Smithsonian Slapped With Lawsuit After Kicking Out Students Wearing Pro-Life Hats

Famed 19th century Native American leader Sitting Bull, who died in 1890, is seen in this picture from circa 1885

Smithsonian Slapped With Lawsuit After Kicking Out Students Wearing Pro-Life Hats

Katelynn Richardson on February 7, 2023

Nine Catholic school students and three parents who were recently kicked out of the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum for wearing pro-life hats filed a lawsuit against the museum Monday.

The students were in Washington D.C. for the Jan 20. March for Life and visited the museum after the march, where they were reportedly berated by employees and told they must remove their hats with the words “Rosary Pro-Life” or leave.

One staff member told the students their hats were “political statements” that did not promote equality, claiming the museum is “a neutral zone” where the First Amendment “does not apply”— despite other visitors similarly wearing expressive statements on their attire, such as pride masks, according to the case filing.

Students experienced misconduct from “at least five different staff, personnel, employees and/or security guards of NASM.”

“The way these students, many of whom were minors, were treated by their federal government – the Smithsonian and its employees – should shock everyone to the core,” said the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), the legal firm representing the students. “It’s not only abhorrent; it’s blatantly unconstitutional.”

The incident was not isolated, the ACLJ said.

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“We have already heard from more individuals who were forced to cover up pro-life t-shirts or be forced to leave another federal museum that same day,” they continued.

The lawsuit accuses the Smithsonian of violating the students’ rights under the First Amendment, Fifth Amendment, and Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).

“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 ‘Rosary Pro-Life ‘ hats,” the case says. “None of the Plaintiffs’ expressive conduct involved verbal or disruptive speech or protest, or signs.”

ACLJ did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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