Did NASA Ban Jesus?

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Source: The Daily Beast

A shady legal organization claims that NASA employees were censored when their worship group mentioned Jesus in a newsletter.

Did NASA ban the word “Jesus” as Fox News and several other conservative media outlets suggested this week? Not exactly.

What is clear, though, is that all of those headlines accusing America’s space agency of being censorious are based on allegations from an anti-LGBT legal organization that has a long history of taking on questionable cases like these.

According to the Plano, Texas-based Liberty Institute, NASA employees belonging to thePraise and Worship Club at the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston submitted an announcement about an upcoming meeting for inclusion in a center-wide e-mail newsletter. That announcement invited the JSC to sing praise and worship songs, noting that “[t]he theme for this session will be ‘Jesus is our life!’”

The Liberty Institute maintains that NASA attorneys then called the club organizers and told them that the word “Jesus” could not appear in their official announcements.

“The NASA attorneys claimed including ‘Jesus’ was ‘sectarian,’ possibly creating the perception that NASA was endorsing Christianity over other religions and non-religion, and thus violating the Establishment Clause in the First Amendment to the United States Constitution,” the legal organization wrote in its press release.

In a demand letter, the Liberty Institute is threatening to file a federal lawsuit against NASA unless the Praise and Worship Club is allowed to write “Jesus” in its newsletter announcements within 30 days. In response, NASA denied allegations of censorship in a statement to The Hill.

“NASA does not prohibit the use of any specific religious names in employee newsletters or other internal communications,” said NASA media relations officer Karen Northon.

“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.”

Northon did not immediately respond to The Daily Beast’s request for further comment or clarification.

The Daily Beast asked the Liberty Institute whether or not they had evidence that NASA had specifically targeted the term “Jesus” apart from the Praise and Worship Club’s recounting of a phone call. They do not.

“NASA’s lawyers communicated their decision to ban the name ‘Jesus’ only over the phone to our clients,” Jeremy Dys, Senior Counsel for the Liberty Institute, told The Daily Beast. “It was a lengthy conversation in which the lawyer made clear that she was communicating the decision of the general counsel’s office, a decision she indicated the general counsel’s office had arrived at after some discussion among NASA’s attorneys.”

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