The National Archives and Records Administration apologized Friday for ordering visitors in the District of Columbia for the March for Life to take off or cover up their pro-life apparel after being accused in a federal lawsuit of violating their First Amendment rights.
The conservative American Center for Law & Justice sued Wednesday on behalf of four March for Life participants from three states who said they were told to remove or cover up sweatshirts, T-shirts, buttons and hats imprinted with pro-life messages.
“Earlier this week, a lawsuit was filed against the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) stating that on the morning of January 20, 2023, the day of the March for Life, several visitors to our museum in Washington, D.C., were told by NARA security officers ‘to remove or cover their attire because of their pro-life messages,’” said the National Archives in an email to The Washington Times.
“As the home to the original Constitution and Bill of Rights, which enshrine the rights of free speech and religion, we sincerely apologize for this occurrence,” said the statement.
The National Archives acknowledged that its policy “expressly allows all visitors to wear T-shirts, hats, buttons, etc. that display protest language, including religious and political speech.”
The statement added, “We are actively investigating to determine what happened. Early indications are that our security officers quickly corrected their actions and, from that point forward, all visitors were permitted to enter our facility without needing to remove or cover their attire. We have reminded all of our security officers at our facilities across the country of the rights of visitors in this regard.”
The statement concluded: “Because a lawsuit has been filed, we cannot comment further.”
The National Archives wasn’t alone in censoring pro-life messaging on Jan. 20. The ACLJ has also sued the Smithsonian after a dozen Catholic students and chaperones from South Carolina were told by security guards at the National Air and Space Museum to remove their pro-life swag or leave.
March for Lifers sue National Archives for allegedly ordering them to remove #prolife swag – https://t.co/6WuzBbMivh – @washtimes #1A #Smithsonian #abortion
— Valerie Richardson (@ValRichardson17) February 9, 2023
ACLJ Executive Director Jordan Sekulow said he believes the incidents are connected, and that the same thing may have happened to other March for Life participants touring the nation’s capital.
“The fact that there were multiple instances of targeted discrimination in at least two federal buildings on the same day against pro-life advocates is no coincidence,” Mr. Sekulow said in a Thursday post. “Where there were two, there are likely more. We will not stop until we get to the bottom of this, achieve justice for our clients, and ensure that this never happens again.”
The lawsuits filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia accuse the Smithsonian and National Archives of violating the First and Fifth Amendments and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
“No one should be targeted by the federal government for their Christian and pro-life views,” Mr. Sekulow said.
The 50th annual March for Life, the first since Roe v. Wade was overturned, was held Jan. 20 on the National Mall.