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Boston — which has raised LGBT flag at City Hall — doesn't have to raise Christian flag, judge rules

The only other flag Boston rejected in 12-year-span was 'straight pride' flag prior to controversial 'straight pride' parade last year

Image source: YouTube screenshot

A judge ruled that the city of Boston — which has raised an LGBT flag at City Hall Plaza — isn't required to raise a Christian flag as requested by a religious group, the Boston Herald reported.

What are the details?

U.S. District Court Judge Denise Casper on Tuesday denied a summary judgment for Harold Shurtleff and his Camp Constitution organization that claimed discrimination in a lawsuit after the city rejected their request to fly a Christian flag on a City Hall flagpole, the paper said.

While the city has maintained that flying a Christian flag would be akin to favoring a particular religion, Camp Constitution's 2019 federal complaint stated that Boston several times has flown the Turkish flag — which has Islamic symbolism — as well as the Vatican flag.

Other flags that would seem to reflect ideological stances — such as the Communist Chinese, transgender, and LGBT flags — reportedly were among 284 previously permitted flags.

More from the Herald:

An attorney for Boston argued in case documents the city is allowed to have control over the City Hall Plaza flagpoles because they're considered government speech. Shurtleff argued the city's 284 flag raisings between 2005 and 2017 were evidence the city had not previously denied a request, while Boston rebutted that most of the flags were of other countries and some civic symbols, such as the LGBT flag.

The City Hall Plaza flagpoles fly the United States and Massachusetts flags, a Prisoner of War/Missing in Action flag and the city of Boston's flag on the third pole, which is replaced by requested flags.

"There are no additional facts in the record that would suggest any improper preference for non-religion over religion or selective treatment of any person or group based on religion," the judge wrote, according to the paper.

The Herald added that the only other flag the city refused to fly was a "straight pride" flag before the controversial "straight pride" parade last year.

What did Boston's mayor have to say?

Boston's Democratic Mayor Marty Walsh — characterized by Politico as an "intense defender of Obamacare, immigrants and unions, and a vocal supporter of full equality for LGBTQ Americans" — said in a statement that "we have never raised a religious flag on City Hall Plaza. Everything is either a national flag raising (the vast majority) or flag raisings dealing with issues of social or public policy, or historical significance," the paper reported.

Walsh added that "Camp Constitution's request to fly the 'Christian' flag (as it is labeled by the organization), which bears the Latin cross ... should be denied, because ... the flag sends an overt religious message, and could reasonably be construed to be an endorsement of Christianity by the City, which would be a violation of the Establishment Clause," the Herald added.

How did Camp Constitution react?

"We are appealing the decision and will take it all the way to the Supreme Court if necessary," Shurtleff told paper.

Camp Constitution describes itself as a Christian group that seeks to "enhance understanding of our Judeo-Christian moral heritage, our American heritage of courage and ingenuity, including the genius of our United States Constitution," according to its website, the Herald said.

Here's a report on the controversy from last year:

youtu.be

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