Even a liberal justice on the U.S. Supreme Court asked on Tuesday why the city of Boston was not able to “fix” the mistake of refusing permission for a Christian flag to fly on a flagpole the city had opened to any outside ideology whose adherents requested permission.
According to the Westport News, even Justice Elena Kagan, one of the leftist appointees from Barack Obama, wondered about the dispute, “Why is it that people have not been able to correct this mistake?”
The case was brought by Harold Shurtleff and his Camp Constitution. Given that the city of Boston had essentially opened up one of three flagpoles in front of city hall to all comers – hundreds of requests to fly special interest flags had been approved – he asked to fly the Christian flag.
He was refused. And the city now even has threatened to change its policy if the court sides with Camp Constitution, in order to regain more control over those flags.
The Westport News noted, “Supreme Court justices seemed to have little doubt Tuesday that Boston was wrong to refuse to fly a banner described as a Christian flag outside city hall.”
The decision in the case isn’t expected for some months. But the report noted the justices – from both sides of the political spectrum – appeared to be united “in favor of Harold Shurtleff.”
The report noted Boston officials had approved “284 straight applications,” of flags involving other nations, and multiple special interests, including references to other religions.
“Justice Samuel Alito noted that Chinese and Cuban flags had flown outside city hall. Douglas Hallward-Driemeier, representing Boston, said those were part of a policy that recognizes the heritage of Boston residents, not an endorsement of those regimes.”
The key to the case is whether the city allowed the other flags as part of its own speech – government endorsement of the message of the flag of Cuba, for instance, in which case it can control the message.
Or whether the hundreds of flags represented private speech of the requesters, in which case the Christian flag should have been allowed.
The Washington Examiner noted that Mat Staver, of Liberty Counsel, argued for Camp Constitution that, “We must not give government the power to censor disfavored viewpoints in a public forum.”
The Examiner report confirmed the city “could end the flag-raising” program or “alter the rules” to continue to discriminate against the Christian flag.
Liberty Counsel explained online that the flagpole became a public forum, and the Christian flag no longer could be censored, when the city opened up the facility to “all applicants.”
The organization confirmed the city denied the request “solely because of the word ‘Christian’ on the application.”
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