Was scientist fired over his beliefs, or his disruptive behavior?

A former NASA scientist is suing his former employer, claiming he was demoted and then fired for his professed belief in intelligent design. The man, who was a mission specialist working for Jet Propulsion Laboratories, alleges that his supervisors violated employment law by discriminating against him on the basis of his religious beliefs.

The laboratory is not directly part of NASA but is managed by the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, California. The worker had been a lead technology specialist for the Cassini mission to Saturn project. He initially sued in 2010 and was fired in 2011.

The crux of the case concerns the worker’s behavior. He says that he spoke about intelligent design with co-workers who were interested in hearing about his viewpoints and also shared DVDs about the topic with people who were interested.

The lab, however, saw it differently. The scientist’s supervisor said the man’s co-workers complained about his behavior, and the scientist was issued a written warning about it, in which the behavior was called harassing and disruptive. The man was eventually removed from his post.

The fired scientist says that his behavior was not motivated by religion: His attorneys say that intelligent design is a scientific theory, not a religious one. In any case, there does not seem to be an issue with the man’s job performance aside from this issue, meaning that he was indeed let go as a result of his behavior regarding his discussions with other employees. Whether or not that constitutes religious discrimination is up to a civil court to decide. The trial is expected to begin this week.

Source: Catholic News Agency, “NASA worker’s lawsuit charges discrimination over intelligent design,” Kevin J. Jones, Mar. 2, 2012

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