October 2018 Church & State - October 2018

Boston Doesn’t Have To Fly Christian Flag, Court Rules

  Rob Boston

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.


Americans United & the National Women’s Law Center file suit to challenge Missouri’s abortion bans.

Abortion bans violate the separation of church and state. Americans United and the National Women’s Law Center—the leading experts in religious freedom and gender justice—have joined forces with thirteen clergy from six faith traditions to challenge Missouri’s abortion bans as unconstitutionally imposing one narrow religious doctrine on everyone.

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