Hewett v. City of King

Last modified 2022.02.09

  • Status Closed
  • Type Counsel
  • Court U.S. District Court
  • Issues Fighting Discrimination, Racial Equality, Religious Displays, Religious Minorities

In 2004, the City of King constructed a veterans’ memorial on public land in a city park. The memorial included the Christian flag—which features a white field with a red cross inside a blue canton. The City later added a statue of a soldier kneeling before a Latin cross, and also held annual memorial ceremonies featuring Christian prayers and other religious content.

In 2010, the City temporarily removed the Christian flag from the veterans’ memorial. But later that year, following advice from the Alliance Defending Freedom, the city council voted to return the Christian flag under the guise of a “limited public forum” for the display of pre-approved religious flags. But unlike a true limited public forum—a space in which people are free to express a variety of viewpoints without government control of those viewpoints—the City sought to use its new policy to promote Christianity specifically. As a result of the new policy, the Christian flag flew all but five or six weeks of every year.

In November 2012, we filed a lawsuit in federal court on behalf of Steven Hewett, a veteran of the war in Afghanistan and the recipient of the Bronze Star. We argued that the City was exploiting its veterans’ memorial to promote Christianity, and asked the court to prohibit the City from displaying the Christian flag, displaying the statue of a soldier kneeling before a cross, and holding religious memorial events.

Following discovery, all parties moved for summary judgment. In July 2014, the court denied both sides’ motions as to the City’s display of the Christian flag and the cross statue. With respect to the religious memorial ceremonies, the court granted our motion in part, finding that the City had endorsed religion in some of the actions it took to promote and participate in the ceremonies.

In January 2015, we reached a settlement agreement with the City. The City agreed to take down the Christian flag and replaced the cross in the statue with a secular grave marker. This case is now concluded.

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