Most Broward County residents have taken an interest in the activities of NASA at some point in their lives, sometimes even taking a trip to tour the Kennedy Space Center.
NASA normally concerns itself with matters of scientific discovery and space exploration. But recently, it has had to focus its attention on an employment lawsuit filed by one of its former employees. The man alleges that because of his belief in intelligent design, he was subjected to religious discrimination, harassment, retaliation and wrongful termination.
The former employee says that he began working for NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in 1996 as a contractor. He eventually was hired as a regular employee and eventually rose to become a project "team lead."
His team lead title was taken away in 2009 and in 2011, he was let go. The man claims that his demotion and subsequent termination were related to his outspoken belief in intelligent design.
His case has gained much public support from intelligent design advocacy groups. However, others have been quick to refute the man's claims.
They point out that the mission he was working on was coming to an end. As a result, many other people also lost their jobs. They cite evidence that nearly 250 employees were let go in 2011 because of planned budget cuts.
Furthermore, they say that the man often engaged in behaviors that his co-workers viewed as harassment, including handing out DVDs about intelligent design and having related discussions with others at work. He once even received a written warning about harassing behavior.
Commenting on the lawsuit, a law professor in California noted that the key to this case is deciding what role religious belief actually played in it.
He said: "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. If he can show that, then he's got a good case."
Source: Florida Today, "Lawsuit: NASA specialist fired over belief in intelligent design," Mar. 12, 2012