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Supreme Court says Boston must have allowed Christian flag on city property


A person holds a flag he describes as “The Christian Flag.” Right-wing Proud Boy and Patriot Prayer adherents, “Three-Percenters”, and other armed allies of the acute right demonstrated at Portland, Oregon’s Justice Center on August 22, 2020.

John Rudoff | AP

The Supreme Court unanimously ruled Monday that Boston violated the Structure when it refused to fly an explicitly Christian flag outside city hall.

The court ruled that for the reason that city government had allowed other residents to make use of the flagpole to specific quite a lot of messages, its rejection of the cross-bearing flag violated the free-speech rights of the religious group that proposed it.

“Boston’s flag-raising program doesn’t express government speech,” Justice Stephen Breyer wrote within the opinion of the court, which reversed a lower court’s judgment.

The dispute hinged on the query of whether the flags being flown under the town hall program were expressing the federal government’s viewpoint, or whether the flagpole had been opened as much as residents to specific themselves.

Boston has since 2005 allowed dozens of flags to be flown on one in every of the three flagpoles outside city hall, a few of which expressed the views of personal groups or causes. The town had not denied any requests — until 2017, when the director of a gaggle called Camp Structure asked to fly a flag honoring the “contributions of the Christian community.”

The blue-and-white flag prominently bears a solid-red Christian cross. A city commissioner rejected the Christian flag, fearing that it would run afoul of the Structure’s prohibition on a government establishment of faith.

A federal district court and a federal appeals court sided with Boston, holding that the flags being flown from the city-hall flagpole amounted to government speech.

The high court, nevertheless, checked out “the extent to which Boston actively controlled these flag raisings and shaped the messages the flags sent,” Breyer wrote.

“The reply, it seems, will not be in any respect,” his opinion said. “And that’s essentially the most salient feature of this case.”

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