On June 9, 2017, the American Freedom Law Center, a national public interest law firm, filed a federal civil rights lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia against the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC), its Director, Mr. Lonnie Bunch III, the Office of Protection Services (OPS), the Director of OPS, and an OPS police officer, alleging violations of the First and Fifth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform, Inc. (CBR), a California-based pro-life organization, its executive director, Gregg Cunningham, Reverend Clenard H. Childress, Jr., an African American pastor of a black church in the Newark, New Jersey area, and Jacqueline Hawkins, an African American woman who is the director of minority outreach for CBR. Pastor Childress and Ms. Hawkins direct the NMAAC project, which was developed by CBR.
The NMAAHC project involves the use of hand-held, photo-mural exhibits that demonstrate the devastation of abortion’s consequences on the African American community. This project also includes the distribution of literature. A principal goal of the project is to raise awareness of the black genocide that is being perpetrated through abortion.
The NMAAHC project confronts potential museum visitors with provocative questions such as the following: Does the greater threat posed to black children emanate from white police officers or Planned Parenthood? Do born “Black Lives Matter” more than unborn black lives? The museum trivializes or ignores each of these important questions. CBR seeks to remedy this deficiency through this project.
Examples of project signs are as follows:
According to the Centers for Disease Control, although African American women account for only 11% of the female population, they are the victims of 36% of all abortions. By 2009, 16 million black children had been aborted. Had they lived, the black population would be 50% larger than what it was in 2009—49 million instead of 33 million. By 2014, 18 million African American babies had been aborted. This is black genocide.
According to the lawsuit, NMAAHC hides from those who visit the museum the fact that abortion is disproportionately harming the African American community. In fact, NMAAHC celebrates individuals and organizations that promote abortion.
For example, NMAAHC promotes the movement called Black Lives Matter (“BLM”). BLM is viciously pro-abortion. In a news article published in July 2016, the BLM perspective was explained as follows: “Anti-choice activists attempt to hijack Black Lives Matter to shame women for abortion,” asserting that “[e]quating the loss of actual people to gun violence with abortion serves to make [a] mockery of the deaths of real people, as if they had no greater value than that of an embryo.”
As another example, Justice Thurgood Marshall, the first African American to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court, was pro-abortion, demanding even public funding for the abortions which savage the African American community with black genocide. His tenure is nonetheless celebrated by NMAAHC. On the other hand, Just Clarence Thomas, an African American currently serving on the U.S. Supreme Court, is pro-life. His tenure, however, is defiantly denied the slightest mention in any exhibit appearing in this hyper-politicized institution known as NMAAHC.
The project confronts this disparity with the following sign:
On February 1, 2017, Pastor Childress and Ms. Hawkins initiated the NMAAHC project by peacefully standing outside of the museum entrance on the public sidewalk adjacent to Madison Drive with one of the project signs. Mr. Cunningham was present as well. A photograph of their peaceful, non-obstructive free speech activity appears below:
Shortly after they arrived, Pastor Childress and Ms. Hawkins were confronted by an NMAAHC official who told them that they could not stand outside the museum with their sign. Reverend Childress responded that this is a public sidewalk.
The NMAAHC official summoned an armed, uniformed police officer from the Office of Protection Services (OPS). Two additional OPS officers arrived. One was a female officer, who was likely summoned due to the fact that Ms. Hawkins, a woman, was present.
The senior OPS officer warned Pastor Childress and Ms. Hawkins that if they did not move to a location across the street, then he and his fellow officers would physically move them. Meaning, if Pastor Childress and Ms. Hawkins did not cease their expressive activity on this public sidewalk, these armed officers would force them to move. The OPS officer also confirmed that if they did not move, they would be subject to arrest.
Rather than face arrest or physical force, Pastor Childress and Ms. Hawkins ceased their expressive activity and moved per the officer’s order. The OPS officer, acting on behalf of NMAAHC, forced Pastor Childress and Ms. Hawkins to move to a location where they could not reach their target audience and where their message would be silenced. Indeed, the steady stream of busses that ran on Madison Drive between them and their target audience ensured that their pro-life message would be blocked. Moreover, this location prevents Pastor Childress and Ms. Hawkins from distributing literature and from engaging in the “conversation” with museum visitors that Mr. Bunch, the Director of NMAAHC and a defendant in this case, deemed so critical to the mission of the museum.
A photograph of the location where Pastor Childress and Ms. Hawkins were ordered to move to appears below:
Robert Muise, AFLC Co-Founder and Senior Counsel, commented:
“Our clients have a clear right under the First Amendment to engage in their peaceful, non-obstructive free speech activity on the public sidewalks outside of this museum. If the curators won’t tell the story about the impact of abortion on the African American community inside the museum, our clients will exercise their free speech rights and tell it outside. Indeed, our clients’ important message should be part of the exhibits inside this publicly funded museum, but at a minimum, African American citizens such as Pastor Childress and Ms. Hawkins shouldn’t be threatened by government officials with arrest or force for expressing their message on the public sidewalks in front of this museum.”
David Yerushalmi, AFLC Co-Founder and Senior Counsel, added:
“In addition to being a gross violation of our clients’ fundamental rights, the actions of the museum officials and their armed security demonstrate the hypocrisy of the left. Progressives claim to be for diversity and tolerance, but if you don’t march in lockstep with their narrative, they use force and the threat of force to shut you down. Indeed, not only do the progressives in charge of NMAAHC want to control the content and viewpoint of the messages expressed to visitors inside the museum, they want to control the content and viewpoint of the messages expressed to potential visitors outside of the museum, on penalty of arrest. In short, the treatment of Pastor Childress and Ms. Hawkins by these government officials was reprehensible and unlawful.”