The capital of one of America’s most liberal states is facing a federal lawsuit, all centered on alleged discrimination by city officials.
Boston, Massachusetts, is being taken to court over the city’s refusal to allow a Christian flag on a City Hall flagpole almost two years ago. The city is citing the First Amendment for its decision, but the group behind the flag says its free speech rights were the ones violated.
“Hal Shurtleff, the director and co-founder of Camp Constitution, asked the city to fly the Christian flag, an inter-denominational symbol, as part of Constitution Day on Sep. 17, 2017, for a one-hour event,” Fox News reported.
At the time, Boston officials refused to hoist the flag. They insisted that no flags with any connection to faith or religion could be flown, but now Shurtleff and others are pointing out the hypocrisy of this statement.
“There’s no question that it is an unconstitutional act and [Boston officials] originally said it was a violation of the First Amendment, which I find ironic,” he said, according to Fox.
The city had permitted 284 flags to fly on its flagpole since 2005, the lawsuit states.
Camp Constitution is located in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, and teaches American history to kids from a Christian perspective. So it makes sense that organizers were keen to hold an assembly in Boston, one of the pivotal cities in our nation’s early history.
“The group was planning an event with pastors encouraging racial reconciliation, freedom in the United States, and celebrating the link between Christianity and the United States, ending with the presentation of the Christian flag,” Fox News explained. “But after the city’s rejection, the event was canceled.”
The lawsuit makes two key points: First, that rejecting the inter-denominational flag is discrimination; and second, that the city allowed many other controversial flags to fly in the past.
“Censoring religious viewpoints in a public forum where secular viewpoints are permitted violates the First Amendment,” Matthew Staver, from the law firm Liberty Counsel, said in a statement, according to Fox.
“Boston city officials may not ban the Christian flag as part of a privately-sponsored event when they allow any other flag by numerous private organizations,” the statement added. “It’s time for the court to stop the city’s unconstitutional censorship.”
Liberty Counsel, which has handled numerous freedom-of-religion cases, is representing Camp Constitution.
The fact that Boston was fine with “numerous private organizations” raising many different flags bolsters the group’s claim.
“[T]he city allowed the Turkish flag — with its Islamic star and crescent — to be raised on city hall flagpoles 13 times since 2005, according to the suit,” Fox News reported.
Sure enough, Turkey’s flag is literally nothing but a star and crescent on a red background. Those symbols are synonymous with the Muslim religion, practiced by 98 percent of Turks.
“The city has also allowed the Communist Chinese flag to commemorate the anniversary of the Chinese Communist revolution, Cuban, and Vatican flags to fly along with transgender and LGBTQ flags,” Fox News continued.
In other words, Camp Constitution may have a solid case that its flag was rejected not because of religious symbolism, but because of discrimination against one particular faith — Christianity.
“There can be no dispute that the City’s denial impermissibly discriminated between religion and non-religion, and discriminated between religious sects. Both violate the Establishment Clause,” the lawsuit states.
Like the recent Supreme Court rulings regarding religious liberty and gay weddings, this suit will be interesting for conservatives to watch.
The First Amendment was never meant to stifle expressions of faith — and if that’s what Boston was doing, it needs to be made right.
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