Boston to pay $2 million to Christian group for refusal to fly flag at city hall

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The Christian Flag was raised in Boston’s City Hall Plaza Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2022. The Christian flag was the focus of a free speech legal battle that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. (Stuart Cahill/The Boston Herald via AP)

Boston to pay $2 million to Christian group for refusal to fly flag at city hall

The city of Boston will pay more than $2 million to a Christian group for refusing to fly its Latin cross flag at City Hall after a unanimous Supreme Court ruling last term found that the city was in violation of First Amendment rights.

The settlement was announced Tuesday by Liberty Counsel, the legal group that represented Camp Constitution leader Hal Shurtleff, who fought since 2017 to obtain “a permit to raise the Christian flag on the ‘public forum’ Boston City Hall flagpole.”

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“We are pleased that after five years of litigation and a unanimous victory in the U.S. Supreme Court, we joined with Hal Shurtleff to finally let freedom fly in Boston, the Cradle of Liberty,” Liberty Counsel Chairman Mat Staver said.

CHRISTIAN FLAG RAISED AT BOSTON CITY HALL AFTER SUPREME COURT VICTORY

In a May opinion authored by then-Justice Stephen Breyer, all nine justices held that the city violated Shurtleff’s free speech rights when they denied his request to fly the flag over his “religious viewpoint.” Despite approving 284 consecutive applications to fly other flags temporarily from 2005 to 2017, including those of other countries, Boston denied the request due to it being a Christian flag.

“Indeed, the city’s practice was to approve flag raisings without exception — that is, until petitioners’ request,” Breyer wrote. He said “at the time” of the request, “Boston had no written policies or clear internal guidance about what flags groups could fly and what those flags would communicate.”

The justices noted that Boston rejected Camp Constitution’s request to fly the flag because it was concerned it would violate the Constitution’s establishment clause, which prevents states from endorsing a religion.

“Under the Constitution, a government may not treat religious persons, religious organizations, or religious speech as second-class,” Justice Brett Kavanaugh said in a concurring opinion.

In response, the Boston City Council proposed an ordinance requiring either a council resolution or a mayoral proclamation for a flag to be raised.

Nevertheless, Shurtleff was able to raise the flag briefly on Aug. 6 following the high court’s summer ruling in Shurtleff v. Boston.

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The settlement is expected to cover attorneys’ fees and other costs that amounted throughout the five-year litigation fight.

The Washington Examiner contacted an attorney for Boston City Hall.

© 2022 Washington Examiner

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