'You can't have Jesus': NASA accused of censoring use of Christ's name
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Members of the Praise and Worship Club, composed of NASA employees, were shocked to receive a notice from NASA ordering they cease to include Jesus' name in their religious e-mails.
LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The use of Jesus' name came up in May 2015, when Praise and Worship organizers sent out an announcement to Johnson Space Center (JSC) employees to give an up-to-date notice of campus events.
"Join with the praise and worhsip band 'Allied with the Lord' for a refreshing set of spring praise and worhsip songs on Thursday, June 4, from 11:15 a.m. to noon in Building 57, room 106," it read. "The theme for this session will be 'Jesus is our life!' Prayer partners will be available for anyone who has need. All JSC civil servants and contractors are welcome."
Though the announcement was innocent, the Liberty Institute reported lawyers told the Praise and Worship Club Jesus would no longer be allowed in e-communications, as it would violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.
In their attempt to prove Jesus' name violated the Establishment Clause, NASA attorneys claimed the use of Jesus' name was "sectarian" and could lead to the belief that NASA endorsed Christianity over other religions - including non-religions.
"we are shocked that NASA would censor the name of Jesus from our Praise and Worship Club's announcement," Sophia Smith, the Club's spokeswoman, explained. "NASA has a long history of allowing the religious speech of its employees, so why would they ban 'Jesus' from our announcements?"
Jeremy Dys, the Senior Counsel for Liberty Institute, claimed "it is illegal for the government to censor the name of Jesus in employee emails. Censoring a religious club's announcement to specifically exclude the name 'Jesus' is blatant religious discrimination.
"NASA administrators are not above the law. Government employers are required to respect the civil rights of its civil servants and contract employees-regardless of their religious viewpoint."
- February of 1962, NASA astronaut Scott Carpenter quipped, "Godspeed, John Glenn" as Glenn became the first American to orbit the earth.
- Astronaut Gordon Cooper selected the name "Faith 7" for the Mercury spacecraft that would orbit the earth 22 times in May of 1963, in part, because of his personal faith in God.
- In 1968, Apollo 8 astronauts (Bill Anders, Jim Lovell, and Frank Borman) read the Creation account from Genesis 1 while orbiting the moon on Christmas Eve. (The infamous atheist, Madalyn Murray O'Hair, sued NASA over this-and lost-in O'Hair v. Payne, 1969.)
- Astronaut Buzz Aldrin famously celebrated communion on Apollo 11.
- President Nixon led the nation in prayer in April of 1970 as America anxiously awaited the return of Apollo 13.
- There has even been a Jewish blessing offered on the space shuttle and Muslim prayers recited in the International Space Station.
The Praise and Worship Club agreed to refrain from using the name Jesus while they explored legal options and, eventually, won.
On Monday, February 8, Liberty Institute joined volunteer attorneys from Fish & Richardson to issue a letter, in which NASA's JSC's legal team was informed of their violation of its employee's religious liberty and right to free speech. Should NASA fail to correct the problem, a federal lawsuit would ensue.
The same day, NASA released a statement to Fox News, saying "NASA does not prohibit the use of any specific religious names in employee newsletters or other internal communications. The agency allows a host of employee-led civic, professional, religious and other organizations to meet on NASA property on employee's own time.
"Consistent with federal law, NASA attempts to balance employee's rights to freely exercise religious beliefs with its obligation to ensure there is no government endorsement of religion. We believe in and encourage open and diverse dialogue among our employees and across the agency."
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