WWJD? NASA doesn’t know: censoring name of Jesus from newsletters violates American rights

Photo credit: Asher Murphy

NASA has banned “Jesus” from announcements made by the Johnson Space Center Praise and Worship Club in company newsletters, according to Liberty Institute, a legal organization dedicated to protecting religious freedom for all Americans.

The announcement that sparked the issue stated:

“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 Christian group had regularly made announcements about their meetings in prior newsletters, but none had used “Jesus.” Shortly after the newsletter was sent out, the club received a warning form NASA’s legal team to never use “Jesus” in an announcement again. They said NASA could possibly be perceived as promoting one religion over others.

The problem with banning “Jesus” is that it is unconstitutional. This action encroaches on the employees’ rights to freedom of speech and religion. Employers are unable to censor religion according to law.

In Christianity, Jesus is a central figure. If the name of Islamic prophet Mohammed was banned from being used, the same issue would arise because these figures are pertinent to their respective faiths.

The ban is especially interesting considering NASA’s history of not censoring religion. On Christmas Eve in 1968, astronauts Jim Lovell, Frank Borman and Bill Anders were broadcast on television and radio reading from the Book of Genesis. The Apollo 8 crew recited the creation story as they orbited the moon and viewed the Earth.

Now, NASA now has decided to distance itself from religious connections.

The agency issued a statement following the ban, claiming they do 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 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,” the statement from NASA reads.

The ban sends mixed signals, however, as employees and members of the JSC Praise and Worship Club can use other names for God, including Yeshua, Lord and Son of God. The issue is found specifically in Jesus.

There the question lies, why is this specific name banned?

The club is an approved, private group. No employees are required to attend the meetings. Members of the group are voluntarily meeting, exercising freedom of assembly and practicing their religion in private. The newsletter merely looks to draw other Christians to a place where they can find sanctuary in their beliefs.

It’s silly to ban a single name. If the JSC Praise and Worship group is allowed to practice their religion on NASA’s premises, they should be allowed to reference the man at the center of their faith.