National Archives Apologizes, Offers Personal Tour to March for Life Visitors

March for Life participants who were ordered to cover or remove their pro-life attire during a Jan. 20 visit to the National Archives will receive a personal tour as part of a preliminary agreement the two parties reached in litigation.

News of the agreement comes after the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) issued a formal apology for the incident on Feb. 10, noting that NARA policy “expressly allows all visitors to wear T-shirts, hats, buttons, etc. that display protest language, including religious and political speech.”

“As the home to the original Constitution and Bill of Rights, which enshrine the rights of free speech and religion, we sincerely apologize for this occurrence,” NARA said in the statement.

According to a Feb. 14 legal filing (pdf), the agreement reached between NARA and the visitors in question stipulates that two of the plaintiffs will receive in-person apologies and personal tours of the museum and that all NARA security officers and public-facing personnel will be made aware of the agency’s official policy on political and religious attire.

The parties also agreed to a preliminary injunction preventing NARA personnel from prohibiting visitors from wearing such attire until a final judgment had been reached, further order of the court, or Jan. 19, 2025.

In filing the Feb. 8 lawsuit (pdf) on behalf of the four pro-life plaintiffs, attorneys at the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) argued that their clients’ First Amendment rights were violated when they were told they had to remove their “offensive” attire to enter the National Archives.

“Defendants unlawfully deprived Plaintiffs of their First Amendment rights to engage in protected speech and expression in violation of the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment,” the attorneys wrote, noting that their clients had not engaged in any disruptive conduct or protests.

Additionally, the complaint noted that one of the plaintiffs had witnessed other museum visitors freely walking around wearing pro-abortion apparel with messages like “My Body, My Choice.”

Holding that their clients were targeted for their pro-life stance, the attorneys argued that NARA’s actions demonstrated “a concerted effort to single out, embarrass, intimidate, exclude, and ultimately silence” their clients’ pro-life message.

The case is currently being presided over by U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly. However, if the preliminary agreement is accepted by the court, the case will be referred to the D.C. Circuit’s Mediation Program to explore a potential settlement.

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