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Media won't be barred from JPL 'intelligent design' case, judge rules

March 14, 2012
  • Former JPL worker David Coppedge, left, and William Becker appear in court at the Stanley Mosk Courthouse in Los Angeles on Tuesday, March 13, 2012. Coppedge is suing the NASA agency, saying that the agency terminated him because he discussed with fellow colleagues his belief in intelligent design. (Cheryl A. Guerrero/Staff Photographer)
Former JPL worker David Coppedge, left, and William Becker…

A Los Angeles judge rejected a request Wednesday afternoon by Jet Propulsion Laboratory attorneys to bar the media when employees testify in a workplace discrimination case.

The case is based on former JPL systems administrator David Coppedge’s claim that he was fired unfairly after discussing the theory of intelligent design with coworkers. The theory is a seen as a challenge to the theory of evolution and holds that God or another force created the universe.

Coppedge said his efforts to engage colleagues on intelligent design on the ballot measure seeking to ban gay marriage in California,Prop. 8, led to his discipline and termination. JPL denies the claims.

In court, attorneys for JPL asked Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Ernest Hiroshige to bar the media from testimony by JPL workers.

"It's unfair to put these people through that kind of exposure on these sorts of personal subjects," James Zapp, lead attorney for JPL, said Tuesday. "They didn’t bring this lawsuit, we're trying to protect employees who are innocent in this process."

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Coppedge's lawyer, William Becker, said JPL’s request was inappropriate.

"I can’t accept the idea that revealing the information that what Church someone goes to is an invasion of their privacy, people walk to church every week," Becker on Tuesday. "I do see it as a gag order that has not been well explained and is an attempt to keep the public in the dark."

Hiroshige rejected the request Wednesday afternoon, but did not offer his reasons in open court.

Coppedge's attorney, William Becker, said the judge will limit questions regarding the religious or political beliefs of JPL workers to those that are relevant to interactions with Coppedge.

RELATED:

JPL employee wasn't fired over religious beliefs, lawyer says

 -- Daniel Siegal and Bill Kisliuk, Times Community News

Twitter: @ValleySunDan, @bkisliuk

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