Harold Shurtleff is the director and co-founder of Camp Constitution, a non-profit group that promotes the idea that we live in a “Christian nation.” (He’s wrong, but whatever. That’s an argument for another day.) In 2017, Shurtleff applied for a permit to raise a Christian flag on a pole outside City Hall Plaza in Boston to commemorate “Constitution Day and Citizenship Day”… but the city rejected the request.
Shurtleff contended this was religious discrimination. Even if atheists flags weren’t allowed either, there were plenty of other flags with religious symbols allowed to go up, including the national flag for Portugal — which includes a religious symbol — during the city’s Portuguese-American festival. The city even acknowledged that significance on its website at the time. Plus, the city flag for Boston includes a Latin phrase that translates to “God be with us as he was with our fathers.”
Religion itself wasn’t the problem, he argued, so why weren’t they letting him hoist a Christian flag when he went through all the proper motions?
Officials told him non-secular flags were prohibited from using the city’s flagpole. They also implied that an explicitly Christian flag was different from a national or local flag with a religious symbol on it. Shurtleff wasn’t buying it, so he filed a lawsuit in 2018 claiming this was a violation of his constitutional rights.
He didn’t get very far with that one. That year, U.S. District Court Judge Denise J. Casper denied him a preliminary injunction. And this week, she officially rejected his challenge. In short, she said that Boston has every right to reject his Christian flag.
… There are no additional facts in the record that would suggest any improper preference for non-religion over religion or selective treatment of any person or group based on religion. The City did not alter its procedures for review of flag applications because of Camp Constitution’s request, instead Camp Constitution’s request presented a novel issue for the City’s consideration, which the City considered consistent with its practice and policy.
Wasn’t that hypocrisy given the other flags that were allowed to go up? Not at all, the judge said.
All of these flags, although they contained religious imagery, are secular flags of sovereign nations… Permitting such flags to be flown also allowed for the City’s purpose of “commemorate[ing] flags from many countries and communities” and is not similar to the Christian flag proposed to be flown by Shurtleff, which was a religious flag… The Court is not convinced that flags of countries or secular organizations and entities that contain religious references or imagery are the same as the Christian flag that Shurtleff sought to fly from the City’s flagpole, which nobody disputes is a non-secular flag.
Simply put, unless the city was allowing other religious groups to put up their own flags in promotion of their beliefs, Christians didn’t have a special right to do the same. And the city had good reason to say no to faith-based flags altogether.
I suspect Shurtleff will just use this to further his belief that Christians are being persecuted, but really, Christians just aren’t getting special treatment. It’s not like a Muslim or atheist group would’ve succeeded with this lawsuit either. At least they knew better than to try it. This guy’s just whining over nothing.