Visitors Targeted by National Archives for Wearing Pro-Life Attire Win Major Settlement

Visitors Targeted by National Archives for Wearing Pro-Life Attire Win Major Settlement

The National Archives and Records Administration agreed last week to settle a lawsuit with visitors who were told to remove or cover up pro-life attire they were wearing or leave the National Archives facility in Washington, D.C.

The three visitors — Wendilee Walpole Lassiter, Terrie Kallal and L.R., a minor — were in Washington to attend the annual March for Life last January, CNBC reported.

NARA guards asked Kallal to remove or cover her t-shirt, which read, “MARCH 4 LIFE 2014: Saint Cecilia’s Youth Group, Glen Carbon, IL,” according to the complaint filed by attorneys with the American Center for Law and Justice in federal court in February.

Her granddaughter wore a white shirt that read, “pro-life generation.” Both Kallal and her grandaughter covered up.

Lassister, a law student at Liberty University, was wearing a black sweatshirt that read, “I AM THE POST-ROE GENERATION: LAW STUDENTS FOR LIFE,” the complaint said.

L.R., a teenager, had a shirt on that said, “Life is a HUMAN RIGHT,” and a button on the strap of her bag contained the inscription “Pro-Love is the New Pro-Life.”

When one plaintiff asked the reason she was being instructed to remove her pro-life apparel, a National Archives security officer told her that it would “incite others” and that she was “disturbing the peace.”

Plaintiff L.R. was astonished by the guard’s instructions “given her close proximity to the very documents that prohibit the government’s interference with her First Amendment right to free speech and expression and her free exercise of religion — nonetheless zipped up her jacket and removed her button for fear that she would be thrown out of the National Archives if she did not comply,” the complaint said.

“Shortly thereafter, Plaintiff L.R. and many of her classmates made their way to the gift shop inside the National Archives whereby she witnessed three different female National Archives employees confront some of her classmates still wearing pro-life clothing or attire and instruct them to remove all of it immediately,” according to the complaint.

She also saw a man and a woman “freely walking around while wearing what appeared to be ‘pro-choice’ apparel, with statements to the effect of ‘My Body, My Choice,’ and ‘Pro-Choice,'” the complaint said.

After the ACLJ filed a suit against the NARA, the agency “promptly agreed to enter into a preliminary injunction essentially barring it from targeting pro-life visitors again. The National Archives also quickly requested that the parties gather for mediation in an attempt to resolve the lawsuit,” said Jordan Sekulow, executive director of the ACLJ, according to an ACLJ news release.

The consent order filed in federal court in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 19 specifically enjoins the Archives from targeting visitors for “wearing attire containing religious and political speech,” the news release said.

“The plaintiffs should not have been asked to remove or cover articles of clothing expressing their religious and other beliefs, and NARA regrets that this happened,” the order said.

All NARA personnel, volunteers, and museum staff are to be provided with a copy of the order.

In a settlement agreement, the NARA agreed to pay each plaintiff $10,000.

The agency also agreed to provide video footage of the plaintiffs’ interaction with the guards “to confirm for themselves certain representations that have been made by NARA officials,” the ACLJ news release said.

The Christian Post reported Lassiter was provided a personal tour of the archives, which included the opportunity to view “records of high intrinsic value that are not normally made available to the public.”

Sekulow said of the consent order, “This is an especially important victory, as one month from today, pro-life Americans will once again gather in Washington, D.C., for the March for Life.

“Our victory today ensures that they will be free from harassment and that their First Amendment rights will be protected should they choose to visit the National Archives and view the very documents that protect those sacred rights,” he added.

This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.

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