Former NASA specialist claims he was fired over intelligent design
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory has landed robotic explorers on the surface of Mars, sent probes to outer planets and operates a worldwide network of antennas that communicates with interplanetary spacecraft.
Its latest mission is defending itself in a workplace lawsuit filed by a former computer specialist who claims he was demoted -- and then let go -- for promoting his views on intelligent design, the belief that a higher power must have had a hand in creation because life is too complex to have developed through evolution alone.
David Coppedge, who worked as a "team lead" on the Cassini mission exploring Saturn and its many moons, alleges that he was discriminated against because he engaged his co-workers in conversations about intelligent design and handed out DVDs on the idea while at work. Coppedge lost his "team lead" title in 2009 and was let go last year after 15 years on the mission.
Opening statements are expected to begin Monday in Los Angeles Superior Court after two years of legal wrangling in a case that has generated interest among supporters of intelligent design. The Alliance Defense Fund, a Christian civil rights group, and the Discovery Institute, a proponent of intelligent design, are both supporting Coppedge's case.
"It's part of a pattern. There is basically a war on anyone who dissents from Darwin and we've seen that for several years," said John West, associate director of Center for Science and Culture at the Seattle-based Discovery Institute. "This is free speech, freedom of conscience 101."
The National Center for Science Education, which rejects intelligent design as thinly veiled creationism, is also watching the case and has posted all the legal filings on its website.
"It would be unfortunate if the court took what seems to be a fairly straightforward employment law case and allowed it to become this tangled mess of trying to adjudicate scientific matters," said Josh Rosenau, NCSE's programs and policy director. "It looks like a pretty straightforward case. The mission that he was working on was winding down and he was laid off."
Coppedge's attorney, William Becker, says his client was singled out by his bosses because they perceived his belief in intelligent design to be religious. Coppedge had a reputation around JPL as an evangelical Christian and other interactions with co-workers led some to label him as a Christian conservative, Becker said.
In the lawsuit, Coppedge says he believes other things also led to his demotion, including his support for a state ballot measure that sought to define marriage as limited to heterosexual couples and his request to rename the annual holiday party a "Christmas party."
"David had this reputation for being a Christian, for being a practicing one. He did not go around evangelizing or proselytizing. But if he found out that someone was a Christian he would say, `Oh that's interesting, what denomination are you?"' Becker said.
"He's not apologizing for who he is. He's an evangelical Christian."
In an emailed statement, JPL dismissed Coppedge's claims. In court papers, lawyers for the California Institute of Technology, which manages JPL for NASA, said Coppedge received a written warning because his co-workers complained of harassment. They also said Coppedge lost his "team lead" status because of ongoing conflicts with others.
Caltech lawyers contend Coppedge was one of two Cassini technicians and among 246 JPL employees let go last year due to planned budget cuts.
While the case has attracted interest because of the controversial nature of intelligent design, it is at its heart a straightforward discrimination case, said Eugene Volokh, a professor of First Amendment law at the University of California, Los Angeles School of Law.
"The question is whether the plaintiff was fired simply because he was wasting people's time and bothering them in ways that would have led him to being fired regardless of whether it was about religion or whether he was treated worse based on the religiosity of his beliefs," said Volokh. "If he can show that, then he's got a good case."
Coppedge, who began working for JPL as a contractor in 1996 and was hired in 2003, is active in the intelligent design sphere and runs a website that interprets scientific discoveries through the lens of intelligent design. His father authored an anti-evolution book and founded a Christian outreach group.
He is also 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, said Becker, his attorney.
His main duties at JPL were to maintain computer networks and troubleshoot technical problems for the mission. In 2000, he was named "team lead," serving as a liaison between technicians and managers for nearly a decade before being demoted in 2009.
He sued in April 2010 alleging religious discrimination, retaliation and harassment and amended his suit to include wrongful termination after losing his job last year.
Coppedge is seeking attorney's fees and costs, damages for wrongful termination and a statement from the judge that his rights were violated, said Becker.
British Christians Fight for Right to Wear a Cross at Work
Two Christian British women have taken their case over religious liberty to the highest level, now set to square off against the Government of the United Kingdom at the European Court of Human Rights over their right to wear a cross or crucifix at work . In opposition to the women, the government will have to state publicly whether it backs the right of Christians to wear the symbol at work. The Telegraph reports that government ministers will argue that because displaying the cross is not a “requirement” of the Christian faith, employers can ban the wearing of the cross and fire workers who insist on doing so:
“The Government’s refusal to say that Christians have a right to display the symbol of their faith at work emerged after its plans to legalise same-sex marriages were attacked by the leaders of the Roman Catholic Church in Britain.
