Supreme Court to Hear Case Over Boston’s Refusal to Fly Christian Flag


The dispute involves the Christian group’s desire to fly a white flag bearing a red cross over a blue square in the upper left corner from an 83-foot flagpole outside the seat of Boston’s city government. Two of the three flagpoles at City Hall are used to fly the U.S. flag (along with a POW/MIA flag) and the Massachusetts state flag.

However, the City of Boston flag that customarily flies from the third flagpole has been lowered on numerous occasions and replaced with flags of various groups or causes, including gay pride, and foreign countries, including Albania, Italy, Portugal, Mexico, China, Cuba and Turkey. Some of those flags contain religious symbols.

Turkey’s Flag

Despite the frequent substitution of the city flag with others, a three-judge appeals court panel unanimously ruled that rejecting the Christian group’s flag did not violate the organization’s free-speech rights or amount to a violation of the First Amendment’s prohibition on establishment of a religion.


The group, a Christian group called Camp Constitution, said the city’s refusal to grant the request violated the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment guarantee of freedom of speech. Part of the city’s defense is that raising the flag might violate another section of the First Amendment that prohibits government endorsement of religion.

Lower courts sided with the city, with the Boston-based 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals finding in January that raising the flag would represent a form of government speech, which gives the city more leeway to decide what speech is allowed.

The city had never previously denied a request and had previously approved flags of other countries and private organizations, including the LGBT pride flag.


Pastafari Flag

“The City has never before displayed such a flag and, as such, this pioneering elevation of an ‘important symbol’ of the Christian heritage would come without the secular context or importance that the passage of time may have afforded other displays,” Judge Bruce Selya wrote in the 1st Circuit opinion

“The raising of the Christian Flag thus would threaten to communicate and endorse a purely religious message on behalf of the City. Where that endorsement is as widely visible and accessible as it is here, and where the City could run the risk of repeatedly coordinating the use of government property with hierarchs of all religions, the City’s establishment concerns are legitimate.”

No scripture and/or proselytizing

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