Boston Censorship on Trial (Liberty Counsel)

Aug 9, 2018

BOSTON, MA – Today, Liberty Counsel presented oral argument in its federal lawsuit against the city of Boston and one of its officials for censoring the Christian flag that Boston resident Hal Shurtleff and his Christian civic organization, Camp Constitution, requested to fly on the city’s public forum. The city regularly extends to other civic and cultural organizations the freedom to raise their flags on the city hall flagpoles to commemorate whatever events are important to the organizations. The city’s application policy refers to the flagpoles as a public forum.

However, when Camp Constitution asked the city in 2017 for a permit to raise the Christian flag on Boston City Hall flagpoles to commemorate Constitution Day (September 17) and the civic and cultural contributions of the Christian community to the city of Boston, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, religious tolerance, the Rule of Law, and the U.S. Constitution, city officials denied the permit based on a secret, unwritten and unconstitutional “policy” of refusing religious flags. In the lawsuit, Shurtleff and Camp Constitution seek an injunction requiring the city to allow the Christian flag-raising event, that it denied in 2017, to coincide with the 2018 observance of Constitution Day. This event will include historical and contemporary presentations, such as the need for racial reconciliation through Jesus Christ.

                                   Roger Gannam with Hal Shurtleff and Camp Constitution teachers 

At today’s oral argument, Liberty Counsel’s Assistant Vice President of Legal Affairs, Roger Gannam, showed the court that the city’s denial and secret “policy” are unconstitutional because the city’s written permit guidelines promise the public “to accommodate all applicants seeking to take advantage of the city of Boston’s public forums,” but the city admitted in a court filing that its official policy actually makes permit decisions based on whether the city approves the “message” of the applicant. This admission by the city confirms that the city approves of the “message” communicated by Boston Pride and the pink and blue “transgender” flag, and even the flags of Communist China and Cuba, but does not approve of the civic and historical Christian message of Camp Constitution.

“The city’s censoring of Camp Constitution’s Christian Flag is the ultimate insult to the First Amendment and Boston’s rich heritage as a focal point of liberty and free speech at America’s founding,” said Gannam. “The city’s blatant discrimination against Camp Constitution’s Christian viewpoint is now a matter of record that the city can no longer deny. It should be clear to the court after today’s hearing that Boston’s unconstitutional censorship must be undone.”

Liberty Counsel is an international nonprofit, litigation, education, and policy organization dedicated to advancing religious freedom, the sanctity of life, and the family since 1989, by providing pro bono assistance and representation on these and related topics.