The Supreme Court unanimously said that Boston’s refusal to fly a Christian flag in front of city hall was unconstitutional. A local group sued the city for refusing to hoist their flag. Despite the religious undertones of the case, the Supreme Court said the ruling was about free speech.
Refusing to Fly the Christian Flag Is Unconstitutional
On Monday, the SC said that the city of Boston violated the constitution when it refused a Christian flag on its public flagpole. The court reasoned that the city created a public forum open to all comers.
This extends to the use of the flagpole in front of Boston City Hall, which officials permit organizations to use. Denying the same privilege for a Christian flag violates the laws of free expression.
The importance of whose viewpoint also went into play in the decision. If the Boston government said it’s only speaking for itself, it is immune from free speech violations. However, if it creates a public forum, it cannot discriminate against viewpoints.
The Supreme Court justices unanimously agreed to the decision. Judge Stephen Breyer wrote the decision in favor of the plaintiff's Camp Constitution.
“When the government encourages diverse expression — say, by creating a forum for debate — the First Amendment prevents it from discriminating against speakers based on their viewpoint.
The city’s lack of meaningful involvement in the selection of flags or the crafting of their messages leads us to classify the flag raisings as private, not government, speech — though nothing prevents Boston from changing its policies going forward,” Breyer wrote.
Victory for Camp Constitution and Their Christian Flag
The petitioning group, Camp Constitution, praised the victory. The organization said that part of its mission was “to enhance understanding of the country’s Judeo-Christian heritage”.
During its one-hour event at Boston City Hall, the group requested to raise a Christian flag bearing a Latin cross. The event also featured speeches on Boston’s history from local clergy.
CC founder Harold Shurtleff applied to use one of three flagpoles in front of city hall. The first two poles remain reserved for the US flag and the state of Massachusetts flag.
The local government allows organizations to use the third flagpole when conducting commemoration programs in the plaza.
However, the city of Boston surprisingly turned Shurtleff’s request down. It said that flying the Christian was an unconstitutional endorsement of religion.
Camp Constitution Sues Boston For Refusing Their Christian Flag
As a result, Camp Constitution sued the city. It argued that Boston cannot censor a religious message in what amounted to a public forum.
Allowing their Christian flag to fly means treating religious and nonreligious views the same. Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote an explanation in his concurring opinion.
“Under the Constitution, a government may not treat religious persons, religious organizations, or religious speech as second-class,” he said.
Meanwhile, a Boston spokesperson said that the city is currently reviewing the court’s decision. “As we consider next steps, we will ensure that future City of Boston programs are aligned with this decision.”
Prior to Camp Constitution, officials never tried controlling which flags ended up on the third pole for 12 years.
In fact, Boston approved 284 flag-raising events with no record of any denials. That is until Camp Constitution applied to fly their Christian flag.
Watch the ABC News news video reporting that the US Supreme Court rules Boston's Christian flag ban illegal:
What do you think of the Supreme Court’s decision calling out Boston for refusing to fly a Christian flag? What do you think of governments confusing religious issues with free speech?
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