AP

Christian flag in speech battle flies, briefly, over Boston

Aug 3, 2022, 9:24 AM | Updated: 8:45 pm

BOSTON (AP) — The Christian flag that became the focus of a free speech legal battle that went all the way to the Supreme Court was raised — briefly — outside Boston City Hall on Wednesday to cheers and songs of praise.

The flag-raising took place about three months after the Supreme Court in a unanimous decision ruled the city discriminated against Harold Shurtleff and his Camp Constitution group because of his “religious viewpoint” when it refused permission for him to fly the banner on City Hall Plaza on Constitution Day 2017.

“We’re so pleased for this day,” Shurtleff, a Boston native, said at a ceremony to raise the white flag, which has a red cross on a blue background in the upper left corner.

“We have a great Constitution, and we have a wonderful First Amendment, but just like when it comes to muscles, if you don’t use it, they get weak,” he said. “When I got the rejection email from the city, and it said separation of church and state, I knew we had a case.”

There are three flagpoles outside City Hall that fly the U.S., Massachusetts and Boston flags. The city flag is sometimes taken down and temporarily replaced with another.

The city between 2005 and 2017 approved 284 consecutive applications to fly flags, with no denials before it rejected Shurtleff’s proposal, according to Liberty Counsel, which represented Shurtleff.

The only reason it was denied was because the word “Christian” was on his application, and he was told to replace the word if he wanted approval, Mat Staver, Liberty Counsel’s founder and chair, said Wednesday.

City Hall Plaza “is for the people to be able to represent their views and perspectives without government telling them that they can’t,” said Jonathan Alexandre, Liberty Counsel’s senior counsel for government affairs. “And if they open it up to one group, they must open it up to every other group.”

The flag was up for about two hours Wednesday before Camp Constitution took it down, both the city and Liberty Counsel confirmed.

The Supreme Court case revolved around whether the flag-raisings were an act of the government or private parties.

“Boston did not make the raising and flying of private groups’ flags a form of government speech,” the court wrote in the ruling. “That means, in turn, that Boston’s refusal to let Shurtleff and Camp Constitution raise their flag based on its religious viewpoint” curtailed their First Amendment free speech rights.

The city had no written policies or clear internal guidance about flag-raising, Liberty Counsel said.

That may soon change. Three City Councilors, with the support of Mayor Michelle Wu, filed an ordinance Tuesday to update the process for raising flags.

“Under the new process, a City Council resolution or mayoral proclamation will be required for a flag to be raised,” they said in a statement. “The proposed ordinance will enable the city to continue to celebrate flag raisings while complying with the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision on the city’s previous process, which clarified the affirmative role required of the city government in maintaining the flag pole as a site for expressing the city’s values and ideals.”

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Colorado River settlement center of new Navajo Nation push...

Associated Press

Tribes say their future is at stake as they push for Congress to consider Colorado River settlement

Navajo officials are celebrating the signing of legislation outlining a proposed Colorado River settlement that would ensure water rights.

23 hours ago

Arizona doctors California abortions...

Associated Press

Arizona doctors can come to California to perform abortions under new law signed by Gov. Newsom

Arizona doctors can temporarily come to California to perform abortions for their patients under a new law signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom.

2 days ago

Father convicted of first-degree murder in northern Arizona...

Associated Press

Arizona man convicted of first-degree murder in starvation death of 6-year-old son

A northern Arizona father was convicted of first-degree murder Thursday in the 2020 starvation death of his 6-year-old son.

2 days ago

Former President Donald Trump sits in a courtroom next to his lawyer Todd Blanche before the start ...

Associated Press

Trump hush money trial enters new phase after defense rests without testimony from former president

Donald Trump's hush money trial is now closer to the moment when the jury will begin deciding the former president's fate.

4 days ago

UoA student convicted of first-degree murder after killing professor...

Associated Press

Former Arizona grad student convicted of first-degree murder in 2022 shooting of professor

A former University of Arizona grad student was convicted of first-degree murder after fatally shooting a professor on campus two years ago.

4 days ago

Rudy Giuliani bankruptcy filing defamation lawsuit...

Associated Press

Ex-NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Arizona’s Kelli Ward plead not guilty in fake elector case

Giuliani appeared remotely for the arraignment that was held in a Phoenix courtroom. His trial will take place in October.

4 days ago

Sponsored Articles

...

DESERT INSTITUTE FOR SPINE CARE

Desert Institute for Spine Care is the place for weekend warriors to fix their back pain

Spring has sprung and nothing is better than March in Arizona. The temperatures are perfect and with the beautiful weather, Arizona has become a hotbed for hikers, runners, golfers, pickleball players and all types of weekend warriors.

...

COLLINS COMFORT MASTERS

Here are 5 things Arizona residents need to know about their HVAC system

It's warming back up in the Valley, which means it's time to think about your air conditioning system's preparedness for summer.

...

Midwestern University

Midwestern University Clinics: transforming health care in the valley

Midwestern University, long a fixture of comprehensive health care education in the West Valley, is also a recognized leader in community health care.

Christian flag in speech battle flies, briefly, over Boston