The U.S. Supreme Court has made an important decision involving whether a Christian-themed flag should be allowed to fly outside Boston City Hall.
The high court has agreed to take the case, according to reports on Monday after Boston officials filed suit claiming that allowing the flag to fly on a flagpole that is often used by community groups amounts to a government endorsement of a particular religion.
Lawyers for Harold Shurtleff, whose 2017 request to fly a Christian flag was denied, cited that in the 12 years before his request, not one of the 284 proposed events was denied by the city.
“‘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,’” the Sun Journal .
Interestingly, the American Civil Liberties Union, which was initially founded to protect speech, has come out in support of flying the flag.
“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.”
But the left-leaning Anti-Defamation League is taking Boston’s side.
“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’s case stems from his formation 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 seeks to fly features 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, for its own speech, does not want to get into the issue of religion,” noted 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.”
Shurtleff countered, “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.
“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,” he added.