”

  9. rostu206265: “… would not have made the mistake of abbreviating ‘Jet Propulsion Laboratory’ as ‘JBL.’”

    Yes. Last I heard, JBL (formerly J.B. Lansing Corp.) is a manufacturer of loudspeakers and related audio components.

    But that’s not the kind of error I meant—even though it was repeated exactly later in the post.

    My problem concerns, for example, mulligan-stew sentences of loosely related, half-cooked thoughts churning over a hobo’s makeshift campfire. Such as—

    There was obviously people whom Coppedge works with who have a deep hatred for ID especially in their working environment and if these allegations are true then some got scared that ID might be spreading in their taxpayer funded lab and wanted to put a stop to it by avoiding telling Coppedge they had no interest in ID and went around his back with their tails stuck between their legs to make a huge deal about it.

    Anyone can make a tupographical error. Even twicw. The language problems in this post arise from brain blunders, not from finger faults.

  10. John the Discovery Institute has wheeled out their cosmic spin generator in an attempt to minimize the religion angle. Here is the DI’s David Klinghoffer, writing in Evolution News and Views:

    [Coppedge] is a top-level computer specialist on the Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s Cassini mission to Saturn whose supervisors demoted and humiliated him for raising scientific issues about intelligent design….

    Intelligent design isn’t religion, but Coppedge’s supervisor, Gregory Chin, harangued him for “pushing religion” after Coppedge merely offered apparently interested colleagues DVDs of two documentaries on ID, Privileged Planet and Unlocking the Mystery of Life. Coppedge had every reason to think the films related to his work at JPL. Part of Caltech and operated under a contract with NASA, JPL has a longstanding program called Origins that seeks information on the origin of life on earth and hypothetically on other planets. Neither film includes religious statements or references….

    But since supervisor Chin called this “religion,” and since religious speech is legally protected, Coppedge seeks redress for religious discrimination.

    A portent of things to come.

    ==Soc Puppette

  11. Socrates Puppette, where do you get those ‘cosmic spin generators’ ?
    I want one !

  12. Eelco, have you not heard? The Discovery Institute has found that, contrary to all physical evidence, the universe does have a net rotation. (To the Right, if you get picky about it.)

    The cosmic spin generator harnesses this rotation.

  13. Ah, right !
    So can I buy a cosmic spin generator from the Discovery Institute ? Should be fun to try a left spin for a change.

  14. Socrates Puppette,

    His allegation is based on the belief of the other party or parties at JBL, as the reason why he was demoted. This is not a case whether or not ID is religious or not, it’s a case on how a person was demoted. Let’s take another real life situation, I worked with a man who had a problem working with certain women. They would accuse him of limiting training to them causing them to make mistakes, he would yell at them then mention to me he was sick of hearing about personal lives of those who he was training especially sexual in nature. The other party talked to me about their side of the story. His trainees were sent to me and I trained them with no problems. All in all, about 7 complaints were filed against him by co-workers. They had a couple of meetings with him, a few months later, nothing improved and people continue to complain about him. He was then removed to another position where his pay remained the same.

    As far as questions…Are you sure these are the questions, Eelco?

    1) Blog readership numbers in response to Eelco’s February challenge that your readership asymptotically approaches zero’ Does Eelco have the qualifications or access to such information to ask this question? I answered on his comment awhile back.

    2) Your qualifications to discuss any scientific subject, in response to Olorin’s February accusation of towering ignorance and gynormous falsehoods in your posts. Double standard on this question not a wise question especially what was asked in the first one.

    3) A substantive review of Signature in the Cell, promised for August 2009. Thanks for the reminder, my life got a little hectic for awhile and forgot about it but I will follow up on that review.

  15. Michael: “I answered on his comment awhile back.”

    You most certainly did not !

    Michael: “Double standard on this question not a wise question especially what was asked in the first one.”

    ??? The question is fairly straightforward … are you trying to dodge it still ? This reads like another refusal to answer

  16. Michael: “His allegation is based on the belief of the other party or parties at JBL, as the reason why he was demoted. ”

    (1) Please stop abbreviating Jet Propulsion Laboratory as JBL. The first couple of times, perhaps it was merely ignorance. Having been corrected twice, it becomes stupidity.

    (2) What is the relevance of your personal experience to Coppedge’s situation? Sounds more apropos to Catholic bishops and sexual abuses by priests.

    (3) Let’s review the bidding. (a) Coppedge hands out ID materials to co-workers. (b) Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that these materials ID materials were not religious in nature, as claimed by the Dishonesty Institute. (c) The co-workers complain about Coppedge trying to hawk religion to them. (d) Action is taken against Coppedge. (d) Coppedge files suit for, inter alia, .religious discrimination.

    Now there seems tio be a disconnect here. Apparently the co-workers think the ID meterials are religious—step (c).. Apparently Coppedge does too—step (d). Again, we await more facts. But the situation is beginning to look a little like Monty Python’s dead-parrot sketch..

  17. Michael: “Does Eelco have the qualifications or access to such information to ask this question? I answered on his comment awhile back. ”

    What possible “qualifications” does Eelco need to ask a question about your readership??

