Liberty Counsel said Monday it has delivered to the U.S. Supreme Court its arguments against the city of Boston’s strategic censorship of a camp flag from a “public forum” at its city hall because of the flag’s Christian faith link.
The dispute is over the city’s banishment of a Christian flag that Boston resident Hal Shurtleff and his Christian “Camp Constitution” requested to be flown at the public forum, as dozens of other flags already had.
The legal team working on behalf of Shurtleff said, “This case will set national precedent regarding the issue of government versus private speech.”
Liberty Counsel Chairman Mat Staver said, “Liberty Counsel looks forward to presenting this nationally important case to the Supreme Court. It is indisputable that Boston denied the private flag raising solely because the application contained the word ‘Christian’ before the word ‘flag.’ It was this single word that resulted in the first censorship of a private flag raising application after 12 years with no denials. Censoring religious viewpoints in a public forum where secular viewpoints are permitted is unconstitutional. This case will have a national impact. Religious viewpoints must not be excluded from the marketplace.”
His organization went to court several years ago after the city refuse to allow the “Christian” flag to be part of its routine flag-flying option on a pole that had been designated as a public forum at city hall.
The team explained it flag was censored “merely because the application form referred to the flag as a ‘Christian flag'” and that violated the First Amendment.
The request was for the flag to be flown for an hour during the week of September 17 in observance of Constitution Day and Citizenship Day.
The First Circuit Court of Appeals sided with the city of Boston in ruling the flags were government speech.
The legal team said, however, the court wrongly accepted the city’s argument that the Establishment Clause justified its censorship.
That’s because, “(1) the application form designates the flagpole as a ‘public forum’ open for private speech; (2) the city never censored a flag in the 12 years prior to Camp Constitution’s application; (3) the city approved 39 flags (averaging over three per month) in the year prior to Camp Constitution’s application; and (4) the flags of the foreign countries could not be government speech because under state law, it is a crime to raise the flag of a foreign country on city property,” Liberty Counsel said.
Liberty Counsel said Boston, from 2005 through June 2017, allowed 284 flags to be flown, without any record of any being refused.
“The city’s policy stated that one of the flag poles was as a ‘public forum’ open to ‘all applicants,’ and the city encouraged private individuals and groups to use the public forum to foster diversity and to recognize the various communities of Boston and Massachusetts,” Liberty Counsel said.
The flag that was censored is white with a blue square and a red cross in the upper left corner. The flag contains no writing.
“Under oath, the city official testified the flag would have been approved if the application did not refer to it as a ‘Christian flag,'” Liberty Counsel noted.
Other flags raised on the city’s flagpole include the Turkish flag, depicting the Islamic star and crescent, and the Portuguese flag that includes religious imagery. Others have included the “Chinese Progressive Association,” the rainbow flag of Boston Pride, and a “transgender” pink and blue flag, as well as flags from Albania, Brazil, Ethiopia, Italy, Panama, Peru, Portugal, Puerto Rico, and Mexico, Communist China and Cuba.
WND reported the case contends that the city is in violation of the First Amendment with its censorship program.
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