The Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum responded to House Republicans after security guards booted students wearing pro-life hats from the museum's grounds.
"This was an aberration and not reflective of Smithsonian values and practice of welcoming all visitors regardless of viewpoint," Smithsonian Secretary Lonnie G. Bunch III stated, according to Fox News. "Visitors are not to be denied access based on messages on their clothing, and an error was made in this regard on January 20, 2023."
Smithsonian staff kicked out a group of Catholic high school students and their chaperons that day for wearing headgear emblazoned with pro-life messages.
"The instruction to visitors to remove their pro-life hats was a mistake — a misinterpretation of what was permissible," Bunch added. "It was not a willful violation."
When asked if the museum had policies against pro-life, Bunch responded the Smithsonian welcomes "all visitors without regard to their beliefs. Visitors may wear hats and other types of clothing with messages so long as their conduct is otherwise in compliance with Smithsonian policy."
But, he added, "The Smithsonian does not allow demonstrations in the Smithsonian museums, including the carrying of placards, signs, and banners, regardless of the viewpoint of the demonstrations. Participants in demonstrations on the National Mall, however, are always welcome to enter Smithsonian buildings for museum purposes."
Responding to the museum's addressing of the matter, Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, said, "the Smithsonian has publicly acknowledged its employees' wrongdoing, instituted refresher training, and taken immediate corrective action to remedy the situation and claims it will not happen again. Congress will need to continue proper oversight of the Smithsonian and ensure that all Americans are welcome at the Air and Space Museum."
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