Security officer dismissed from National Archives after pro-life apparel dispute

The National Archives of the United States in Washington, D.C.
The National Archives of the United States in Washington, D.C. | Public Domain

The National Archives Museum in Washington, D.C., disclosed that the security guard responsible for a group of students being told to conceal their pro-life attire was a private contractor who has since been removed from a contract with the museum. 

During a visit to the museum on the morning of the March for Life on Jan. 20, the visitors claim that security officers told them to remove or cover up their hats, buttons and other attire containing messages such as "Life is a Human Right" and "Life Always Wins."

Earlier this month, a group of Republican senators, led by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, penned a letter to NARA's acting archivist, requesting information about any disciplinary action taken and whether the museum has a policy prohibiting pro-life attire.

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In a letter NARA provided to The Christian Post Monday, acting Archivist Debra Steidel Wall responded to the senators' letter on Feb. 22, explaining that the museum has no such policy in place. 

"The irony that this happened just steps away from the permanent display of the original Bill of Rights is not lost on me or any of the employees who proudly welcome more than one million annual visitors to the Museum," Wall wrote.

"Upon learning of this incident, I publicly apologized and took steps to investigate what happened, and reminded all security officers and staff of our longstanding policy to honor the First Amendment and treat all of our visitors with respect," she continued. 

The archivist disclosed that the security officers involved in the incident were private contractors who work for NARA. She further noted that the officers violated a longstanding NARA policy that allows visitors to wear clothing that expresses their political or religious viewpoints.

"Our vendor conducted its own investigation of the incident and determined a supervisor that it employed, who was working that day, provided instructions to other security officers who work for the same vendor that were contrary to our policy," Wall stated. "The vendor has removed this supervisor from NARA's contract, and that individual is no longer working in any NARA facility." 

Wall noted that upon learning of similar incidents involving the Smithsonian Institution, NARA reminded security officers of the museum policies at all of its facilities. Following news of the incident at the National Archives Museum, Wall emphasized that NARA issued a public apology and again took steps to remind security officers of its existing policies.

"I am glad that the National Archives acknowledged the seriousness of their mistake and took the necessary steps to prevent this kind of incident from happening again," Cruz told CP in a Monday statement regarding Wall's letter.

"The First Amendment rights of pro-life visitors should never have been infringed to begin with," the republican senator continued. "These rights, like the documents housed at the National Archives, are foundational, and must be protected for everyone."

As CP reported, the American Center for Law and Justice filed a lawsuit on Feb. 8 on behalf of four clients who were part of three separate groups that visited the National Archives three different times on Jan. 20. 

The lawsuit claims security officers "chilled their religious speech" by "requiring plaintiffs to remove or cover their attire because of their pro-life messages." In court papers filed on Feb. 14, the museum promised plaintiffs a tour and a personal apology for the events that transpired. 

The ACLJ helped multiple plaintiffs file a similar lawsuit against the Smithsonian Institution after National Air and Space Museum security guards allegedly asked them to leave for wearing beanies with pro-life messages. 

The Christian legal nonprofit delivered a demand letter on Feb. 1 to the museum on behalf of several students from Our Lady of the Rosary School in Greenville, South Carolina, and their parents.

ACLJ Executive Director Jordan Sekulow said in a statement earlier this month that the students' beanies read "Rosary PRO-LIFE," which the school was wearing to identify who was part of their group. 

"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, calling the incident a "clear-cut" First Amendment violation. 

Samantha Kamman is a reporter for The Christian Post. She can be reached at: Follower her on Twitter: @Samantha_Kamman

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