NASA has been accused of illegally censoring the word “Jesus” from its newsletters at the Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston after its Christian club, the NASA JSC Praise and Worship Club, mentioned it in the JSC Today internal daily newsletter.
According to the case taken up by Liberty Institute and other volunteer lawyers, the club was advised by the JSC legal team that using the name “Jesus” was banned on the basis that they didn’t want it to appear as if NASA endorsed Christianity over other religions and non-religions, which would make them in breach of the Establishment Clause in the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.
The club was formed in 2001 so that members would meet during lunch time to discuss matters relating to the Christian faith. In May 2015, they including the following excerpt in the JSC newsletter, which started the controversy.
“Join with the praise and worship band “Allied with the Lord” for a refreshing set of spring praise and worship songs on Thursday, June 4, from 11:15 a.m. to noon in Building 57, Room 106. (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.”
With no warning issued, the name “Jesus” was then banned just a few days later. Oddly enough, other secular-based announcements are still allowed once the word “Jesus” is not included.
“It is illegal for the government to censor the name of Jesus in employee emails,” said Jeremy Dys, Senior Counsel for Liberty Institute. “Censoring a religious club’s announcement to specifically exclude the name ‘Jesus’ is blatant religious discrimination.”
Mention was also made of previous religion references in NASA’s history such as the famous quote “Godspeed, John Glenn” said by astronaut Scott Carpenter back in February 1962 and Gordon Cooper’s naming of the Mercury spacecraft “Faith 7” because of his personal faith.
*Update – 9th February 2016*
NASA’s Office of Communications has since provided us with the following statement addressing the above concerns.
“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 employees’ own time. Consistent with federal law, NASA attempts to balance employees’ 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.”
Maybe there is more to this story than is being presented. We’ll just have to wait and see.