Smithsonian staff kick out Catholic students for wearing pro-life hats
Denver, Colo., Feb 2, 2023 / 07:51 am
A group of Catholic students was wrongly kicked out of the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum because museum staff reacted with hostility to their matching blue pro-life hats, their supporters say.
Twelve students from Our Lady of the Rosary School in Greenville, South Carolina, and their chaperones had attended the March for Life in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 20. They wore blue pro-life stocking caps that said “Rosary Pro-Life.”
After the rally, they visited the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, famous for its exhibits of the original 1903 Wright Flyer and the Apollo 11 Command Module.
Though other visitors wore various kinds of hats, according to attorney Jordan Sekulow of the American Center for Law and Justice, the students were treated differently. Sekulow said the students “were accosted several times and told they would be forced to leave unless they removed their pro-life hats.”
“The museum staff mocked the students, called them expletives, and made comments that the museum was a ‘neutral zone’ where they could not express such statements,” Sekulow said in a Jan. 27 statement. “The employee who ultimately forced the students to leave the museum was rubbing his hands together in glee as they exited the building.”
He characterized the treatment of the students as “blatant discrimination” and noted that the Smithsonian is a federal entity.
At least two students are being represented by the American Center for Law and Justice.
The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum said it has already made changes after the incident.
“Asking visitors to remove hats and clothing is not in keeping with our policy or protocols,” Alison Wood, the museum’s deputy director of communications, told Fox News. “We provided immediate training to prevent a re-occurrence of this kind of incident, and have determined steps to ensure this does not happen again.”
CNA sought comment from the museum but did not receive a response by publication.
Sekulow said legal action could be on the horizon.
“We are preparing to bring legal action to defend the constitutional rights of these children,” he said. “No one, especially kids, should have to fear being kicked out of a national museum by government officials simply for wearing a Christian pro-life hat.”
“This was a clear-cut First Amendment violation, not only of their freedom of speech but of religion as well,” Sekulow continued. “The federal government simply cannot ban speech with which it or its employees disagree.”
The Catholic Diocese of Charleston responded to the incident in a statement to the Greenville NBC affiliate KYFF4 News.
“Thousands of Catholic students attend the March for Life every year and we support their right to stand for life,” the diocese said.