BOSTON (CN) - A civic group failed to persuade a federal judge Wednesday that Boston must mark its proposed event by flying a flag featuring a red Latin cross.
Represented by Liberty Counsel in Orlando and the firm McLane & McLane, of Feeding Hills, Massachusetts, the group Camp Constitution filed the suit to fly its flag a month ago.
The group entered two unsuccessful applications to fly its flag in connection to events at City Hall Plaza last year, and it told the U.S. District Court in Boston that it needed an injunction to stop the ongoing abuse of its rights.
U.S. District Judge Denise Casper shot down the group and its co-founder, Harold Shurtleff, emphasizing that the record in the case evinces their interest in having the city endorse Christianity.
“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,” the ruling states. “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.”
Camp Constitution failed to persuade the court that the city treated it differently than other applicants since it has previously allowed agreed to fly flags that contain Christian imagery, such as the flag of Portugal.
Boston’s own city flag also contains the Latin inscription “Sicut Patribus, Sit Deus Nobis,” which means, “God be with us as he was with our fathers.”
Casper was not swayed, however, that flying the Christian flag would be the same.
“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,” the 18-page ruling states. “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.”
Casper noted that the city has repeatedly told Shurtleff that he could organize a Constitution Day event within City Hall Plaza, and fly any flag he choose – so long as that flag is not flown alongside the U.S. and state flags on the city’s own flag poles.
It is unclear whether Camp Constitution will take Boston up on its offer. The group has not applied to host an event in over a year, but claimed in its lawsuit that it wanted to mark the anniversary next month of the signing of the U.S. Constitution on Sept. 17, 1787.
A representative for the Boston mayor’s press office declined to comment on the ruling, citing a policy toward ongoing litigation.
Liberty Counsel vowed in an unsigned statement to appeal: “The District Court acknowledged the exclusion of the flag was content-based censorship and that the city historically allowed a wide array of private speech, but the judge denied the preliminary injunction. And, despite the fact that the city’s policy refers to the flagpole as a ‘public forum,’ the opinion makes no mention of this critical fact.”
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