Pro-lifers who were targeted by the National Archives and Records Administration last January and ordered to cover up or remove pro-life clothing won a major lawsuit settlement last week. After roughly 11 months since the incident occurred in Washington, D.C., the National Archives and Records Administration agreed to settle the lawsuit.
A complaint filed in federal court by American Center for Law and Justice attorneys claimed that the National Archives and Records Administration violated the pro-life plaintiffs’ First Amendment right to free speech and the Fifth Amendment guarantee to equal protection under the law.
According to CNBC News, the plaintiffs in the case were Tamara R., who filed on behalf of her 17-year-old daughter L.R., who was visiting the National Archives with a Catholic high school group; Wendilee Walpole Lassiter from Virginia; and Terrie Kallal from Illinois. The plaintiffs were in Washington, D.C., for the March for Life event in January.
CNBC News reported that National Archives and Records Administration guards told the pro-lifers that their clothing, which featured pro-life messages, would “incite” others,” was “disturbing the peace,” and was “offensive.” As a result, the pro-lifers were ordered to take off their pro-life attire or cover up the “offensive” wording.
According to the complaint, L.R. was surprised by the demands of the National Archives and Records Administration guards “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 added, “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.”
The complaint also claimed that L.R. observed a man and a woman “freely walking” in the National Archives while wearing “pro-choice” clothing.
In the recent settlement agreement, the National Archives and Records Administration agreed to pay each of the plaintiffs $10,000 to cover legal expenses. The agency also agreed to provide the plaintiffs with video footage of the incident.
Addressing the victory for the pro-life plaintiffs, Jordan Sekulow, executive director of the American Center for Law and Justice, said, “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.”
Sekulow added, “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.”