On Monday, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the city of Boston was in violation of the First Amendment over its attempt to ban the Christian flag.
Axios reports that the opinion was written by outgoing Justice Stephen Breyer. In the opinion, Breyer states that the city government of Boston “violated the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment” by forbidding a Christian organization from flying the Christian flag in front of city hall, which Breyer said constituted discrimination “based on religious viewpoints.”
The group, Camp Constitution, says its goal is “to enhance understanding of our Judeo-Christian moral heritage.” As such, the group wished to raise the Christian banner – a red cross against a blue field, with a white background – during an hour-long event at Boston’s city hall in 2017. The flag would have been raised on one of the three flagpoles in front of the building, where one pole is specifically designated to be available for private organizations.
However, their request was rejected by the commissioner of Boston’s Property Management Department, who claimed that the display of a religious flag at city hall would be in violation of the Constitution’s Establishment Clause, and would thus constitute an endorsement of a particular religion by the city. Subsequently, the city of Boston was sued by Camp Constitution and its director, Harold Shurtleff.
Breyer noted that “for years, Boston has allowed private groups to request use of the flagpole to raise flags of their choosing,” with Camp Constitution being the first such group to ever be rejected by the city.
“Boston concedes that it denied Shurtleff’s request solely because the Christian flag he asked to raise ‘promoted a specific religion’…under our precedents…that refusal discriminated based on religious viewpoint,” Breyer wrote. Justice Samuel Alito concurred, noting that “[D]enying Shurtleff’s application to use that forum constituted impermissible viewpoint discrimination.”