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Pushback: Smithsonian to pay Catholic students $50K and publicly apologize for ejecting them from Air & Space for wearing pro-life hats

The evil hat that Air & Space banned
The evil hat that Air & Space officials banned

Bring a gun to a knife fight: The Smithsonian has agreed to pay twelve Catholic students $50K and publicly apologize to them for ejecting them from the Air & Space museum last January because they were wearing pro-life hats.

That hat is to the right. Though many others were wearing t-shirts and hats with other political statements, museum officials singled these students out for harassment and ejection. According to their lawyer,

Once in the museum, they were accosted several times and told they would be forced to leave unless they removed their pro-life hats. The group all wore the same blue hat that simply said, “Rosary PRO-LIFE.” Other individuals in the museum were wearing hats of all kinds without issue.

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. The employee who ultimately forced the students to leave the museum was rubbing his hands together in glee as they exited the building.

According to the settlement deal [pdf]:

…the Smithsonian has agreed to settle with our clients, providing a monetary amount of $50,000, a private tour to be given by the director of the National Air and Space Museum, personal apologies, and the public dissemination of an “after action” report that was conducted by the Smithsonian following the incident that occurred. In addition, the Smithsonian will “further reiterate via a bulk distribution method to all security officers stationed at all Smithsonian museums open to the public and the National Zoological Park, the current Smithsonian policy regarding the wearing of hats or other types of clothing with messages, including religious and political speech.”

The Smithsonian is also required to arrange a screening (in person or online) for the students where everyone will watch the security footage of the harassment. Very clearly this is intended to underline the egregious action taken by the museum staff in order to make sure such behavior is not repeated in the future.

As soon as this story hit the press, the Smithsonian immediately denied it had any policy forbidding the wearing of any political paraphernalia. It continues to say so, and though the settlement states that the actual individuals who behaved badly have been identified and been given a good talking to, the settlement also absolves the museum from any “admission of liability or fault,” and there is no indication those individuals have been disciplined in any way.

Nonetheless, this is a clear victory for free speech, and a solid defeat for the leftist thugs who tried to silence these kids. It will be very difficult, if not impossible, for them to attempt such silencing again, for a good long time.

What must happen now is that more pro-life students should show up at Air & Space, wearing similar pro-life clothing, and dare anyone to challenge them. You only keep your freedom if you exercise it, without fear.

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On Christmas Eve 1968 three Americans became the first humans to visit another world. What they did to celebrate was unexpected and profound, and will be remembered throughout all human history. Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8, Robert Zimmerman's classic history of humanity's first journey to another world, tells that story, and it is now available as both an ebook and an audiobook, both with a foreword by Valerie Anders and a new introduction by Robert Zimmerman.

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  • LKB

    If the employees involved have not suffered any consequences, this is just window dressing.

  • MDC

    What does “discipline” mean, anyway? The correct way to handle this sort of stuff is a video recording and the ol’ “name and badge number” routine. Make them famous on the internet. I mean, I read this article and the actual staff members who did this aren’t named. Why?

    Conservatives need to learn to quit being nice to people who persecute them. Video record, get names (record name badges), make sure the names show up every single time the story is mentioned. This works, and it works well.

  • Jeffrey Henry

    The Smithsonian is funded by the US taxpayers. so the only people punished were US taxpayers.

  • DJ Py

    FIRING OF THE EMPLOYEE WHO ACCOSTED THEM ON BEHALF OF THE democRAT PARTY, refund of ticket price for affected visit with the free, mgmt tour & free tour for student with 1 guest for remainder of 2024 would have been a better remedy that wouldn’t have hurt taxpayers! That nasty employee should not be allowed to work there with the public OR IT WILL HAPPEN AGAIN BEFORE THEY LEAVE ON THEIR OWN & WON’T CARE AGAIN, LAUGHING! This will be a temporary albeit longer term remedy! Kudos to the kids for standing up to that employee who should be made to work for free to get them to leave or only wk security after hours!

  • DC

    The NASM is free to the public.
    No one needs to get fired or humiliated.
    A clear understanding of the 1st amendment and its place in the museum is probably more than adequate to help employees and volunteers understand the rules of engagement with museum visitors. Don’t compound the stupidity by overreacting.

  • Joseph

    Yes, it’s taxpayer money, but $50k is less than a rounding error. It’s probably less than the revenue from a single Smithsonian gift shop over a weekend. Much, much more important here is that those students are citizens who were outrageously harassed and made to feel unwelcome in a US taxpayer-supported public museum.

  • pzatchok

    50,000 each would be nice. A written apology from both the Museum and the offending employees.

    As for that so called compounding of the problem.
    Can not happen unless you think the fired employees will seek retribution. Will they?

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