Judge rules Boston can bar Christian flag from City Hall flagpole

A federal judge today rejected a West Roxbury right winger's demand that the city be forced to fly a flag with a prominent cross over an event he says he wants to hold on City Hall Plaza next month.

Hal Shurtleff and his Florida lawyers can continue the lawsuit against the city over the issue, but US District Court Judge Denise Casper's rejection of his request for a preliminary injunction means his case would not likely be heard until after the Sept. 17 "Constitution Day" event Shurtleff has said he wants to hold. Casper also wrote she was rejecting his demand because she felt his overall suit would be unlikely to survive at trial.

In his request for an injunction, Shurtleff, a former John Birch Society organizer, argued Boston was violating his First Amendment rights to get his Christian flag on one of the three flagpoles on City Hall Plaza.

Casper said no, the city wasn't. Just like people, a government entity has the right to express itself, and the flagpoles in question have always been for that purpose rather than a place where anybody can say whatever they want. The city has long had guidelines for people who want to fly a flag from one, she noted.

In contrast, City Hall Plaza itself is a "public forum" where the city cannot limit speech - and Casper noted that the city has told Shurtleff he could hold his event there and unfurl any flag he wanted, just not from a city flagpole.

Shurtleff argued that the city's rejection of his request was a violation of the First Amendment's Establishment Clause, which prohibits governments from promoting a particular religion. Casper wrote that, to the contrary, the city's decision to bar a flag to promote Shurtleff's version of Christianity was a perfect example of compliance with the clause.

[T]he Court concludes that compelling the City to display the Christian flag on the City flagpole, as Plaintiffs seek to do, may well violate the Establishment Clause.Certainly, an event to “raise the Christian flag” could serve some of Plaintiffs' cited secular purposes, such as the celebration of religious freedom in Boston and the contributions of Boston's Christian residents to the City. However, its primary purpose would be to convey government endorsement of a particular religion by displaying the Christian flag alongside that of the United States and the Commonwealth in front of City Hall. Blowing in the wind, these side-by-side flags could quite literally become entangled. If Plaintiffs were not seeking government endorsement, then Plaintiffs would presumably be content to raise their own flag on their own in the same location as has been suggested.

She added that if the city did allow Shurtleff to fly his flag, it would open itself up to lawsuits from people and groups who object to the apparent city seal of approval for his version of the Christian religion.

Casper also rejected Shurtleff's argument that Boston was being hypocritical and so violating his Fourteenth Amendment right to equal protection. Shurtleff noted that in the past, the city has allowed the flying of the flags of Portugal and the Bunker Hill Association, both of which have references to Christianity or God - not to mention the city's own flag, which features a Latin motto beseeching God for wisdom. Casper said the comparison is wrong:

The Christian flag primarily represents a specific religion, while the other cited flags represent a sovereign nation, a city government and a group committed to remembering a military victory. Therefore, Plaintiffs are not similarly situated to the sponsors of the Portuguese, City of Boston and Bunker Hill Association flag events and have failed to make out a claim of differential treatment in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment.

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Comments

Jesus Christ!

Back off man. September 17 is also the date Boston was founded in 1630, or at least it was moving day. Have a little respect for the day where Jonathan Winthrop told William Blackstone that he was moving over from Charlestown to get away from the brackish wells and mosquitos in City Square.

On a side note, just because you are crazy, doesn't mean your First Amendment rights are being violated, you are probably just an idiot believing in magic.

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So September 17

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is actually Getting Out Of Charlestown Day? I'm surprised it's not more widely celebrated. You learn wonderful things on UHub.

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Common sense

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Common sense ruling. Otherwise, anyone could demand to fly any flag they want from poles at government buildings, schools, and so on. That'd obviously be ridiculous. Never mind forcing a government entity to fly a Christian flag is exactly what the First Amendment is designed to prevent.

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Common sense would dictate

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Common sense would dictate that if the city is using a flagpole as a billboard, then city employees should not be empowered to pick and choose the groups that can lease the billboard.

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They aren't picking and choosing

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Not when it comes to SECULAR groups.

This wasn't secular.

And, no, a freaking rainbow won't make Jesus hate you.

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We are not forcing the city

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We are not forcing the city to fly a Christian flag. It is a public access flagpole.

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What did the judge rule in, really?

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Technically, she gave an opinion that the suit will not win at trial. She didn't actually decide on the case proper.

