The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum kicked out a dozen Catholic school students and their chaperones from South Carolina due to the pro-life message on their beanies.
The blue hats simply said “Rosary PRO-LIFE.”
The teenagers attempted to visit the museum after participating in the annual March for Life on Jan. 20, but were turned away. A parent wrote that the group was approached by a security guard who declared the students must either remove the headgear or leave.
When asked why they were being singled out, witnesses say the guard said that the facility was a “neutral zone.” This response came after the man was told that the hats were worn to identify each other in the Washington D.C. crowds.
Witnesses also reported that museum staff used expletives addressing the students and claimed political and religious messages were not allowed. The students and adults were escorted out of the building.
The American Center of Law and Justice (ACLJ) is representing the parents of the teenagers from Our Lady of the Rosary School in Greenville County.
Outrageous: Smithsonian Kicks Out Students for Wearing Pro-Life Hats @LifeNewsHQ
— Frank Pavone (@frfrankpavone) January 31, 2023
ACLJ Executive Director Jordan Sekulow said that many various types of hats were being worn that day by museum visitors. He called the staff reaction “a clear and egregious abuse of the First Amendment” and declared that a government institution cannot censor speech.
Calling the removal of the school group “outrageous” and “abhorrent” discrimination, Sekulow noted that the Smithsonian is a federal entity granted over $1 billion per fiscal year.
Parent Nora Luz Kriegel added her signature to a petition to the museum. The parents and their supporters asked for a change in policy, and Kriegel took exception to the students being harassed.
She told WYFF, a local media outlet, that the teenagers “should be allowed to wear the hats that they were wearing and to be able to express themselves.”
The Smithsonian released a statement saying staff did not follow the institution’s procedures.
Allison Wood, the museum’s director of communications, explained that “asking visitors to remove hats and clothing is not in keeping with our policies or protocols. We provided immediate training to prevent a recurrence of this type of incident.”