A poll commissioned by The Sunday Telegraph shows that the country is split on the issue. Overall, 45 per cent of voters support moves to allow gay marriage, with 36 per cent against, while 19 per cent say they do not know.
However, the Prime Minister is out of step with his own party.
Exactly half of Conservative voters oppose same-sex marriage in principle and only 35 per cent back it.
There is no public appetite to change the law urgently, with more than three quarters of people polled saying it was wrong to fast-track the plan before 2015 and only 14 per cent saying it was right.
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The Strasbourg case hinges on whether human rights laws protect the right to wear a cross or crucifix at work under Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights. It states: ‘Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief, in worship, teaching, practice and observance.’
The Christian women bringing the case, Nadia Eweida and Shirley Chaplin, claim that they were discriminated against when their employers barred them from wearing the symbols.
They want the European Court to rule that this breached their human right to manifest their religion.”
The European Court of Human Rights is based in Strasbourg, France, and is not a part of the European Union’s patchwork of institutions but rather aligned to the Council of Europe, which is dedicated to the protection of human rights across 47 countries. The New York Times reports that the court considers cases brought against nations that are bound by the European Convention on Human Rights, and notes that British Prime Minister David Cameron has recently called for the court to restrict its power to overrule national judgements.
RT reports that the U.K. government will now fight in the court against Eweida and Chaplin, asserting that the Christians have no right to wear a cross or crucifix at work:
“Nadia Ewedia is a British Airways employee, who was asked to cover her cross while at work, and was placed on unpaid leave when she refused to do so. Shirley Chaplin is a nurse moved to a desk position after she refused to remove a crucifix.
The women claim they were discriminated against when their employers barred them from wearing a cross and crucifix respectively.
The government position is that wearing the cross is not a ‘requirement of the faith’ and therefore employers can ban the wearing of the cross at work.”
The Telegraph reports that lawyers for the two women claim that the government is setting the bar too high in their position, and that “manifesting” religion includes doing things that are not a “requirement of the faith.” They go on to argue that Christians are given less protection than members of other religions who have been granted special status for garments or symbols such as the Sikh turban and kara bracelet, or the Muslim hijab.
The government’s position has been criticized by British religious leaders. The UK Press Association reports that The Archbishop of York Dr. John Sentamu has attacked the government for denying that Christians have a right to wear the cross at work, saying on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show:
“My view is that this is not the business of government actually. They are beginning to meddle in areas that they ought not to. I think they should leave that to the courts to make a judgment.
“If someone wanted to manifest their belief as a Christian that they wanted to wear a cross – after all at their baptism they are sealed with a cross of Christ – so if they decided to say ‘I know I am sealed with it, but I am going to wear it’, I think that is a matter really for people and that we should allow it. The government should not raise the bar so high that in the end they are now being unjust.”
The Telegraph notes that Lord Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, accused government officials and the courts of “dictating” to Christians, and said the government position regarding crosses was another example of Christianity becoming sidelined in official life.
Ads against gay marriage? How offensive, says the WI
Infiltrated by feminists?
Being slow hand-clapped as he addressed Women’s Institute members was the moment that Tony Blair’s premiership first lost its golden shine. It also marked a turning point for the WI as the organisation became increasingly politicised.
The WI — for years the standard-bearer for traditional family life — is now poised to cause a political stir again.
It has rejected an advert to be placed in its WI Life magazine from C4M (Coalition for Marriage) which is leading the campaign against the Government’s plans to allow same-sex marriages.
Helen Evans, advertising manager for the magazine which is sent to the WI’s 210,000 members, told C4M: ‘We are a national campaigning charity and your campaign doesn’t fit with any of our resolutions first and foremost. As WI Life is the national membership magazine, any promotion of your campaign could be seen as an endorsement .... to members. We do also welcome all women to the WI and this campaign could offend many of our members.’
A spokesman for C4M, whose supporters include Lord Carey the former Archbishop of Canterbury, said: ‘It’s a surprising and unnecessary decision. Most ordinary members will see this as an over-reaction.’
Labour’s former Home Secretary Jack Straw, while a passionate advocate of civil partnerships, has consistently opposed gay marriage.
Back in 2000 he insisted that the introduction of civil partnerships would not lead to changes to marriage law. He said: ‘[Marriage is] about a union for the procreation of children, which by definition can only happen between a heterosexual couple. So I see no circumstances in which we would ever bring forward proposals for so-called gay marriage.’
