Another dissident in science has been discriminated against and wrongly treated on the job for his faith. I use the word “dissident” because this relates to an article I wrote called “The Mistreatment of Darwin Doubters.” The article was a review of a great book by Dr. Jerry Bergman, “Slaughter of the Dissidents.” What I’m referring to now is about David Coppedge, who was an employee for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). NASA’s JPL facility manages a lot of solar system research and thus what they do is of much interest to me. I have read articles from David Coppedge on the internet and in the Acts and Facts publication of the Institute for Creation Research. He often writes about solar system research and I like his articles and often agree with him. His perspective seems to be similar to mine on planetary science. Thus, I am troubled by the way he was demoted and then laid off, apparently because of his Christian beliefs and him promoting ideas related to Intelligent Design.
Note that Coppedge is not one of the top scientists at NASA. He was apparently some type of team leader in a computer related position on the Cassini mission to Saturn (a very important mission). He worked for NASA for I believe 15 years. But in 2009 he was removed from his team lead position, then more recently was let go. NASA says he was let go as a result of budget cuts and because of issues about him relating poorly to his peers. In 2009 some employees accused him of harrassment. What was his harrassment? Apparently it was speaking about his Christian perspective on various issues such as his support for California’s Proposition 8 which defines marriage as limited to heterosexual couples, believing in use of the word “Christmas,” and handing out Intelligent Design related video DVDs. Today some who oppose Christianity overreact to any expression of it or hint of it in the workplace. Christians do have to be careful, but the founders of this nation would be appauled at someone losing their job over freedom of speech and freedom of religious expression. It doesn’t sound like what Coppedge was doing was so dangerous, it sounds like the reaction to it is the dangerous thing.
What would happen today if Isaac Newton were trying to go through the modern University system to get a Ph.D. in Physics and then work for some scientific organization? There is a good possibility today Newton would not be allowed to get this Ph.D. and he would not be likely to get the prestigious position of Lucasian Professor at Cambridge, which Newton once held. Newton’s principles of mechanics and motion are still depended on by NASA but I doubt that NASA would allow Newton to be hired. Newton believed in intelligent design and wrote about it regarding the solar system. He also believed the Bible and wrote Bible commentaries, especially on the book of Daniel. Newton did have some questionable theology on some issues, such as having trouble with the concept of the Trinity. But, I think he was definitely a Christian and he wrote against the idea of evolution. The only comfort I can give to David Coppedge is that 1) You’re in good company with Isaac Newton, and 2) You’ve stood up for your Christian faith in an unbelieving world, so I applaud you whether NASA does or not.
Two articles about David Coppedge below. There is a lawsuit that reached court this past week apparently. Don’t know the outcome yet.
First, Yahoo News article. Second, an MSNBC article here. This article deals more with the aspect of the “dangers” of expressions of religion in the workplace. I don’t know David Coppedge personally and I don’t know how he related to his peers at work. But it is very suspicious that after apparently 15 years he is let go in this way. In scientific organizations and in academia, it seems like there is a mindset that those in charge are somehow exempt from having to respect freedom of speech and freedom of religious expression. It looks like a classic example of discrimination and mistreatment. It’s true that employers do not have to tolerate any and all types of expression of someone’s religious faith on the job. But the problem is that the general idea of what constitutes making fair allowance for someone has changed in our culture. Employers, or government agencies, care about how things look when someone is let go and it is often hard to determine the honest truth about why someone is let go. Employers let people go carefully at times and in ways where it will look legitimate, so the real reason for it is not evident. I can’t claim to know the situation with Mr. Coppedge but it looks very suspicious. The Alliance Defense Fund and The Discovery Institute are both supporting Coppedge in the lawsuit. The lawsuit is sort of Coppedge’s faith versus NASA, but it should not have to be that way.