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Lawsuit alleges NASA fired man over beliefs

LOS ANGELES - NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory is defending itself in a workplace lawsuit filed by a former computer specialist who argues he was dismissed for promoting his views on intelligent design, the belief that a higher power must have had a hand in creation because of its complexity.

David Coppedge, who worked on the Cassini mission exploring Saturn and its moons, contends that he was discriminated against because he engaged his co-workers in conversations about intelligent design and handed out DVDs on the idea while at work. Coppedge lost his “team lead’’ title in 2009 and was let go last year after 15 years on the mission.

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Opening statements are expected to begin Monday in Los Angeles Superior Court after two years of legal wrangling in a case that has generated interest among supporters of intelligent design. The Alliance Defense Fund, a Christian civil rights group, and the Discovery Institute, a proponent of intelligent design, are both supporting Coppedge’s case.

“There is basically a war on anyone who dissents from Darwin and we’ve seen that for several years,’’ said John West of the Seattle-based Discovery Institute.

Defense lawyers contend Coppedge was one of two Cassini technicians and among 246 JPL employees let go due to planned budget cuts.

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