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Lunar Bibles at sad center of financial dispute

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
February 20th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Tiny Bibles, printed on microfilm and flown to the moon, are now at the center of a dispute between the Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services (DADS) and an Oklahoma Christian author who is trying to sell one at auction.

HOUSTON, TX (Catholic Online) - The first microfilm Bible was flown to the moon on Apollo 12, but stayed in orbit in the command module. Another 512 Bibles flew on Apollo 13, however that mission did not land on the moon due to a near-fatal explosion onboard the craft. Success was found on the Apollo 14 mission as 300 Bibles were re-flown to the moon and 100 were personally taken to the surface by mission commander Alan Shepard.

The Bibles were produced by the Apollo Prayer League, a group of Christian NASA employees who prayed for the astronauts. The microfilm Bibles are of the King James version and contain 1,245 pages of scripture. They are about the size of a postage stamp and can only be read with microfilm equipment.

Following the return of Apollo 14, some of the Bibles were cut up and distributed in pieces to members of the Apollo Prayer League. The remainder were kept by the leader of the League, John Stout, who was a scientists and chaplain for NASA.

These events were recounted by Christian Author Carol Mersch in her book, "The Apostles of Apollo." Mersch claims she was given some of the Bibles to sell for Stout and his wife, who are both now in a nursing facility in Dayton, Texas.

The couple were placed in the nursing home by order of the state after investigators determined their living conditions to be "deplorable." They became wards of the state in 2010, around the same time Mersch claims she received the Bibles to sell.

The issue is money. The state is asking Mersch to return the Bibles so they can be sold to help cover the living expenses for the elderly couple.  Mersch however says she is trying to help the Stouts. She claims that as she researched the story for her book, she grew close to the couple who eventually gave some of the Bibles to her to sell.

However, the Stout's son, Johnathan Stout, disagrees, saying Mersch is acting in her own self interest. He would like the Bibles returned to the state. "The state is helping them," he told the Houston Chronicle, "the other people are not."

Recently lawyers obtained a restraining order to stop a Dallas auction house from selling one of the Bibles, just moments before it was to go on the block.

Although a court has already said Mersch has the right to sell the Bibles in her possession, the state is appealing. Until then, they cannot be sold.

It's unfortunate that the parties involved see these artifacts of religious and historical significance as financial assets rather than as relics of reverence and awe, as they should be.

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