October 2018 Church & State | AU Bulletin

A federal court has ruled that officials in Boston don’t have to fly a Christian flag from municipal flagpoles to mark an event that was held in September.

Harold Shurtleff, a resident of West Roxbury, sought to compel city officials to fly the flag during an event he sponsors in Boston called “Camp Constitution.” When officials refused, Shurtleff asked the court to issue a preliminary injunction requiring them to do it.

U.S. District Court Judge Denise J. Casper denied Shurtleff’s request. Casper said the city’s policy of not flying religious flags is “reasonable based on the City’s interest in avoiding the appearance of endorsing a particular religion and a consequential violation of the [Constitution]. … As the City has done in the past, it will allow Plaintiffs to hold an event on City Hall Plaza. It will also give Plaintiffs the opportunity to … display the Christian flag while on City Hall Plaza.”

Shurtleff argued that the city sometimes flies flags that contain religious imagery. But Casper pointed out that those flags are either historical in nature, or are the flags of other countries.

“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,” she wrote in Shurtleff v. City of Boston.