National Archives settles with March for Life visitors told to remove pro-life clothing

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Visitors to this year’s “March for Life” settled with the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) after filing a lawsuit against the federal agency in February. 

The abortion opponents had traveled to Washington, D.C., for the annual pro-life event first formed in 1974, to protest the passing of Roe v. Wade. According to the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), the visitors were told during separate instances to remove or cover up clothing displaying pro-life messages before they could enter the building on January 20, 2023.

A security officer contracted by NARA told the groups that their political apparel was “disturbing the peace” and could “incite others.” One visitor wearing a t-shirt which read, “MARCH 4 LIFE 2014: Saint Cecilia’s Youth Group, Glen Carbon, IL,” was told to cover up or change her “offensive” shirt, the ACLJ said.

The Christian legal group announced on December 19 they had secured a settlement from the government agency over the incident which they argued violated their clients’ First Amendment rights.


Demonstrators walk on First Street during the annual 49th March for Life anti-abortion demonstration on Capitol Hill on Friday, January 21, 2022. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images) (Getty Images)

According to the court filing, the National Archives agreed to pay a sum of $10,000 to the three plaintiffs represented by the ACLJ in the suit. 

In its own report, NARA explained how they had provided additional training to employees and contractor security officers to ensure this would not happen again. The agency also agreed to a consent order in February which agrees to not prohibit visitors from wearing “t-shirts, hats, buttons, or other attire that displays protest language, including religious and political speech.”

ACLJ executive director Jordan Sekulow said their clients will be allowed to view security footage of that day “to confirm for themselves certain representations that have been made by NARA officials.”

Sekulow highlighted the timeliness of the pro-life victory as abortion opponents prepare to travel to Washington for the 2024 March for Life next month.

“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 wrote in his announcement describing the settlement.

The National Archives did not respond to a request for comment from Fox News Digital.


National Archives sign

The National Archives is keeping quiet on President Biden’s ongoing document scandal after being outspoken about former President Trump’s handling of sensitive records. ( Sarah Silbiger for The Washington Post via Getty Images)

After the lawsuit was filed in February, the National Archives apologized for the incident and said the security officer’s actions violated NARA policy. The government agency also acknowledged the symbolism of the incident occurring within the same building housing landmark civil rights documents, such as the Constitution and Bill of Rights.

“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,” the statement said.

The security officer who stopped the visitors was let go earlier this year, Fox News Digital previously reported

A group of Catholic high school students were also removed from the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum during the same event for wearing beanies displaying pro-life messages.

Fox News’ Timothy Nerozzi contributed to this report.

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