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Federal court upholds city ban on 'Christian' flag on City Hall Plaza flagpole for now

A federal appeals court today upheld a judge's decision not to force Boston to let a right-wing activist from West Roxbury fly an explicitly Christian flag from one of the three flagpoles outside City Hall while his suit over the issue remains open.

The ruling by the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in Boston could come in handy for city officials should they be pressed by
organizers of an alleged "straight pride" parade and rally in August to be allowed to fly a flag from one of the poles.

Hal Shurtleff, a former Bircher who runs a summer camp aimed at molding young "Patriots" who are fully down with our Judeo-Christian heritage and free enterprise, sued the city after it approved his plan for an event on City Hall Plaza but rejected his request to fly his flag from one of the flagpoles.

Last August, US District Court Judge Denise Casper rejected Shurtleff's request for an injunction to force the city to run his flag up the flagpole, saying his suit was unlikely to be successful, in part because, unlike City Hall Plaza itself, where the city has long allowed pretty much anybody to hold an event, the flagpoles were an example of "government speech" the city uses to express itself.

Also, she rejected arguments by Shurtleff and his Florida lawyers that the ban infringed on his First Amendment right to freedom of religion, saying that, in fact, the city was upholding the Establishment clause by not allowing any explicitly religious flags to fly in front of City Hall.

In its ruling today, the appeals court agreed with Casper on all points, and amplified some of them. For example, Shurtleff argued the city had, too, allowed religious flags to fly on one of the poles, giving as an example the Portuguese flag, which he said had symbolism for both Christ's wounds and the 30 pieces of silver used to betray him.

But a flag that references religion by using religious symbols in part of its field is not itself a religious flag. And as appellants conceded at oral argument and is also evident from the record, there is no evidence that the City has ever raised the flag of any religion on the flagpole at issue.

The court said that because the flagpole is not a "public forum," where anybody can speak, Shurtleff's flag could even make bystanders think the city was endorsing his particular religious views:

We have little doubt that the third-party flag's message would be attributed to the City.

If the observer arrived in time, she could well see a City employee lower the Boston flag and replace it with a third party's flag. The replacement flag would fly eighty-three feet into the sky only steps away from the entrance to Boston's seat of government, City Hall. That height would make the flag visible from far away, even from places that have no view of what is happening on the plaza below. And the third-party flag would keep company with the United States flag and the flag of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, two powerful governmental symbols. "In this context, there is little chance that observers will fail to appreciate the identity of the speaker" as being the City. Summum, 555 U.S. at 471.

The court continued it did not think much of Shurtleff's First Amendment argument:

Next, Shurtleff claims that the City acts in contravention of the Establishment Clause "by allowing the numerous and varied [secular] flags of a broad spectrum of private organizations while specifically excluding Camp Constitution's 'non-secular' flag." But the "secular" flags -- really, flags of secular organizations or causes -- the City has allowed to fly instead of the City flag do not show that the City has espoused a preference for non-religion over religion. And the record contains no evidence that would suggest otherwise. Thus, in light of the current record, we agree with the district court that the likelihood of success of Shurtleff's Establishment Clause claim is dim.

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Comments

Of surrender at MBTA stations.

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Voting closed 47

Send the stupid flag to a prison. Doesn't matter which one. There is a 100% chance there will be a pedophile priest or a right wing Christian terrorist there. They can use it as a blanket or perhaps something even more useful.

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You got it all wrong. Not all priesta are pedophiles. However, all pedophile priests are homosexual. Your gay agenda is the real threat to children. And society..

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United States flag.
Commonwealth of Massachusetts flag.
City of Boston flag.

Just sayin'...

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... the City-o flag gets replaced with the flag of the visiting delegation. It's pretty clear that we're not establishing Boston as their territory; we're honoring their visit (and hoping they send their homies as tourists).

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For example, Shurtleff argued the city had, too, allowed religious flags to fly on one of the poles, giving as an example the Portuguese flag, which he said had symbolism for both Christ's wounds and the 30 pieces of silver used to betray him.

What an incredibly disingenuous argument.

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But, like, he's the aggrieved here, man. He's the one suffering for our sins. Shurtleff for Savior 2024. Get those stigmata tattoos ready, we're takin City Hall!

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These court cases serve a valuable purpose to expose the value systems of mostly Democrat "Catholic" politicians like Marty Walsh and their utter contempt for Christianity. Walsh invites division when he enthusiastically flies the transgender flag and flags bearing the Islamic crescent while rejecting the Christian flag.

Even in losing the early rulings, these court cases are winners as they expose the true character of the likes of Walsh when nobody else is left to do it. The irrelevant Cardinal's bully pulpit has been reduced to a footstool and the City Hall media is long gone, making this the last way to expose the truth. The best part is that it helps gradually erode Walsh's traditional base that he'll desperately need with Wu preparing to pounce. The "son of Irish immigrant Catholic parents" would do better to reject all special interests flags not just the one for his fellow Christians.

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The Deplorables believe that they are losing political power and their way of life. This is only partly true. The fact that the Baizuo exists at all among Western whites sort of tells you all you need to know about their political and economic power - that they have lots of it and don’t need Deplorables. The rest of the world is tribal but poses little immediate threat to the Western whites’ way of life. If it did, the Baizuo would immediately join the Deplorables and wipe out anyone that stood in their way (will never happen though).

