Coppedge v. JPL

In April 2010, David Coppedge sued his employer, Cal Tech’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). In March 2011, the suit was amended to include wrongful termination as he was laid off in January of 2011.

In his complaint, Coppedge describes his activities that he claims were at the center of his problems with JPL:

  • discussed Intelligent Design with co-workers
  • requested the annual Holiday Party be renamed, “Christmas Party”
  • discussed Proposition 8 with co-workers (California constitutional amendment to define marriage to include only heterosexual partners)
  • distributed DVDs promoting Intelligent Design to co-workers [“Unlocking the Mystery of Life” and “The Privileged Planet”]


His view is that, although these activities caused no problems and are protected by law, JPL's responses amounted to religious discrimination, harassment, wrongful demotion, and retaliation ultimately resulting in his termination. In January 2013, the judge presiding over the case found for the defendant, ruling that Coppedge failed to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that Caltech (which operates JPL for NASA) engaged in religious discrimination against, retaliated against, failed to prevent discrimination against, wrongfully demoted, or wrongfully terminated Coppedge.

Unrelated to this case are items of interest regarding David Coppedge. Reporting on the case before it went to trial, the Pasadena Star-News (November 30, 2011) described Coppedge as "[a] well-known figure among proponents of 'intelligent design'" and noted that he operates the Creation-Evolution Headlines website, although the newspaper overlooked the fact that he is also on the board of Illustra Media, which produces "intelligent design" films such as Unlocking the Mystery of Life, The Privileged Planet, and Darwin's Dilemma. His father, James F. Coppedge, Ph.D. (Theology) wrote an anti-evolution book, Evolution: Possible or Impossible?, and headed a Christian outreach ministry in Southern California.

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