A U.S. federal judge ruled that the city of Boston, Massachusetts, does not have to raise a Christian flag at City Hall Plaza even though the city has raised flags representing other cultural and social groups, including flags indicating support for LGBT rights.
U.S. District Court Judge Denise Casper, an Obama-appointee, issued an order Tuesday denying summary judgment to a Christian man who sued the city in 2018 after the city government rejected his request in 2017 to fly a Christian flag on a public flagpole outside City Hall.
The decision comes even after the City Hall Plaza has raised flags for other groups, including an LGBT support flag, according to Christian Post.
In 2018, Harold Shurtleff sued the city after the city government refused his 2017 request to fly a Christian flag outside City Hall.
The plaintiff, Harold Shurtleff, runs the organization called Camp Constitution. Camp Constitution exists to “enhance understanding of our Judeo-Christian moral heritage.” The organization hosts annual Constitution Day and Citizenship Day events at City Hall.
But Shurtleff’s request for the Christian flag (featuring a cross in the upper lefthand corner) on Constitution Day (September 17) 2017 was denied by the city on the basis of a policy that gives discretion to the city to determine which flags can fly.
Shurtleff believes that the city’s rejection of the flag equates to censorship of the Christian viewpoint.
Liberty Counsel, the group representing Shurtleff, says the city has never rejected any flag from flying until Shurtleff’s 2017 request.
Court documents show that the city of Boston raised nearly 300 flags between 2005 and 2017 from different organizations.
U.S. District Court Judge Denise Casper issued an order, saying the “display of flags outside City Hall is government speech.”
“The [then-head of the property management department Gregory Rooney] had never considered a religious flag prior to the Plaintiffs’ application,” Casper said.
“There are no additional facts in the record that would suggest any improper preference for non-religion over religion or selective treatment of any person or group based on religion. The City did not alter its procedures for review of flag applications because of Camp Constitution’s request, instead, Camp Constitution’s request presented a novel issue for the City’s consideration, which the City considered consistent with its practice and policy,” Christian Headlines reports.
Liberty Counsel has appealed Casper’s decision.
“The city of Boston’s open censorship continues against Camp Constitution’s Christian viewpoint,” Liberty Counsel founder Mat Staver said in a statement. “There is a crucial difference between government endorsement of religion and private speech, which government is bound to respect. Censoring religious viewpoints in a public forum where secular viewpoints are permitted is unconstitutional.”