Meghan Duke blogs at On the Square about her experience Saturday at the National Gallery of Art in Washington:
After searching my bag, the two guards at the Gallery told me, “You’re good to go in, but first you need to remove that pro-life pin.” He was indicating the small lime green pin with the message “impact73.org” and the silhouette of a small hand inside that of a larger hand that I had attached to the lapel of my coat. The pin, they informed me, was a “religious symbol” and a symbol of a particular political cause and it could not be worn inside a federal building. Why, I asked, can I not wear a religious or political symbol inside a federal building? Bringing to bear the full weight of the supreme law of the land, the guards informed that it was a violation of the First Amendment of the United States’ Constitution: The combination of me, wearing a pro-life pin, in a federal building was a violation of the separation of church and state.
Duke goes on to say that the guards told her she couldn’t see the rule that dictated this policy and that no such policy was on the website. The guards also told her that if she were wearing a cross around her neck she would not have to remove it because “that’s entirely different.”
After following up with museum officials later, Duke learned that the guards were acting totally on their own initiative and that they were being disciplined over the matter.
Update and correction: Based upon a misreading of the line on the On The Square blog post about the federal laws for rules at the Smithsonian and other museums, I previously said that the National Gallery of Art was part of the Smithsonian. That is incorrect. I apologize for the error.