'Jesus' banned in NASA? Christian group fights alleged religious prohibition in space agency's communications
Is the name "Jesus" too out of this world for space scientists at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)?
A group of Christians working in the space agency is fighting a supposed directive from NASA attorneys to refrain from using the name "Jesus" in their club's announcements, which appeared in the Johnson Space Center (JSC) newsletter.
The group, called the JSC Praise & Worship Club, recently filed a formal complaint with the space agency against this supposed order.
In an interview with NBC News, NASA engineer Sophia Smith questioned why the space agency would suddenly curtail its workers' freedom to speak freely about their religious beliefs.
"It was shocking to all of us and very frustrating. NASA has a long history of respecting religious speech. Why wouldn't they allow us to put the name Jesus in the announcement about our club?" Smith said.
One of the largest religious liberty law firms in the United States, the Liberty Institute, is meanwhile threatening to file a federal lawsuit against NASA if the space agency will not apologise for and will continue its supposed censorship of the name "Jesus" in the newsletter.
According to Liberty Institute attorney Jeremy Dys, the JSC Praise & Worship Club wanted to place an announcement of a meeting on the Space Center's newsletter, to inform those interested to attend a gathering with the theme "Jesus is our life."
The NASA distributes its JSC Today Newsletter electronically to its employees, usually to inform them of a number of activities and events in the Space Center, such as soccer camps and even salsa dancing lessons.
In a statement, NASA denied prohibiting its employees to express their religious beliefs.
"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 employee's own time," the space agency said, as quoted by NBC News.
"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 NASA added.