What happens in Appeals Court or higher is another story.

Lower level federal judges are overruled.

But then again, I once again note that using the flagpoles for their original purposes rather than picking and choosing which causes should replace the city's flag might be a better course of action. If the city gets burnt on all of this, I will chuckle heartily.

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BEWAR

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DON STEP ON SNEK!

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been waiting to roll out that one huh? .and yours would read...

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"I'm like super woke, and talk tough about people and make everything about race - online of course"

I agree with this ruling - but get over it fella, not everything is a race issue.

It sounds like you really need to reduce your hatred and disdain for fellow Americans that is evidently consuming you. Don't be so angry, and take some deep breaths.

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Wow

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Someone got triggered hard.

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Be Best.

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IMAGE(http://i175.photobucket.com/albums/w122/wboxerw19/moran-1.jpg)
There does seam to be a strain of anti-intellectualism in the Bircher and more contemporary, the Tea Party movement. That said, it's part of the story of why we are where we are today.

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very nope...

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actually just the opposite thanks

But why is a ruling on the right to fly a Christian flag (a ruling which I happen to support) automatically met with a Gadsden flag emblazoned with "I'm white and I'm afraid of everything"?

Is that adding to the dialogue? or is it just an extension of the poster's hysteria on the current political climate?

In this era, discussions on race are so very important, and should be at the forefront - but an image like this waters down the conversation/dialogue and injects a racial tone where unwarranted.

I support challenging the flag guy on his beliefs and motives for wanting to fly the flag - but explain to me how posting "I'm white and I'm afraid of everything" has any relevance to the original story, or how it will lead to anything resembling productive dialogue.

It's more of: agree with me and you are cool, disagree and you are a racist old white person - even when the discussion had nothing to do with race.

That model isn't working too well.

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Hey buddy

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I don't get the impression that you'd be the best advocate to dictate to all of us when we should and shouldn't talk about race.

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thanks for helping make my point...

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You see something you disagree with, then insinuate that the person is a racist.

Gotcha.

FYI - that's not really a good strategy for creating a meaningful dialogue on race.

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Oh, sweetie

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We would’ve gone easier on you if we’d realized it was your first day on the internet. Here’s the quick rundown: it’s not like a truck... it’s more like a series of tubes.

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comedy gold

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I needed some comic relief today - thanks for that.

With the way you hurl insults, I'm till trying to figure if you are a troll or just a super-angry, easily offended keyboard warrior.

But since you are such a fan of the Gadsden Flag, you should relay that same exact message (the racist one you posted earlier) to the owner of the next pickup truck you see sporting one.

Let us know how that goes.

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No she didn't

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I'm tempted to suggest you actually read the decision, but suspect you won't, so ...

The judge said the city has a right to free speech itself and it has an obligation not to violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, which deals exclusively with religion. If the city decides to support trans rights by flying the trans flag on one of those poles, it has the right to do so (and recall that not only the mayor supports trans rights, but the city council does - and has since well before Walsh took office). That is not a religious issue, no matter how many Colorado cake bakers (to give a hypothetical example) decide to try to make it one.

What the city can't do is stop a group of trans haters from holding a protest on City Hall Plaza.

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It's disingenous to argue

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It's disingenous to argue that LGBTQIA issues are not free of religion. There's a secular and civic component to them (bathrooms, spousal benefits), but still a big religious aspect too. That's why churches are embedded in the debate.

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Oh, it's 100% disengenuous

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Those churches and politicians who argue that religious "freedom" means they can do whatever the hell they want are putting their religious rights above those of people who don't share them. That's not how the Constitution works, at least not until the right gets its guaranteed fifth vote on the Supreme Court (so for the next few weeks).

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Ok

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I worship at the altar of “homophobes should be dragged into the street and beaten with a sock full of nickels.” I assume you’ll support my petition to get the courts to make the city recognize my sincerely held religious beliefs?

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The question of whether or

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The question of whether or not I am deserving of human rights should absolutely be free of your religion.

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...

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None of those are religions. A government can't support one religion over the other, that is the point.

Also being trans or gay is hardly analogous to religion. People just want equal rights and to be treated like humans and the city supports civil rights for those marginalized people. It is not that complicated.

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So glad

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Because then we'd also have to get one of the Church of Satan statues. And while I admire their reasoning, placing it in Little Rock to counteract some other silly religion, it is one ugly piece of artwork.

