Monday, April 26, 2010



Casey Luskin is at it again, exhibiting all his logical abilities and legal acumen for the world to see ... or rather, not to see, since they are nonexistent. Once again the subject is David Coppedge’s suit against the Jet Propulsion Lab.

Although acknowledging that religious proselytizing of fellow workers by employees can be restricted by employers, Luskin goes on to say: “part of taxpayer funded JPL’s mission with NASA is to investigate origins making ID (as Mr. Williams puts it) wholly ‘related to work’ at JPL.” The problem is, of course, that Coppedge is not a cosmologist or astronomer. He helps run the JPL’s computers and investigating the origins of the universe is not anymore a part of his work than it is a part of the janitor’s duties.

Next, Luskin states that “JPL had no prior policy prohibiting any form of speech regarding ID nor a general policy prohibiting speech they deemed religious.” However, as I mentioned before, the California Court of Appeal took up this question and what they found, in effect, is that workers subjected to unwanted proselytizing are suffering religious harassment. Thus, all the JPL and/or CalTech needed to have in place is an anti-harassment policy. I haven’t found one on the web for JPL (though its Human Resources department may distribute paper copies of one) but CalTech, who Coppedge alleges is his employer, has one, which defines harassment as:

Harassment is the creation of a hostile or intimidating environment in which verbal or physical conduct, because of its severity and/or persistence, is likely to interfere significantly with an individual's work or education, or affect adversely an individual's living conditions. ...

Harassment must be distinguished from behavior which, even though unpleasant or disconcerting, is appropriate to the carrying out of certain instructional, advisory, or supervisory responsibilities or is objectively reasonable under the circumstances. ...

Caltech also is dedicated to the free exchange of ideas and to intellectual development as part of the campus milieu. Harassment, as defined by the Institute's policy on unlawful harassment, is neither legal nor a proper exercise of academic freedom. This policy is not intended to stifle vigorous discussion, debate, or freedom of expression generally, or to limit teaching methods. Harassment compromises the tradition of intellectual freedom and the trust placed in the members of the Caltech community.

The procedures for making complaints, investigating them and determining the action, if any, to be taken are also laid out. Now, it’s quite possible that Coppedge’s behavior did not reach the level of harassment but it is clear that CalTech’s harassment policy is of the sort the California Court of Appeal held was sufficient to limit proselytizing in the work place and that Luskin was wrong when he said Coppedge’s employer had no policy to limit such religious activities.

Lastly, Luskin says: “JPL employees have in fact been permitted to express ANTI-ID views within the JPL workplace” (emphasis in original). This, of course, depends on what the “anti-ID views” entail. If the anti-ID statements are that ID is not science, that merely begs several questions.

If ID is science, it is hard to see how talking about it (at least if not to the point that you don’t do your own work and/or keep others from doing theirs), could justify any discipline against Coppedge. But that wasn’t Luskin’s previous position that whether or not ID is religion is irrelevant to Coppedge’s case.

If ID is not science, then when Coppedge pretends it is, that makes his behavior neither appropriate for the work environment nor objectively reasonable and, if his behavior rose to the level of badgering and annoying his coworkers, that might well be harassment. On the other hand, saying it is not science is not denigrating a religious belief, since many religious beliefs are not scientific. Thus, the JPL allowing its employees to say that ID is not science is both appropriate to the work environment and objectively reasonable.

Thus, no matter how much the DI drones devoutly wish to avoid “Dover II,” if the JPL feels it can vigorously defend its behavior, the question of whether ID is science or religion is quite likely to be relevant, if not central, to the case.

The really good news about this case comes from a DI propaganda publicity release:
Luskin serves as a consultant to the Coppedge lawsuit.
Poor Coppedge ... he’ll never know what hit him.

"Luskin serves as a consultant to the Coppedge lawsuit."

Yeah, my immediate thought when I read that was "Coppedge is screwed."
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