Students and chaperones from a Catholic school in Greenville, South Carolina were kicked out of the National Air and Space Museum for wearing pro-life hats.
According to the American Center for Law and Justice, the visitors were asked by a security guard at the Museum to remove their hats because it was a “neutral zone.”
They were also allegedly harassed by two employees.
The Smithsonian has admitted wrongdoing and staff is now undergoing “immediate retraining.”
The Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum required staff there to undergo an “immediate retraining” after a group of students visiting during the annual March for Life in D.C. were kicked out of the museum for refusing to remove their hats that had pro-life messages on them.
The incident took place on Jan. 20, when a group of students from a Catholic school in Greenville, South Carolina visiting the nation’s capital for the annual pro-life march decided to make a stop at the museum. They were all donning blue beanies with the words “Rosary, PRO-LIFE” on them at the time.
At a certain point, a security officer told the students their hats were not allowed inside the museum, but the kids refused to take them off. As a result, they were ultimately forced to leave the museum.
“We apologize that visitors were asked to remove their hats. Asking visitors to remove hats and clothing is not in keeping with our policy or protocols,” Chief Spokesperson for the Smithsonian Institution Linda St. Thomas told The National Desk (TND). “We provided immediate retraining to prevent a re-occurrence of this kind of error.”
A lawsuit has been filed against the National Air and Space Museum.
A prominent Christian legal organization has filed a lawsuit on behalf of the parents and Catholic school students who were kicked out of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum for wearing pro-life hats last month.
The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), announced the lawsuit ‘Kristi L. v. National Air & Space Museum’ late Tuesday, alleging that the Smithsonian “targeted, harassed” and “kicked out” a dozen Catholic high school students and their chaperones on Jan. 20 for wearing beanies inscribed with a pro-life message.
According to the ACLJ, museum personnel mocked the students, hurled expletives at them and claimed the museum was a “neutral zone” where political or religious messages were prohibited.
The lawsuit details an encounter between the personnel and students, some of whom are minors. As they were making their way toward an exhibit, two employees allegedly said, “The f—king pro-life. What a bunch of s—t.”
Reason explains why the “neutral zone” argument would not apply in this case.
Procedurally, that may affect who can be sued here and for what.
The substantive legal analysis, though, is simple. The inside of a government-run museum is a “nonpublic forum” in which the government as property owner can impose reasonable, viewpoint-neutral restrictions. A rule banning “fuck,” “shit,” etc. on clothing worn within the museum, for instance, might well be constitutional, since it appears viewpoint-neutral—even though content-based—and might be seen as reasonable.
But a rule, or an on-the-spot action by a government employee forbidding hats that supposedly “do not promote equality” is viewpoint-based, and thus can’t be applied to visitors even on nonpublic forum government property.
This is clear discrimination against pro-life students.