Earlier this week, Jeffrey Kluger wrote an article about Coppedge v. JPL and Caltech that appeared on Time’s website. Kluger is a lawyer himself, and had a pretty tough take-away message concerning Coppedge’s apparent chances of success in the lawsuit:
Groups like the intelligent design community are not always free to pick their poster children, and it’s unfortunate for them that Coppedge is one of theirs. It’s true enough that employers and colleagues in a science-based workplace might be uncomfortable with the idea of a coworker who believes in intelligent design. But neither the Constitution nor employee-protection laws can regulate feelings – no more than they can or should regulate belief systems. They can, however, circumscribe behavior on both sides of that faith-divide. From the filings at least, JPL appears to have stayed well within those boundaries. Coppedge appears to have jumped the rails entirely.
Yes, even disinterested third parties get it now.
JPL’s brief discusses a lack of self-awareness on Coppedge’s part. The tone-deafness isn’t just Coppedge, though. It permeates the DI and the IDC community. They are so intent on instantiating their myths that they cannot seem to wrap their heads around the idea that one of their own could be in the wrong. You’d think with all those lawyers in their camp that they would be better at this than they are.
But Kluger’s conclusions are simply what one expects when someone comes to this without an ideological precommitment. Another observation made by Kluger takes us down a rabbit hole and straight to Wonderland’s mad hatter’s tea party in progress.
Far more bizarre is Coppedge’s inclusion of a three-page “screenplay” dramatizing his interactions with one of the complaining coworkers, including such dialogue as “I’m so uncomfortable with David approaching me about watching an intelligent design DVD and talking about my stance on Proposition 8.” The coworker then, in the “screenplay” version of the incident, sobs.
It is not a legal leap to suggest that none of this helps Coppedge’s case. Nor does his footnote to the scene, which concedes “Some liberties have been taken with the dialogue and action as artistic license.” Legal briefs, of course, are not typically the place for artistic anything – especially license.
The specific document in question is the “Plaintiff’s Trial Brief” from the NCSE website. The “screenplay” starts on page 4, in the section headed as “Weisenfelder”.
Unfortunately, the PDF is an image-based one and I don’t have an OCR program to hand. The screenplay is immensely entertaining, though, please give it a read. If someone transcribes it, please send it along and I’ll update this post.
Update: Thanks to “grumpyoldbroad” for the transcription. The original had formatting that is, unfortunately, lost to HTML. It actually looks rather like the standard screenplay format, down to specification of interior settings.
Weisenfelder carried a grudge ever since Coppedge had the temerity to ask on the eve of the election about her position on Proposition 8. She wore that grudge on her back for three months, when on February 28, 2009, Coppedge loaned her a copy of the intelligent design documentary “Unlocking the Mystery of Life.” Here is how the screenplay of this suspense thriller with all of its harrowing action would read:1
INT. WORK AREA - LATE AFTERNOON
COPPEDGE quietly approaches WEISENFELDER.
Hi, Margaret. Tomorrow’s the election and I was wondering if you have decided on Propostion 8 yet. I will be voting for it.
I disagree with your position on it and don’t care to discuss it.
Is there anything I can say to change your mind?
THREE MONTHS LATER
INT. WORK AREA - DAY
COPPEDGE quietly approaches WEISENFELDER.
1Some liberties have been taken with the dialogue and action as artistic license. The dialogue is generally taken directly from huntley’s notes and Weisenfelder’s deposition testeimony..
Hi, Margaret. I’ve got a great DVD called Unlocking the Mystery of Life. Would you like to borrow it?
INT. MARGARET’S HOME - DAY
MARGARET is watching the DVD “Unlocking the Mystery of Life.” She fast-forwards through it, stopping occasionally to watch portions. She becomes increasingly distressed. This is about religion! How heavy-handed and repetitive can it get?
THE DVD PACKAGE. She notices a yellow sticky note. Wha?? There are names on it. “Try again” scrawled next to one of the names. What the…??
INT. OFFICE - DAY
Morning at the office. WEISENFELDER moves urgently through the corridors. Out of breath, reaches CHIN’s office.
Hi, Margaret. What’s up? You look like you’ve just seen a ghost.
I saw a ghost alright. A holy ghost!
David Coppedge made me borrow a DVD about intelligent design. I took it home…and…and –
Take a deep breath, Margaret. Tell me what happened.
It was…horrible. I’m an ordained minister in the Metaphysical Interfaith Church, you know. David just doesn’t know when he’s crossing the line talking about religion and politics in the work-place. I’ve had it with him. I’m so uncomfortable with David approaching me about watching an intelligent design DVD and talking about my stance on Proposition 8. I don’t want to deal with him on these kinds of issues. And (sobs) ,,,
…and there was a sticky note on the DVD package. It had names on it and - I think he’s trying to keep track of who he loans his DVDs out to. I don’t want him to offer me DVDs ever again. I can’t take it. I just can’t!
Well, I’ll look into it. Let me know if his behavior continues to be a problem for you.
You know, I’m an ordained minister in the Metaphysical Interfaith Church and I –
According to Weisenfelder, she “feared” Coppedge would try to loan her another DVD when she did not want him to contact her again. (Weisenfelder Dep. Tr. 159:25-161-4). This is a difficult thriller to appreciate without more information, but that’s where Weisenfelder’s dramatic confrontation with Coppedge ends.