Boston’s Refusal to Allow Christian Flag to Fly Is Unconstitutional, Unanimous Supreme Court Finds

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City had allowed Chinese communist flag to be flown

The Supreme Court ruled unanimously on May 2 that Boston’s decision to allow national flags and flags about historic events, causes, and organizations to fly outside its city hall while refusing to raise a Christian flag is an unconstitutional example of government censorship.

The court’s opinion (pdf) in the case, Shurtleff v. Boston, court file 20-1800, was written by outgoing Justice Stephen Breyer, 83, who is expected to retire and will be replaced by Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson when the court’s current term ends. Oral arguments in the case, an appeal from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit, came Jan. 18.

Justices Brett Kavanaugh, Samuel Alito, and Neil Gorsuch each filed a separate opinion concurring in the judgment of the court.

Mat Staver, founder and chairman of public interest law firm Liberty Counsel, weighed in on the court’s latest opinion.

“This 9-0 decision from the Supreme Court strikes a victory for private speech in a public forum,” said Staver, who represented the petitioners in oral arguments.

“This case is so much more significant than a flag. Boston openly discriminated against viewpoints it disfavored when it opened the flagpoles to all applicants and then excluded Christian viewpoints. Government cannot censor religious viewpoints under the guise of government speech,” he said in a statement provided to The Epoch Times.

Petitioner Harold Shurtleff runs Camp Constitution, which offers classes and workshops on U.S. history and the Constitution. Camp Constitution, also a petitioner, was formed “to enhance understanding of the country’s Judeo-Christian heritage, the American heritage of courage and ingenuity, the genius of the United States Constitution, and free enterprise,” according to the petition filed with the court.

Three flagpoles adorn Boston City Hall’s entrance. Atop one flies the U.S. flag, and below it is a flag honoring missing soldiers and prisoners of war. The Massachusetts flag is on a second flagpole. A third flagpole usually flies Boston’s flag, but sometimes flags are hoisted to honor or commemorate causes, individuals, historic events, and foreign countries such as the People’s Republic of China or Turkey. Sometimes, the tertiary staff hosts flags about military battles, victims of crime, or the LGBT community.

By Matthew Vadum

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