The Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., has issued an apology after staff members kicked out Catholic students and their chaperones last month for wearing pro-life beanies.
The incident occurred on Jan 20 when students from the Greenville, South Carolina, Our Lady of the Rosary School traveled to the National Air and Space Museum on a field trip.
The American Center for Law and Justice, which is currently representing six students and two parents, told the Smithsonian in a letter last Wednesday to prepare for litigation.
Jordan Sekulow, ACLJ's executive director, noted that the students were kicked out of the museum for wearing the beanies that read "Rosary PRO-LIFE."
"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 wrote in a statement on the ACLJ website. "The employee who ultimately forced the students to leave the museum was rubbing his hands together in glee as they exited the building. We here at the ACLJ are absolutely appalled at this blatant discrimination and won't let this behavior stand."
A mother of one of the students confirmed that her daughter was among the students who were kicked out.
"My daughter just called from D.C. a dozen kids from Greenville just got kicked out of the Air & Space Museum for wearing Pro-Life hats. They were told to remove their hats or leave. Daughter told man they had to wear to find each other in crowd. KICKED OUT for refusing to remove!" she tweeted.
My daughter just called from DC a dozen kids from Greenville just got kicked out of the Air & Space Museum for wearing Pro Life hats.They were told to remove their hats or leave. Daughter told man they had to wear to find each other in crowd. KICKED OUT for refusing to remove! pic.twitter.com/5RSJp2ccGi— Move to South Carolina (@KihneSheila) January 20, 2023
In response to the incident, a spokesperson for the museum apologized on the institution's behalf.
"A security officer mistakenly told young visitors that their pro-life hats were not permitted in the museum," the spokesperson told The Christian Post. "Asking visitors to remove hats and clothing is not in keeping with our policy or protocols. We provided immediate retraining to prevent a re-occurrence of this kind of error."
The Smithsonian Institution was created by the federal government and comprises 21 museums and education and research centers. The institution uses about $1 billion in federal funds annually.
"It states on its website that they 'welcome all people to explore' its museums, apparently just not kids with pro-life views," Sekulow stated.
"This was a clear-cut First Amendment violation, not only of their freedom of speech but of religion as well. The federal government simply cannot ban speech with which it or its employees disagree."
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Alex Wong/Staff
Milton Quintanilla is a freelance writer and content creator. He is a contributing writer for Christian Headlines and the host of the For Your Soul Podcast, a podcast devoted to sound doctrine and biblical truth. He holds a Masters of Divinity from Alliance Theological Seminary.