Judge Rules Boston Can Ban Christian Flag from Being Raised Outside City Hall

A Christian flag flies below the flag of the United States. | (Photo: Pixabay / SESpider)

A federal judge ruled this week that the city of Boston, Massachusetts, does not have to raise a Christian flag at City Hall Plaza even though the city has raised flags representing other cultural and social groups, including flags indicating support for LGBT rights. 

U.S. District Court Judge Denise Casper, an Obama-appointee, issued an order Tuesday denying summary judgment to a Christian man who sued the city in 2018 after the city government rejected his request in 2017 to fly a Christian flag on a public flagpole outside City Hall.

The plaintiff, Harold Shurtleff, runs the organization called Camp Constitution. Camp Constitution exists to “enhance understanding of our Judeo-Christian moral heritage.” The organization hosts annual Constitution Day and Citizenship Day events at City Hall.

But Shurtleff’s request for the Christian flag (featuring a cross in the upper lefthand corner) on Constitution Day (September 17) 2017 was denied by the city on the basis of a policy that gives discretion to the city to determine which flags can fly.

Shurtleff believes that the city’s rejection of the flag equates to censorship of the Christian viewpoint.

The city of Boston raised nearly 300 flags by private organizations on the City Hall flagpole between 2005 and 2017, according to court documents. The conservative religious freedom legal group Liberty Counsel, which is representing Shurtleff, argued that the flagpole is designated by the city as a public forum for private speech.

According to Liberty Counsel, the city had never censored any flag until Shurtleff’s request to fly the Christian flag on Constitution Day 2017.

Casper rejected the plaintiff’s argument that the flagpole is designed to be a public forum for private speech, saying that the “display of flags outside City Hall is government speech.”

“The [then-head of the property management department Gregory Rooney] had never considered a religious flag prior to the Plaintiffs’ application,” the judge reasoned in her ruling.

“There are no additional facts in the record that would suggest any improper preference for non-religion over religion or selective treatment of any person or group based on religion. The City did not alter its procedures for review of flag applications because of Camp Constitution’s request, instead, Camp Constitution’s request presented a novel issue for the City’s consideration, which the City considered consistent with its practice and policy.”

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SOURCE: Christian Post, Samuel Smith