We all know that the Boston city government is ideologically liberal. But now we have confirmation that they are to the left of every single justice currently sitting on the U.S. Supreme Court. I got the news about a tremendous legal victory this morning when I received a text from Liberty Counsel attorney Jonathan Alexandre, who got his start with MFI years ago, saying simply “Hal won.” We’ve been telling you about Hal Shurtleff’s case since 2017, when the city first refused to allow Hal’s flag to be flown at City Hall because it was a religious flag.
Starting in 2005, the city flagpole at Government Center in Boston flew 50 different flags for 284 ceremonies, many of them celebrating different countries, but some including various interest groups like the “LGBTQ community,” emergency medical workers, and even a local bank. Boston had claimed that the flagpole was a “public forum” intended to “accommodate all applicants.” The first and only flag they refused to fly was a flag commemorating the contributions of Christians to Boston’s history. Sadly, this is the type of blatant and hypocritical discrimination against Christians that we have come to expect from government officials in Massachusetts. Hal Shurtleff, fortunately, did not take “no” for an answer. And Jonathan Alexandre told me he’ll never forget the night I called him to connect Hal with attorneys at Liberty Counsel, the national Christian legal center where Jonathan works and with whom we have collaborated on a number of cases here in the Commonwealth. Hal, Jonathan and the Liberty Team had to take their case all the way to the Supreme Court before getting any justice, overruling losses in the lower federal courts in MA and the First Circuit with today’s decision.
This is an important victory against anti-Christian discrimination. As Justice Gorsuch wrote in his concurring opinion, “For as long as the First Amendment means anything, government policies that discriminate against religious speech and exercise will only invite litigation and result in losses like Boston’s. Today’s case is just one more in a long line of reminders about the costs associated with governmental efforts to discriminate against disfavored religious speakers.”
This decision should put every city, town, and public college or university on notice that when they open up their flagpoles to various groups, including LGBT or BLM, they cannot then deny access to other groups with whom they disagree. Their flagpoles have become public forums and denying access based on a group’s viewpoint will constitute a free speech violation. With your help, we will continue to be vigilant!