The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the city of Boston had violated the free speech of a Christian group by rejecting its request to fly a Christian flag at the city hall.
On May 2, the supreme court unanimously ruled that Boston, the capital of Massachusetts, has infringed on the first amendment rights of the Christian group, Camp Constitution.
The issue started when they denied Camp Constitution’s request to fly a Christian Flag after previously approving the applications of 284 other groups. Most of the flags that the city of Boston approved were flags from other nations, and it also included a flag commemorating LGBT Pride in Boston.
Camp Constitution sued Boston in 2018, claiming that the city has “discriminated against viewpoints it disfavored when it opened the flagpoles to all applicants and then excluded Christian views.”
Mat Staver, an attorney at Liberty Counsel, a Christian legal group that represented Camp Constitution’s case, argued that the “government cannot censor religious viewpoints under the guise of government speech.”
According to the court document authored by Justice Stephen Breyer, the court’s decision was based on the “case’s context rather than the rote application of rigid factors.” The decision was specific to the Boston city hall’s flag-raising events, using one of the three flagpoles in its plaza.
“The city’s lack of meaningful involvement in the selection of flags or the crafting of their messages lead us to classify the flag raisings as private, not government, speech,” the decision said.
“We consider whether Boston’s refusal to allow Shurtleff and Camp Constitution to raise their flag amounted to impermissible viewpoint discrimination,” the court added.
Boston stopped its flag-raising program in October last year to prevent the city from proclaiming “messages antithetical to its own.” The program was intended to encourage diversity and tolerance. City officials stated that they felt approving Camp Constitution’s request would violate the First Amendment’s ban on government endorsement of a particular religion.
President and CEO of Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AUSCS), Rachel Laser, fears that the decision could “undermine church-state separation.” “This decision is a reminder that groups representing religious minorities and nontheists must be given equal access to these public forums to display their symbols,” Laser added.
— Americans United (@americansunited) May 2, 2022
Laser also pointed out the “alarming aspects” of Camp Constitution, which teaches historical inaccuracies. “The group is dedicated to teaching the next generation with the knowledge of how America was founded as a Christian nation,” Laser explained.
Breyer, a known liberal, noted that since the court’s decision was based on the technicality of how the city created its flag-raising policy, the city can just change its policies to exclude private speech.