    If you answered the question, please point it out. Specifically.

    .

    Michael: “Double standard on this question not a wise question especially what was asked in the first one”

    Yes, it is a double standard. You questioned my qualifications to discuss science, and I set them out in a comment. I then challenged you to do the same, and you have refused. That certainly does indicate a double standard on your part, Michael.

    As to “not a wise question especially what was asked in the first one,” I’m still trying to unwind the grammar on that part of the sentence, much less suss out any meaning therefrom.

    .

    Michael: “Thanks for the reminder, my life got a little hectic for awhile and forgot about it but I will follow up on that review.”

    Thanks for the reminder! THANKS FOR THE REMINDER! Like continually for nine months!

    Life was not, however, too hectic to publish rwo to five posts per week during that rtime. And, if we are to credit your firsat review, you had already read the book back in August. In the words of the old song, “Tell me another one, do.”

    Why not sak your chthonic anonymous source for a ready-made one. There are several creationist reviews by this time Maybe he could even edit one a little so it wouldn’t look so plagiarized.

    We—that is, Soc, Upson Downes, Backan Forthe, Helen Brimstone, and I—would be especially interested in your technical analysis of Meyer’s twelve predictions (Appendix A, pp.481-497) of intelligent design. Since this will be a review on the substance, you sould address, for each prediction: (a) in what way it arises from the theory of ID itself; (b) why it is a well-posed, sufficiently defined question; (c) how it can be tested in such a way as to confirm ior falsify it.(d) how its confirmation would tend to falsify all naturalistic theories.

    For extra credit, you might comment on how anything in Meyer’s book provides evidence for a young earth or a six-day biblical creation.

  18. Olorin (at 20100501-1446): “There is no such thing as a ‘Government Code.’”

    Well, since this text box was taken from the complaint, apparently there is such a thing. Now, having looked through the complaint, i see that the complaint uses this phrase to refer to both the Federal Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) and to California statutes or rules.

    This is a strange usage, which I have not seen before. But apparently it passes without objection in the trade, as they say. Sorry about that, Michael.

    However, you’re still on the hook for calling items 5 & 6 “allegations.” They are not.

  19. A number of folk have mentioned that the Discovery Institute seems to know more about Coppedge’s story than anyone else.

    Well, for one thing, JPL is not saying anything. This is SOP when you’re being sued—don’t talk about it.

    Also, however, it turns out that David Coppedge is on the Board of Directors of Illustra Media, the outfit that produced the two DVDs he was handing out. These DVDs were, of course, bankrolled and largely written by our friends at the DI. So there is an association, and most likely a continuing channel of communication.

  20. Agreed — everything we’ve seen so far is from DI or from sources friendly to the defense. I mentioned this <a href="http://pseudoastro.wordpress.com/2010/04/25/in-the-news-david-coppedge-sues-jpl-for-religious-discrimination/%5Din my own blog last week, and I also brought up the fact that Coppedge is a young-Earth creationist (or at least he was no less than 5 years ago) but that little fact seems to have been left out of all the DI’s releases, as far as I can see.

  21. D’oh! Going from real HTML to BBCode and back again is the bane of my existence. I don’t suppose Michael would be kind enough to fix that link (termination in a > instead of ])?

  22. astrostu206265: “I mentioned this in my own blog last week,”

    Yea, I read that.

    ditto: “and I also brought up the fact that Coppedge is a young-Earth creationist”

    The DI does have a few YECs—Paul Meyer is a prominent one. However, they try to keek the YECs down a few decibels in order to maintain a “big tent.”

    Coppedge is a YECtivist, so it will be interesting to see how much creationist filling was under the crust of the “scientific” DVDs that he handed out.

    I think Coppedge also writes or edits Creation Evolution Headlines, but find no identities on that site itself. (No comments, either, like most creationist/ID blogs.)

  23. Michael (2010-0503-1417): “A substantive review of Signature in the Cell, promised for August 2009. Thanks for the reminder, my life got a little hectic for awhile and forgot about it ”

    We all understand hectic. On the other hand, when creationist Country Shrink got hectic a couple months ago, he didn’t keep writing new posts on Intelligent Design and More; he finished up what he had already started instead. When creationist Tom Gilson came down with a heavy project, he announced no new posts for a specific time, but continued to comment on the current ones on Thinking Christian.

    Neither one of them kept on spewing new subjects when they couldn’t follow up.

  24. astrostu206265: “D’oh! Going from real HTML to BBCode and back again is the bane of my existence.”

    I am not a blogger myself, and have never even played one on TV. Perhaps you can illuminate me as to Eelco’s question as to readership of Michael’s blog. Blog hosting services seem to be similar in allowing the blogger to see, and possibly record, number of hits on his blog, the names and IP addresses of commenters, and so on.

    The question is, what sort of numbers might WordPress keep for Michael that he could answer Eelco’s question as to readership of this blog?

    .

