National Archives Apologizes and Agrees to Preliminary Injunction Prohibiting Further Pro-Life Targeting
The ACLJ filed its civil lawsuit (Civil Case No. 23-0365) against the federally funded National Archives Museum because the National Archives targeted and censored its religious, pro-life visitors on January 20, 2023 – the day of the 50th Annual March for Life. While the ACLJ’s clients were stopped by National Archives employees and security personnel and told to remove their pro-life apparel or to leave the museum, other visitors in the museum – including those wearing pro-choice apparel – were not stopped by National Archives employees and were allowed to freely tour the museum.
As detailed in the ACLJ’s Complaint, “Defendants’ restriction on Plaintiffs’ speech is content and viewpoint-based and demonstrates a concerted effort to single out, embarrass, intimidate, exclude, and ultimately silence the message expressed by Plaintiffs in wearing their “pro-life” clothing and other attire.”
Jordan Sekulow, ACLJ’s Executive Director says: “Last week, the ACLJ filed our complaint in the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia, alleging violations of the First Amendment (free speech/religious freedom), Fifth Amendment (equal protection), and Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). What occurred is not only an injustice, it is intolerable, and we aren’t going to let them get away with it. We intend to find out what is behind this targeted discrimination.”
After filing the lawsuit, the ACLJ’s legal team began preparing a motion for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction to prohibit Defendants from engaging in the same conduct again throughout the duration of the lawsuit. While the National Archives had previously issued an apology for the January 20thincident, it had not provided any evidence of the existence of a policy or of sufficient training of its employees and officers with the apology sufficient to ensure that a repeat violation would not occur. As a result, the ACLJ’s clients remained fearful about returning to the building.
When faced with the prospect of defending against the ACLJ’s motion for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction, the government agreed to enter into a consent order and preliminary injunction. The proposed consent order signed by the Court today states that
- the Defendants, their officers, successors in office, employees and agents are preliminary enjoined from prohibiting visitors from wearing t-shirts, hats, buttons, etc., displaying religious and political speech.
- the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) (the federal agency that manages the National Archives facility) provide a copy of the consent order to all NARA security officers who interact with the public at every NARA facility, including the National Archives.
- NARA staff will provide a personal apology to the ACLJ’s clients regarding the events that took place on January 20, 2023.
Adds Sekulow: “This Consent Decree, which preliminarily enjoins the National Archives, during the course of litigation, from engaging again in activity that targets pro-life speech, along with the personal apology that the National Archives will issue to our clients, is a great first step and a win for our clients. This doesn’t mean the case is over, as we will continue to get answers for our clients as to why it happened in the first place, and what corrective action the Defendants will be taking to ensure that it never happens again to anyone wearing expressive religious and pro-life apparel at the National Archives. No one should be targeted by the federal government for their Christian and pro-life views.”
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.