A prominent Christian legal organization has filed a lawsuit on behalf of the parents and Catholic school students who were kicked out of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum for wearing pro-life hats last month.
The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), announced the lawsuit ‘Kristi L. v. National Air & Space Museum’ late Tuesday, alleging that the Smithsonian "targeted, harassed" and "kicked out" a dozen Catholic high school students and their chaperones on Jan. 20 for wearing beanies inscribed with a pro-life message.
The group belonged to Our Lady of the Rosary School based out of Greenville, South Carolina, and had traveled to Washington, D.C., for the annual national March for Life. The students were all wearing matching blue beanies with the words "Rosary PRO-LIFE."
According to the ACLJ, museum personnel mocked the students, hurled expletives at them and claimed the museum was a "neutral zone" where political or religious messages were prohibited.
The lawsuit details an encounter between the personnel and students, some of whom are minors. As they were making their way toward an exhibit, two employees allegedly said, "The f—king pro-life. What a bunch of s—t."
A Smithsonian security guard then approached the group, according to the lawsuit, insisting that they take their hats off or leave.
"One of the security guards approached them, gleefully rubbing his hands together, stating they had made his day," the ACLJ wrote in an online statement.
When the group asked why other visitors in the museum were able to wear their hats and pride masks without issue, they were told that their hats were "political statements," and that they were "not promoting equality," according to the suit.
The same museum employee then allegedly "proceeded to inform Plaintiffs that they must remove their hats because the museum was a ‘neutral zone,’ and that the First Amendment 'does not apply here,'" the lawsuit reads.
On Twitter, the mother of one of the students said the group was approached by a security guard who told them to either take off their beanies or leave the premises. Her daughter allegedly told the guard they were wearing the hats to identify and find one another in the crowd before they were escorted out of the museum.
ACLJ Executive Director Jordan Sekulow told Fox News that the Smithsonian Institution is a federal entity that receives upwards of $1 billion from the government each fiscal year, calling the decision by the museum an example of "outrageous" and "abhorrent" discrimination in a federally supported museum.
In a statement released to the public, the Smithsonian said employees did not adhere to their policy or protocols, acknowledging the group was improperly forced out.
"We apologize that visitors to the National Air and Space Museum were asked to remove their hats on Friday, Jan. 20. A security officer mistakenly told young visitors that their pro-life hats were not permitted in the museum. Asking visitors to remove hats and clothing is not in keeping with our policy or protocols," the museum said in a statement. "We provided immediate retraining to prevent a re-occurrence of this kind of error.
"The Smithsonian welcomes all visitors without regard to their beliefs," the statement continues. "We do not deny access to our museums based on the messages on visitors' clothing."