In Consent Decree, National Archives Apologizes and Agrees to Injunction Prohibiting Further Targeting of Pro-Life Visitors
As we told you earlier this week, the ACLJ filed another lawsuit against a second federal institution, the National Archives, for targeting visitors to the National Archives for pro-life speech on the day of the March for Life. While our clients were required to remove their pro-life clothing, other visitors to the museum wearing pro-choice apparel freely toured the Archives and were not harassed by museum security and staff. As we explain in our complaint, “Defendants’ restriction on Plaintiffs’ speech is . . . a concerted effort to single out, embarrass, intimidate, exclude, and ultimately silence the message expressed by Plaintiffs in wearing their ‘pro-life’ clothing and other attire” and is a clear “violation of the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment.”
Following the filing of the lawsuit, our legal team immediately went to work preparing a motion for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction to prohibit Defendants from engaging in the same conduct again throughout the duration of the lawsuit. A restraining order and/or injunction is necessary here because two of our clients have plans to return to the National Archives soon – one as early as the end of this week – and we want to ensure that they are not targeted, humiliated, and silenced again during their visits. While the National Archives had previously issued an apology for the prior incident, it had not provided any evidence of the existence of a policy or of sufficient training of its employees and officers with the apology to provide assurances that a repeat violation would not occur. As a result, our clients remained fearful about returning to the building.
When faced with the prospect of defending against our motion for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction, the government agreed to enter into a consent order and preliminary injunction. The consent order states:
- The “Defendants, their officers, successors in office, employees, and agents are PRELIMINARILY ENJOINED from prohibiting visitors from wearing t-shirts, hats, buttons, etc., that display . . . religious and political speech.”
- The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA, the federal agency that manages the National Archives facility) will provide a copy of the consent order to all NARA security officers who interact with the public at every NARA facility, including the National Archives.
- NARA staff will provide a personal apology to our clients regarding the events that took place on January 20, 2023.
The consent order does not signal the end of the case. In the weeks ahead, the ACLJ will be demanding answers on how and why such a clear violation of our clients’ rights occurred and who all was involved in the decision to target pro-life visitors.
The ACLJ will continue to vigorously pursue justice for our clients to ensure that federal officials employed with NARA do not commit such egregious violations of federal law again.