Hal Shurtleff, the former John Birch organizer who used to live in West Roxbury, is scheduled to arrive at City Hall Plaza with a "Christian" flag the city agreed to let him fly over City Hall Plaza for a couple of hours started at 11 a.m.
A week later, the City Council will discuss an ordinance that would limit flags on the third of three flagpoles to ones approved by formal resolutions of the council or proclamations by the mayor.
In a case that went to the Supreme Court, Shurtleff won the right to fly his flag after the court ruled that the way the city had previously approved flags for that pole - through a loose set of rules overseen by a City Hall worker - meant Shurtleff's rights were violated when his flag was rejected.
The ordinance that Councilors Kenzie Bok, Ed Flynn and Ruthzie Louijeune are proposing, with support of Mayor Wu, is aimed at ensuring that whatever flies on the third pole is "government speech," that is, something that reflects what government wants to say under its own First Amendment rights, rather than what the court said was Boston's previous policy, which didn't really involve government officials making a statement, just some City Hall functionary making somewhat arbitrary decisions on what could fly on the pole. Or as the court put it:
At the time, Boston had no written policies or clear internal guidance about what flags groups could fly and what those flags would communicate. ... All told, Boston’s lack of meaningful involvement in the selection of flags or the crafting of their messages leads the Court to classify the third-party flag raisings as private, not government, speech.
By only allowing flags approved by elected officials, the flagpole would truly represent the city's voice, the officials said:
The proposed ordinance will enable the City to continue to celebrate flag raisings while complying with the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision on the City’s previous process, which clarified the affirmative role required of the City government in maintaining the flag pole as a site for expressing the City’s values and ideals.
Because of the court ruling, City Hall has not allowed any flags, other than those of the US, the state and the city, to fly above City Hall Plaza since last October.