NASA has instructed its scientists, engineers and support teams to refrain from using the word "Jesus" in any announcements, including private announcements, that appear in the Johnson Space Center newsletter.
A NASA engineer says, "It was shocking to all of us and very frustrating."
The engineer says, "NASA has a long history of respecting religious speech, why wouldn't they allow us to put the name of Jesus in the announcements about the club?"
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It is rather shocking that NASA would say "no" to Jesus given their history of astronauts praying, reading the Bible, and even receiving communion while on the moon.
Todd Starnes points out that "On Christmas Eve, 1968, the crew of Apollo 8 read the Creation story as they orbited the moon. Astronauts Jim Lovell, Frank Borman and Bill Anders took turns reading from the book of Genesis."
NASA defended the astronauts after atheist Madalyn Murray O' Hair filed a federal lawsuit. The Supreme Court dismissed the suit due to "lack of jurisdiction."
Some of us may remember astronaut Buzz Aldrin received communion on the moon during the 1969 Apollo 11 mission.
Here's the back story:
Since 2001, employees have gathered during their lunch hour to pray, sing and read the Bible. There had been no censorship.
However, when they published the following announcement last year, NASA reacted.
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.
The club's leadership was told that "NASA would be censoring all future club announcements that featured the name, 'Jesus'."
NASA's legal department explained that including "Jesus'" name within the club's announcement made that announcement "sectarian" or "denominational."
They also said that such announcements would cause NASA to violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.
The organizers offered to include a "disclaimer," explaining that the announcement was private speech, not something endorsed by NASA.
Again NASA said "no" to Jesus.
Liberty Institute, a Christian law firm, has now entered the scene.
In their letter sent Monday of this week, Liberty stated that NASA lawyers pressured a group of employees at the Johnson Space Center to remove the word "Jesus" from a club announcement. They note the demand took place in May and June of 2015.
Liberty says the reason this is unacceptable is because NASA lawyers didn't want innocent observers to come to the erroneous conclusion that the space agency endorses Christianity. An official endorsement of Christianity, says the NASA lawyers, would be a violation of the Establishment Clause.
However, Liberty disagrees, and argues that downward pressure from NASA lawyers constitutes a violation both of religious liberty and free speech. It is clear, Liberty claims the email announcements "do not originate from NASA, but rather from employees on behalf of a private spiritual club."
Liberty has given NASA until March 10, 2016 to reconsider. If they do not, Liberty will file a lawsuit on behalf of the Christians.
NASA released a statement late Monday that does not dispute the claim by Liberty, but says "NASA does not prohibit the use of any specific religious names in employee newsletters or other internal communications." Then went on to list a number of clubs and groups who use the newsletter for announcements, concluding, "We believe in and encourage open and diverse dialog among our employees and across the agency."
Jesus is their problem.
It seems their freedom policies only apply when you leave Jesus in the closet. Or the choir room at church.
Is NASA, and the Supreme Court decision back in 1968 which claimed "no jurisdiction", suggesting that people in the space industry can only practice free speech and freedom of religion if they're in space?
God help us.
Be Informed. Be Faithful. Be Bold.