- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 9, 2016

A group of Christian employees have accused NASA of violating their First Amendment rights after allegedly banning the word “Jesus” from the Johnson Space Center newsletter.

The Liberty Institute has filed a complaint on behalf of the JSC Praise & Worship Club at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. The group is threatening to sue after they say they were directed to stop using the name “Jesus” in their club announcements that appeared in the center’s newsletter, Fox News reported.

“It was shocking to all of us and very frustrating,” said NASA engineer Sophia Smith. “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?”

Liberty Institute attorney Jeremy Dys said it all started in May after the club, which met regularly during their lunch hour ever since 2001, had placed an announcement in the newsletter titled “Jesus is our life,” Fox News reported.

“Soon after that, the legal department called the organizers and told them they could not use the name Jesus in their announcements,” Mr. Dys said. “They said, no Jesus.”

The club’s leadership was told that “NASA would be censoring all future club announcements that featured the name, ‘Jesus,’” Liberty Institute alleged in its complaint letter.

NASA’s legal department explained that including “Jesus” in the club’s announcement made that announcement “sectarian” or “denominational” and would violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, Fox News reported.

Mr. Dys said the club organizers offered to provide a disclaimer notifying readers that the announcement was not an endorsement by NASA, but that offer was rejected as “insufficient.”

“The club members knew right away that NASA was censoring them and they were not comfortable with that,” Mr. Dys told Fox News.

“The bottom line is that NASA should not be censoring this club just because they use the name ‘Jesus’ in an employee advertisement,” he said. “That is blatant religious discrimination.”

NASA issued a statement late Monday denying the allegations:

“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. 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.”

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