A Christian group, the JSC Praise & Worship Club, sought to use the same in-house newsletter that every Johnson Space Center employee club uses to make announcements about upcoming events. The misguided and misinformed legal team at NASA said you can’t, because your announcement uses the name of Jesus.
A group of Christian employees have been gathering at JSC during their lunch hour since 2001 to share their faith in Christ in song, prayer, and Bible study. But when they tried, in a model display of tolerance, inclusion and diversity, to invite all JSC employees to join them for a “refreshing set of spring praise and worship songs” in a session with the theme “Jesus is our life,” the anti-Christian bullies and bigots of secular fundamentalism squashed them like a little tiny bug.
They were informed in no uncertain terms that they were not allowed to use the name “Jesus.” You can talk about salsa dancing lessons and soccer camp, they were told, but you’ve crossed the line when you even mention the name of the Man whose birthday is celebrated every year as a national holiday by decree of Congress.
What NASA is doing here is flatly unconstitutional. They are prohibiting mention of the name of Jesus on grounds that such a mention violates the First Amendment. But it is NASA that is violating the First Amendment, not the JSC Praise & Worship Club.
Only Congress is restrained by the First Amendment in the Founders’ Constitution, as the first word makes clear. “Congress shall make no law...” The First Amendment has never been amended, so it means the same thing today as when it was ratified in 1791. Now if Congress is the only entity restrained by the First Amendment, then only Congress can violate it. Well, the JSC Praise & Worship Club isn’t Congress. They couldn’t violate the First Amendment even if they deliberately set out to do it.
Further, Congress, and by extension the entire federal government, is prohibited by the First Amendment from “prohibiting the free exercise” of religion. When NASA, an agency of the federal government, forbids an employee group from even so much as mentioning the name of Christ, it is NASA itself which is in violation of the First Amendment. NASA is prohibiting the free exercise of religion, something it is flatly forbidden to do by the Constitution.
As Starnes pointed out, NASA has freely allowed the global expression of Christian faith in the past.
“On Christmas Eve, 1968 – the crew of Apollo 8 read the Creation story as they orbited the moon. Astronauts Jim Lovell, Frank Borman and Bill Anders took turns reading from the Book of Genesis.
“NASA defended the astronauts after atheist Madalyn Murray O’Hair filed a federal lawsuit. The Supreme Court dismissed the suit due to lack of jurisdiction.
“And astronaut Buzz Aldrin received communion on the lunar surface during the 1969 Apollo 11 mission.”
Bottom line: If NASA allowed their employees to worship God and talk about it while circling the moon, they certainly should allow them to do the same while standing on Earth.