A former NASA employee is suing the agency's jet propulsion laboratory, claiming he was laid off for promoting Intelligent Design.
David Coppedge worked as an information technology specialist and system administrator from 1997 until January 2011.
Coppedge said he was discriminated against after engaging his co-workers in conversations about the idea and handing out DVDs on Intelligent Design at work. Intelligent design is the belief that a higher power must have had a hand in creating life because it is too complex to have developed through evolution alone.
NASA's lawyers say Coppedge was laid off because of budget cuts.
But William Becker, an attorney with Los Angeles-based Becker Law Firm, insists his client's termination was a clear cut case of discrimination.
"Employees shouldn't be threatened with termination and punished for sharing their opinion with willing co-workers just because the view being shared doesn't fit the prevailing view in the workplace," Becker recently told One News Now.
"Mr. Coppedge has always maintained that Intelligent Design is a scientific theory, but JPL has illegally discriminated against him on the basis of what it deems to be 'religion,'" he said.
Eugene Volokh, a professor of First Amendment law at the University of California Los Angeles School of Law, agreed with that assessment.
"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," Volokh said.
"If he can show that, then he's got a good case," he concluded.
The trial is expected to begin Monday in Los Angeles.