ACLJ Announces Victory in Federal Lawsuit Against Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum for Kicking Out Christian Pro-Life Students
In February, the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) filed a major lawsuit in the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia against the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum for violating the First Amendment by harassing and then kicking out a group of Christian students for wearing pro-life hats.
This victory follows on the heels of another victory for our other clients in the case against the National Archives. Just as in the National Archives case, the Smithsonian has agreed to enter into a consent order and preliminary injunction, which is a court order prohibiting the Smithsonian from targeting pro-lifers again.
On January 20, 2023, following the March for Life, a group of young pro-life students, along with parents and chaperones, visited the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. While in the museum, the students were targeted and harassed, and eventually kicked out by employees simply because the students were wearing blue beanie hats that had “Rosary PRO-LIFE” written on them.
We filed a lawsuit on behalf of those students. As we previously explained:
When our clients initially entered the museum, they were told by at least two security officers to remove their hats as they were going through security. They complied, believing this to be a simple security protocol for screening. After passing through security and seeing other individuals wearing expressive attire, the students put their hats back on and viewed the museum exhibits. Thereafter, multiple museum personnel told the students they must remove their hats. Staff could be heard using expletives about the students, many of whom were minors . . . .
Now, the Smithsonian has agreed not to engage in this kind of harassment of pro-lifers again at the National Air and Space Museum. In addition, it is also going to instruct security officers at all its museums not to target pro-life speech. According to the consent order that has just been approved by the court:
Smithsonian shall further reiterate to all security officers stationed at all Smithsonian museums open to the public and the National Zoological Park, that Smithsonian policy does not prohibit visitors from wearing hats or other types of clothing with messages, including religious and political speech.
While we are pleased to announce this victory for our clients, this case is far from over. As with our lawsuit against the National Archives, we will enter a period of mediation with the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum to see if we can get to the bottom of why our clients were targeted. This is just one of many coordinated efforts to harass and abuse pro-lifers in federally funded institutions. That directive came from someone, and whoever it was must be held accountable, and we’re going to do the work necessary to hold them accountable.
About ACLJ: The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), focusing on the preservation and defense of constitutional rights, is based in Washington, D.C. For more information, visit ACLJ.org.