In late March of 1999, Dr. Paul LaViolette was surprised to learn that he was being fired from his job at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. He soon learned that the real reason had nothing to do with his job performance, but was because certain PTO managers disapproved of his views about cold fusion and unconventional energy technology, and about the content of his published books and website. He then initiated a civil rights complaint. The next year the Office of Civil Rights dismissed his claim on the grounds that his complaint was not covered under civil rights law. LaViolette then appealed to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission stating that discrimination against a person on account of his beliefs is the essence of discrimination on the basis of religion. On July 7, 2000, three days Independence Day, the EEOC upheld LaViolette's appeal. They stated that LaViolette argued that his unconventional beliefs about cold fusion and other technologies could be viewed as a religion and therefore protected, that he was denied the opportunity to be rehired because of religion, which embodies his cold fusion beliefs.
It is important to note that LaViolette has always maintained tentative beliefs in regard to his understandings about scientific phenomena, views which could change as new evidence about them came forth; hence they are not unwaivering beliefs as one associates with fundamentalist religion. They, however, have a spiritual connection for him since he sees no division between the physical world and spiritual realm; he sees the physical world accessible to our senses as one manifestation of a much greater spiritual existence. This view is held by a large percentage of the world's population, being quite common in eastern religion. From this perspective science is a sacred endeavor and one's scientific beliefs are consequently also sacred. Although one's scientific views may give rise to healthy debate, they should not be used as a basis of discrimination to arbitrarily fire someone from their job.
Although cold fusion was not a major area of Paul's work, three years later in 2002 a declassified Naval Research Laboratory report detailing a ten year study of the phenomenon concluded that cold fusion (low energy nuclear transmutation) was in fact real.
This was a landmark EEOC decision in that it was the first time that the EEOC has allowed civil rights protection to cover discrimination against scientific beliefs, provided that a connection can be established between those beliefs and one's religion. This is a victory for First Ammendment rights and rights of the working person in his place of employment. This announcement spawned numerous press articles. Some of these articles, however, contain errors which are corrected at the links below.
Washington Post and Science news articles
on Paul LaViolette (errors corrected)