After five years of litigation and a unanimous U.S. Supreme Court ruling, the Christian flag flew on the Boston City Hall Plaza “public forum flagpole” Wednesday, Aug. 3. A crowd was on hand to celebrate the flag raising.
The case arose in 2017, when Boston resident Hal Shurtleff and his Christian civic organization, Camp Constitution, asked the city for a permit to raise the Christian flag on a flagpole the city had made available to many private groups and causes since 2005. Because Shurtleff’s application described the flag as the Christian flag, the city rejected his request. He brought a suit against the city, but a U.S. District Court and the First Circuit Court of Appeals both sided with the city.
The U.S. Supreme Court disagreed—emphatically. In its 9-0 opinion this past May, Justice Stephen Breyer wrote: “We conclude that Boston’s flag-raising program does not express government speech. As a result, the city’s refusal to let [Camp Constitution] fly their flag based on its religious viewpoint violated the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment.”
During the flag raising ceremony Aug. 3, Shurtleff said, “Back in 2017, we wanted to have a simple ceremony to commemorate the Constitution Day and Boston’s rich Christian history. The speakers we had planned for that event are here today. I want to thank you, a special thanks to Liberty Counsel, and I want to give the glory to God. … We have a great Constitution, and we have a wonderful First Amendment. But just like when it comes to muscles, it you don’t use it, you get weak. When I got the rejection email from the city, and it said separation [of] church and state, I knew we had a case.”
Liberty Counsel’s founder and chairman, Mat Staver, argued the case on behalf of Shurtleff at the Supreme Court, and he spoke at the flag raising along with Harry Mihet, Liberty Counsel’s vice president of legal affairs and chief litigation counsel. Mihet, who is originally from Romania, said: “Today is a great day for the city of Boston, for the Christian community in the city of Boston, for freedom itself and for the Constitution. …
“Having grown up in communist Romania, having witnessed a government that was determined to stamp out religious expression from the public square at all costs, my friends, we need to do everything and anything in our power to make sure that free speech and free exercise of religion always remains free and protected in this great land of ours.”
Photo: Courtesy of Liberty Counsel