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How dare you!

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That Baphomet statue is a work of art.

IMAGE(https://www.washingtonpost.com/resizer/0irpVJHKU_o7AbXNN6fUx4m-YVk=/960x0/arc-anglerfish-washpost-prod-washpost.s3.amazonaws.com/public/Z54KGXKMWE35XKP4QNNUKO2RAU.jpg)

Just look at the innocent trusting eyes of that child, looking upward for guidance from the goat-beast from the depths of hell.

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Sure it was

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The Patriots defeated the Redcoats 34-28 in the greatest comeback of all time.

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One of the British generals

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approximately quoting Pyrrhus, wrote in his diary that a few more such victories would drive the British right out of America.

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If you're going to go there

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do not miss Angry Staff Officer's drunk history (the gin version) of the battle. He knows his Breed's from his Bunker's.

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How many flags

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Judge Casper has done a fair job at a tough First Amendment Issue involving speech and religion

Boston has 3 flagpoles in front of City Hall.

  1. One is always the Star Spangled Banner.
  2. One is always the Commonwealth of Massachusetts complete with an arm brandishing a sword, a Native American with a Bow and Arrow and a Latin motto Ense Petit Placidam, Sub Libertate Quietem English meaning ("By the Sword We Seek Peace, But Peace Only Under Liberty") and a shield with the "Lone Star of Texas" *1
  3. the third pole is occupied by the Flag of the City of Boston with its Latin motto
    Sicut Patribus Sit Deus Nobis -- or in English "As to our fathers may God be to us -- here we get into dangerous territory for Judge Cassper

Protocol dictates that as the Poles host Flags which are linked to the Citizens of Boston the Commonwealth and the United States of America -- that the poles use be limited to the display of the 3 primary flags and other flags representing official actions or ceremonies. This it is appropriate to host the POW / MIA official flag, a flag associated with a visiting dignitary.

The latter can be extended to temporarily host a flag of a Nation celebrating a National Holiday commonly also celebrated in Massachusetts & Boston, (e.g. Polish Independence Day November 11; Dominican Independence Day February 2; Irish Independence Day January 21?; Festa della Repubblica (in English, Republic Day aka Italian National Day June 2; Cinco de Mayo May 5. celebrating the Mexican Army's victory over the French Empire, etc.

I really don''t see any room on those poles for Rainbows, Blue or Black Lives Matter, or any number of informal banners and unofficial flags. The real question, not addressed by the Judge, is what should be done with the Flag of the Vatican in case there is another Papal Visit.

*1 -- just kidding -- the Star is symbolic of being one the original 13

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Irish Independence Day

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Is Easter Monday. It’s probably one of the few national holidays that do not fall on a set day on a calendar.

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The city sponsors at least one Christian event here annually

GospelFest was cancelled this year because of thunderstorms, but it's been happening every summer for 17 years now. I wonder how this affects the legal arguments, or if either side brought it up.

As you can see from following the link, the Mayor's Office is quite involved in putting on this event:

For the third year in a row, the Mayor’s Community Gospel Choir will open the concert and wow with their vocals. This special group is organized by the Mayor’s Office’s own Edna Wilkie.

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Hold on a second

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GospelFest was cancelled because someone was hurling bolts of lightning at them? Have the organizers stopped to think real hard about that?

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God

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actually likes gospel music, but He's heard a lot of it, and He wanted to get some sleep.

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Neither side brought it up

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Possibly because the issue was the flagpoles rather than the Common itself or possibly because Shurtleff and his legal team didn't know about it.

Neither did either side bring up the Massachusetts constitution, which the judge could have considered in her ruling, which might have been interesting, because it's not exactly the same as the First Amendment, but she basically wrote that if the parties aren't going to get into it, neither would she.

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I'm pretty sure that has hit

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I'm pretty sure that has hit courts before and they came up with a decision that Gospel music is secular.

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Looking for an argument?

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The ultra right has smart cookies. This could have been a purposeful attempt to prompt negative news for them which they can now use as more evidence of how "Christians" are oppressed. Their publicity can now include, "Boston bans Christian flags."

They know that most folks are not interested in reading the details or actually understanding what the ruling was. These folks just look for more opportunity to prove how they are oppressed, how the government is run by atheists and other terrible non-Christian devils.

"Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16 By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them."

Matthew 7. NIV

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