Chinese domination is inevitable but there will still be a place for the Western white power structure, while Deplorables will have to fend for themselves or join up and Get With The Program.

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Please.

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Too far off topic, anyway. I thought of you before I posted but figured you may be interested in my thoughts so I let it fly.

It is hard work reading, dissecting, and then accurately paraphrasing these court opinions so I appreciate you doing this excellent work. I speak for myself (and probably u-hub-fan) when I say that Universal Hub has never been better!

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To read the First Amendment. Really, it's just one sentence long. Here, take a look - it doesn't bite, honest.

And the "establishment clause" specifically refers to religion. Courts can be literal sometimes - they use the Constitution to frame their decisions and actually read what it says, and that particular part of the Constitution refers only to religion.

If you think Wu is going to somehow be your definition of "better" on this issue, I'd suggest you come in out of the sun.

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Does it seem to anyone else that the people with the least to say are the best at talking?

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What is *THE* Christian flag? This article does not state that it is *THE* Christian flag - as you claim, Fish.

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over and over again, so you get to shit on liberals, must be super super fun for you.

this isn't some team sports event where we're pinning Christian against Transgender against City. false equivalencies may be super fun to use on a Friday afternoon rant, but it does not make the argument any better in the long run.

separation of church and state is a real thing. a legitimate thing that an entire sub-population of right wingers do not seem to understand. and if you think that a trans flag is the antithesis of a christian flag, boy do you have some learning to do.

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Happy Fun!

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There are flags for different denominations. An oddity I think since flags are used to express sovereignty. Something gross and weird about a religious denomination indicating it has sovereignty. But history is full of weird things.

But there is no Christian flag. It simply does not exist.

I do remember being in churches where on one side of the pulpit is a flag representing the denomination. On the other side is a flag of the US. I never understood the correlation. If God is the God of the Universe, all knowing, all seeing, sacred, etc., then why in Hades does a church - where that God is worshipped, need a flag that is purely secular and often times represents acts of pure evil? Weird.

You reference flags that have crecents. Can you give examples? That would at least help clarify what you're claiming.

A flag that stands for trans folks. What does that have to do with religion?

Once again thank you Fishy for providing opportunity to explore these questions.

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....all the results what show up also don't exist? the ones with a white field and a blue square in the upper left corner with a red cross over it.....they don't exist?

And, the flag that my neighbor flies in front of her house occasionally, which looks EXACTLY like the results in the above mentioned google search...THAT doesn't exist either? It must be an illusion that would make Doug Henning proud.

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Yes, there are Christian flags. But there is no One True Christian Flag.

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The Turkish flag has a crescent. I do not know whether it has ever flown at City Hall Plaza, though.

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At least a couple of which have flown over City Hall. But the court considered that and said the point of flying those flags was not to give government deference to the religion encompassed in them, but to honor the country they come from (or in the case of one flag, Charlestown). Fine line, perhaps, but that's what judges are paid to create (but to ponder one example, when you see the Union Jack, is your first thought "England" or "Christianity"? Because that flag is just full of crosses).

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Thank you for your insightful comments. Our legal team does expect to win this case.

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I want to thank you for bringing our case to the attention of your readers. It needs to be pointed out that we are not trying to force the city to fly a Christian flag. It is our flag, and it was our intention to raise it ourselves. We were denied a permit to fly the flag on what I call a public access flagpole. Prior to our lawsuit, the city's website page containing information on the permit process never read "Conservative Christians need not apply" or "religious flags are forbidden." The City originally denied the flag raising based on a misunderstanding of the 1st Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Any reasonable person could not possibly conclude that flying the Christian flag for a day or two on the flagpole is proof that Boston has endorsed Christianity as its official religion any more than flying the flags of Cuba and Communist China (which fly on the same flagpole) indicates that the city's official religion is atheism, and its economic policy is communism. What we have demonstrated is a clear bias that the city has for certain people and organizations that are not consistent with the views of the Mayor and the City Council which are slightly to the left of center. A city official actually said that if we called the flag "the Camp Constitution flag." we would have been granted the permit.

We had planned to have a ceremony to celebrate Constitution Day September 17th which is also the anniversary of the founding of Boston. Our ceremony would have included speeches by several of our camp instructors including Rev. Steve Craft, Pastor William Levi, and Richard Howell. Rev. Craft was planning to speak about the need for racial reconciliation. Pastor Levi, formerly of the Sudan, was planning to speak about the blessing of liberty he has enjoyed in his adopted country, and Richard Howell topic would have been the Christian history of Boston. It would have ended with the flag-raising that we raise ourselves not by a city official forced to do so against his or her will. We would have offered pocket copies of the U.S. Constitution to all the attendees and the passersby as well.

I was born, raised and still live in the city. I have always enjoyed the friendship and respect of my neighbors many of whom are liberals. If you plan any follow up articles, you are more that welcome to call me or meet me in person over a cup of coffee or a Sam Adams. Hal Shurtleff 857-498-1309

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