    Re HTML: I’m so old that my first word processor was SGML, the precursor of all tag-based languages (and the model for HTML), on a mainframe running the VM operating system. I was so glad to get a wysiwyg writer that I never returned to HTML until recently, and still do the tags by hand.

  25. Blog hosting services seem to be similar in allowing the blogger to see, and possibly record, number of hits on his blog, the names and IP addresses of commenters, and so on. The question is, what sort of numbers might WordPress keep for Michael that he could answer Eelco’s question as to readership of this blog?

    WordPress has detailed statistics easily available. There’s the daily overview, weekly overview, monthly overview all available from (in this blog’s case) http://thebibleistheotherside.wordpress.com/wp-admin/index.php?page=stats . Also on that page you can see what pages were viewed how many times that day, how people got to your blog if referred or searched, and what links they clicked, as well as how many total views ever, the busiest day, views today, and various “totals” like how many posts you’ve made, comments there are, etc., along with how many people have subscribed to the blog or to comments for a post.

    Next to every post on that page, there’s a graph icon that you can click on and see detailed stats for that post in a graph for daily, weekly, monthly reads (JUST FOR THAT POST) as well as % change on a weekly and monthly basis.

    Every time a new comment is submitted, the default is that the blog owner will get the name, e-mail address, website, comment, and IP address of that commenter. I keep it on, though you can turn it off. You can also view all that information in the Comments section of the admin pages.

    Stats are easily available to the blog’s owner in pretty much any way they would want to know them.

  26. Well, Michael, it cannot be easier to get those numbers !

    astrostu206265 has explained it in great detail, and all you need to do is click on the link above.

    And then just tell us were you work and what you do, with some hint to your science credentials, and we are happy !

  27. astrostu206265, merci beaucoup, molto grazie, muchas gracias, tausen tak, mahalo nui loa, xie-xie, domo arigato, viele dank, maraming salamat, ochen’ spasibo, m goi, shakrun (or shakron or shukran, depending) eucharisto poli. Did I say thank you?

  28. Coppedge’s attorney, William Becker, Jr.,is, according to JREF, “no stranger to suing over intelligent design/creationist cases,” and also (along with Coppedge) sits on the Board of Directors of Illustra Media, the producer of the subject ID DVDs. So Coppedge knew Becker before the suit; the complaint states that Coppedge had been talking to an attorney long before the suit was filed.

    Becker seems to have a solo practice in LA, dealing mostly with personal injury and employment issues He represented a group of Muslims claiming discrimination a few years back, but I have not connjected him to any specific cases involving IC/creationism. Becker has been practicing since 1986.

    The facts (“Nature of the Case”) portion of the complaint has a lot of specifics on the actions of JPL’s supervisory personnel, but very little as to specific acts by Coppedge, other than that he had vague discussions with employees, that none of them told hinm to go away, and that he did hand out some DVDs. When reading this section, you should realize that the attorney will attempt to “frame” the facts in a light most favorable to the plaintiff, using unnecessary adjectives and other means to spin them toward plaintiff’s case. (I do that too; don’t knock it.)

    One particular spin is widespread—the attempts to cast intelligent design as a scientific theory, and as such to relate it to the goals of JPL. Making ID sound “work related” is risible, especially since Coppedge’s job had absolutely nothing to do with the science of the Cassini project, or of JPL’s projects in general–his job was to make sure the computers were up and running.

    All of the actions are brought under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act, except the wrongful-demotion claim which is said to be in violation of general “public policy”, and is said to contravene protections provided by the California constitution. (He would probably want to avoid claiming under the US Constitution; that could get the case removed to a Federal court.)

    The claim for religious persecution/discrimination is, of course, worded that the JPL louts “perceived” ID to be religious (e.g., par. 54). Coppedge’s attorney seems to know how to steer clear of any admission that ID might be religious. We should note, however, that all statements about ID occur outside the claim for religious discrimination—e.g., in the facts section (par. 17) or in the general harassment action (par 54). The religious-discrimination section itself (par. 38-52) mentions ID but once (par. 43) as merely one of the subjects that Coppedge was ordered to stop discussing. Par. 42 insinuates that JPL only ordered Coppedge to cease religious subjects because “they perceived that Plaintiff was engaged in religious speech.” Still, as John Thomas Gillick observed initially, bringing a religious claim at all presents a dilemma. Of course, we may find out later that Coppedge larded the “scientific” ID claims with religion as well.

    The complaint alleges that JPL’s policies and procedures are discriminatory. However, no particular policy is mentioned. This means either that (a) the written policies were not given to Coppedge, and will be discovered later. neither of these alternatives is good for JPL; it makes them look like schmucks. I can’t conceive, however, that JPL does not have written policies and procedures covering this type of situation.

  29. Folks, just so everyone knows, the above “astrostu206265″ post is being made by someone from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida by someone I apparently ticked off on my own blog. This person has been making the rounds of many different blogs today trying to post as me. They are identifiable by the 75.149.179.194 IP address as opposed to mine, which is a 67.161.x IP address (coming from Colorado). Michael, I know you and I don’t share the same views on Creationism, but I would appreciate if you would block that person.

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