How things change. Twelve years on, he now supports gay marriage. So much for principles, Jack!
Israel Apartheid Week and "Underdogma"
Eight years ago, “Israel Apartheid Week” began on campuses in America and around the world to show “solidarity with the Palestinian struggle” and to demonize Israel as an “Apartheid” regime.
Ten years ago, I began studying this “pro-Palestinian/anti-Israeli” phenomenon.
It began, like so many movements, on a university campus. The year was 2002, and then-former Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu was scheduled to speak to a group of Jewish students.
But he was not allowed to speak. Why? Because a mob of young, multicultural North American university students – who waved Palestinian flags, spat on Jews, smashed glass, and hurled anti-Semitic slurs – stopped him from speaking.
Why would Western university students clash with police and riot in the streets to stop a free man from engaging in free speech – on what should have been a bastion of free speech: a university campus? And why would those students – and students across America and around the world – demonize Israel and declare their solidarity with Palestinians in their annual “Israel Apartheid Week?”
My journey to answer that question brought me all the way to Benjamin Netanyahu’s Jerusalem home, where I had the honor of working shoulder-to-shoulder with him as a writer on his victorious 2009 campaign to become Israel’s current Prime Minister.
Why would non-Palestinian university students declare their solidarity with Palestinians, when almost everything that defines campus life in America – free love, free speech, women’s rights, gay rights – would get them killed by the very Palestinians they champion?
For that matter, what is it about the Palestinian cause that has the power to unite vastly different non-Palestinians around the world, including President Jimmy Carter, the Green Party, the late Saddam Hussein, scores of American columnists and news editors, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the worldwide labor movement, gay and lesbian activists, women’s groups, Noam Chomsky, Amnesty International, the late Osama bin Laden, solidarity groups from America, England, Germany, Canada, Spain, India, Norway, Scotland, Ireland, France, Sweden, Australia and Italy, campus groups from the vast majority of colleges and universities in America, plus the United Nations—to make “Palestinians the largest per capita recipients of international development assistance in the world,” and to make Israel the most protested nation in the world after America?
What is it about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that causes millions of people around the world to choose sides the way they do?
Researchers at the University of South Florida set out to answer that question. They gave two groups of test subjects an identical, one-page essay that described the Israeli-Palestinian conflict—equally and fairly—from both sides’ perspectives. Then one group was given a map that showed Israel as geographically small, and the other group got a map that showed Israel as large.
Same Israel. Same facts. The lone variable was the map: one group got a small Israel map, and the other group got a big Israel map.
The results were astounding. The group with the small Israel map felt Israel was the underdog and took their side, and those with a big Israel map felt Palestinians were the underdogs and took their side.
What does this tell us?
It tells us these test subjects based their decisions on something other than facts. The facts were identical (each group got the same one-page essay). The results, however, were far from identical. The lone variable was the map. When Israel was perceived as small, test subjects saw an “underdog” and supported Israel. When Israel was perceived as big, test subjects saw an “overdog” and chose the side of Palestinians.
What is going on here?
Identical facts. And yet people choose sides, in dramatically different ways, based on which side is the perceived underdog and which is the perceived overdog.
This “Axis of Power”—between the power-haves and the power have-nots, underdogs and overdogs—is the tipping point for many of the issues that shape our world today—from Occupy Wall Street to President Obama’s re-election campaign of “fairness vs. fatcats” to the way millions of people around the world choose sides the way they do in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
I gave this belief system a name—Underdogma—which is the widespread and reflexive belief that, in any given issue, whichever side has less power (the underdog) is automatically considered righteous—simply because they have less power, and whichever side has more power (the overdog) is automatically considered wrong—simply because they have more power.
Jews have traditionally been the underdogs of history—enslaved, rounded up, and killed by some of the world’s most powerful tyrants. But things have changed. Today, Jews have a powerful homeland in Israel, advanced weapons, and a fearsome, well-equipped army. In the eyes of those who practice Underdogma, Jews committed an unforgivable sin. History’s persecuted underdogs became powerful overdogs. In the words of Israel’s late foreign Minister Abba Eban: “when I was first here, we had the advantages of the underdog. Now we have the disadvantages of the overdog.”
This week, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu told America “the story of a powerless and stateless people who became a strong and proud nation able to defend itself.” Because Israel is now strong and proud and able to defend itself, it must now also learn how to defend itself against those – on campuses or on the campaign trail – who demonize the strong for being strong.
It’s called “Underdogma,” and if you want to know how to defeat it, visit www.under-dogma.com
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.