Supreme Court Rules Boston Violated First Amendment in Refusing to fly Christian Flag
In 12 years Boston approved 284 flags – they never denied a flag-raising event until a group called Camp Constitution requested to raise a Christian flag on the third flag pole.
The only flag Boston ever denied was a Christian flag.
“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,” left-wing Justice Stephen Breyer wrote in the decision, according to NBC News.
“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 added.
NBC News reported:
The Supreme Court ruled unanimously on Monday that the city of Boston violated the Constitution when it refused to let a local organization fly a Christian flag in front of city hall.
While the case had religious overtones, the decision was fundamentally about free speech rights. The court said the city created a public forum, open to all comers, when it allowed organizations to use a flagpole in front of City Hall for commemorative events. Denying the same treatment for the Christian flag was a violation of free expression, it said.
The ruling was a victory for a group called Camp Constitution, which says part of its mission is “to enhance understanding of the country’s Judeo-Christian heritage.” The group wanted to raise a flag bearing a Latin cross during a one-hour event that would include speeches about Boston’s history from local clergy.
Its founder, Harold Shurtleff, applied to use one of three flagpoles in front of city hall. Two of them are for the flags of the United States and the State of Massachusetts. The city makes the third available to private organizations that conduct commemorations in the plaza in front of the building to celebrate the community’s diversity.
He sued after the city turned him down. Boston said the choice of flags on the third pole was an expression of the city’s views. Flying the Christian flag would amount to an unconstitutional government endorsement of religion, the city said.
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