The Supreme Court will hear arguments Tuesday over whether a Christian flag should be allowed to fly outside of Boston’s City Hall.
The city claims that allowing a Christian flag to fly on a flagpole often used by community groups is government endorsement of religion, according to NBC.
But lawyers for Harold Shurtleff, whose 2017 request to fly a Christian flag was denied, point out that in the 12 years before the request, not a single one of 284 proposed events was denied. That did not help him when two lower courts ruled against him, but he took his case to the Supreme Court.
“‘The flagpole that stands prominently at the city’s seat of government is the means by which the city communicates its own messages,’ Boston’s lawyers told the Supreme Court. The city uses it as a bully pulpit and has not turned it over ‘to private parties as a forum to pronounce their own messages,’” NBC reported.
First up: The city o Boston allowed various groups to fly flags outside city hall, but when a group submitted a flag bearing a Christian cross, the city refused to fly it. Was that a First Amendment violation? @AHoweBlogger has the preview: https://t.co/M7YyCwyAPC
— SCOTUSblog (@SCOTUSblog) January 18, 2022
The @ACLU usually opposes government displays of religious symbols as violating separation of church and state. But in this #SCOTUS case, we argue Boston must display a Christian flag. Here’s why. https://t.co/L0Bq72ChVa
— David Cole (@DavidColeACLU) January 16, 2022
“When the government opens its public property for private speakers, it has to treat everybody equally,” said David Cole, ACLU national legal director. “This case is really about private citizens’ access to government property to express themselves. And that access is critical to our ability to speak to each other, to express our views and the like.”
The Anti-Defamation League, however, sides with the city, according to NBC.
“The value to such groups of the ‘photo op’ of a Nazi flag, the Confederate flag, or some other white supremacist banner flying over Boston City Hall should not be underestimated,” the group said.
Shurtleff made his request as part of Camp Constitution, which he founded and which has as part of its mission “to enhance understanding of the country’s Judeo-Christian heritage.”
The flag he wants to fly is a cross in a blue square on a white field.
“It’s a public access flagpole,” Shurtleff told ABC.
“It’s kind of ludicrous to think flying a flag on a flagpole for maybe an hour or two will somehow get people to think, ‘Oh my goodness, look at the city of Boston now endorsing the Protestant or the Christian faith.”
The city says it fears that could happen.
“The city, for its own speech, does not want to get into the issue of religion,” said attorney Doug Hallward-Driemeier, who is arguing the case for Boston. “It’s said that it didn’t want to fly a flag that was offered as ‘the Christian flag,’ because that wasn’t the message that the city itself wanted to communicate.”
Are you glad Donald Trump appointed so many conservative judges?
Patrick Elliott, senior counsel with the Freedom From Religion Foundation, claimed flying a Christian flag could be dangerous, ABC reported.
“The Christian flag is associated with Christian nationalism. This is the same flag that was used during the Jan. 6th insurrection. So this is really akin to them trying to take over City Hall and saying, ‘Hey, this is a Christian place,’” he said.
Bunk, Shurtleff said.
“I don’t know of any white nationalists carrying Christian flags. That may have happened, but I don’t know. But this flag certainly represents Christianity and was designed by a couple of Sunday school teachers. Not exactly white supremacists,” he stated.
Shurtleff said he knows he may lose even if he wins.
“We’re optimistic that they will rule in our favor and that we will be allowed to raise the flag, although I understand the city will most likely cancel its flag-raising events. So we’ll see what happens.”
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