A dozen Catholic high school students got ejected from the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum and their associates for having to wear a beanie that said "Rosary, Pro-life."

This incident occurred because of the rules and policies of the museum about visitors being neutral regarding religious and political views. People in faith and experts labeled this action a violation of the "Right to Free Speech."

 Kicked Out of the Museum

A group of students, along with their chaperones from Our Lady of the Rosary School in Greenville, South Carolina, recently took a trip to Washington, D.C., for the National March for Life. The students proudly wore matching blue beanies with the words "Rosary PRO-LIFE" embroidered on them. However, their experience at the museum was far from positive, with allegations of mocking and foul language from museum staff.

According to Fox News, the American Center for Law and Justice, representing the students' parents, has claimed that the museum is a neutral zone as it stated and that political and religious messages were not allowed.

Jay Sekulow, a well-known lawyer, has expressed outrage towards the recent events at the Smithsonian Institution. He believes that the censorship of speech by the museum is a blatant abuse of the First Amendment, which guarantees individuals the right to free address without interference from the government, according to the Whitehouse.

Sekulow pointed out that the Smithsonian Institution is a federal entity that receives a significant amount of funding from the government each year, deciding to censor speech even more unacceptable. He referred to the act as "outrageous" and "abhorrent" discrimination, especially towards the Christian pro-life position.

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Issue of Violation of Right to Express Oneself Arising

Similar incidents have occurred, most especially in public places. In a report in Christianity Daily, the Mall of America in Minnesota made headlines after a video went viral online showed a security guard asking a shopper to remove or leave the mall due to his religious shirt.

The man was wearing a yellow t-shirt with the slogan "Jesus is the only way," and the "coexist" symbol, which promotes religious harmony, was crossed out. The video caused a stir on social media, with one group organizing a protest where they planned to wear similar shirts.

Despite the guard's initial request, the shopper was eventually allowed to remain in the mall. A spokesperson for the mall stated that the shopper had been issued a 24-hour trespass for "soliciting guests" a week before the incident. The video was shared widely across TikTok and Twitter, with one video being live-streamed on Facebook.

The right to freely express one's thoughts and opinions is a fundamental aspect of living in a just and equitable society where individuals have access to justice and respect for their human rights. Despite this, people are often punished, or even killed, for speaking out in many countries worldwide.

Even though nearly all constitutions recognize the value of free speech, governments regularly abuse their power to silence dissent by passing laws that criminalize expression. According to Amnesty, this is often done in the guise of counterterrorism, national security, or religion.

Recently, the freedom of expression has also come under attack as authorities suppress activists, NGOs, and individuals supporting refugees and migrants. How a government responds to opposing opinions and critical voices can reveal a lot about its stance on human rights.

Related Article: Mall of America, Security Guard Orders Man, Wearing 'Jesus Saves' T-shirt to Remove It or Leave, Causing Offense