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Supreme Court Lets Christian Group Fly Flag In Front Of Boston City Hall

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Topline

A Christian flag can fly in front of Boston’s city hall despite the government’s protestations, as the Supreme Court unanimously ruled Monday that the city violated the First Amendment rights of a local Christian group by not letting it fly its flag.

Key Facts

Boston has a flag-flying program that allows private organizations and companies to fly a flag in front of its city hall for typically a few hours, but the city denied a request from the organization Camp Constitution to fly a Christian flag in 2017, saying it would be interpreted as the government endorsing religion.

The court ruled that the flag flying didn’t constitute government speech and was instead private speech under the First Amendment, meaning that by denying Camp Constitution director Harold Shurtleff’s request, the city was violating the group’s right to free speech.

In his opinion for the court, Justice Stephen Breyer noted the city had never rejected a request for the flag program before—its “practice was to approve flag raisings, without exception”—and did not have any policy that restricted certain proposals based on the flag’s content.

This story is breaking and will be updated.

Crucial Quote

“Boston concedes that it denied Shurtleff ’s request solely because the Christian flag he asked to raise ‘promot[ed] a specific religion,’” Breyer wrote for the court. “Under our precedents, and in view of our government-speech holding here, that refusal discriminated based on religious viewpoint and violated the Free Speech Clause.”

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