NASA: No Name Of “Jesus” In JSC Newsletter.

NASA-Grid-ROHHere we go again.

NASA’s Johnson Space Center has an employee newsletter named “JSC Today” that is distributed electronically to employees. The newsletter has events at JSC, what is happening in other NASA locations, updates on NASA programs and projects, etc. It also allows for clubs sponsored by and for JSC employees to advertise their clubs, meeting times, etc.

Since its founding in 2001, a club called the “JSC Praise & Worship Club” has been meeting on employees’ own time during lunch to pray and sing Christian praise and worship songs. The club, like many others, ran announcements in the “JSC Today” newsletter.

For example, the announcement from the May 28, 2015 edition of “JSC Today” read:

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.

Following that edition, the club received a call from Rebekah D. Reed, an attorney from the NASA JSC’s legal office, saying the club could no longer use the name of “Jesus” in their announcements. The club could still say they were meeting, but any mention of the name “Jesus” would be censored and removed.

NASA’s concern is that by allowing the name in announcements, NASA would be appearing to endorse a specific religion. That makes no sense as NASA was allowing any club – including religious clubs – to announce their gatherings. The club offered to put a disclaimer on their announcements saying the club was not affiliated with NASA, the Johnson Space Center, or any government entity.

Not good enough. NASA said it would continue to censor “Jesus” in the announcements.

NASA’s position is baffling on many fronts.

The Supreme Court ruled in the case of Good News Club v. Milford Central School that a religious club had the right to meet after school and use school facilities just like every other club saying that no one would think the club was sponsored by the school and to deny the club the same facilities because of their religious beliefs was unConstitutional.

NASA’s position is even stranger when this is considered:

NASA has permitted — and defended in court — the reading of Scripture by NASA’s own astronauts on board NASA spacecraft during an official NASA space mission and then televised to the whole world. As you undoubtedly know, the private speech of Bill Anders, Jim Lovell, and Frank Borman on board Apollo 8 was determined not to be a violation of the Establishment Clause:

Relying upon the above guidelines, this Court must conclude that the government did not abridge the Establishment Clause under the facts as alleged by the plaintiffs. To begin with, the religious statements of the astronauts while on television were made by the astronauts as individuals and not as representatives of the United States government. There is nothing in the pleadings to indicate otherwise. Furthermore, to have prohibited the astronauts from making these statements would have been a violation of their own religious rights.

O’Hair v. Paine, 312 F. Supp. 434, 437 (W.D. Tex. 1969).

And if it couldn’t get more strange, if you remember back to 2010 NASA’s head Charles Bolden said in an interview:

When I became the NASA administrator, (President Obama) charged me with three things,” Bolden said in the interview which aired last week. “One, he wanted me to help re-inspire children to want to get into science and math; he wanted me to expand our international relationships; and third, and perhaps foremost, he wanted me to find a way to reach out to the Muslim world and engage much more with dominantly Muslim nations to help them feel good about their historic contribution to science, math and engineering.” (emphasis ours)

The head of NASA being ordered to “reach out” to one religion is fine, but employees posting a notice in a newsletter just like every other club deserves censoring from NASA?

The “JSC Praise & Worship Club” reached out to the Liberty Institute which took on the case.

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.”

“NASA administrators are not above the law,” Dys added, “Government employers are required to respect the civil rights of its civil servants and contract employees—regardless of their religious viewpoint.”

Liberty Institute sent a letter to NASA on February 8, 2016, demanding NASA back off their censorship of religious ideas and speech. If NASA does not, Libery Institute has said it will seek relief in Federal Court.

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