The Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case from an anti-LGBTQ hate group trying to force the city of Boston to fly what they call the “Christian flag.”
Liberty Counsel sued in 2017 on behalf of a local Christian conservative group that demanded city hall fly their Christian flag, even though it’s not a flag most Christians would say represents their religion. The city refused their demand, saying that only non-religious flags are raised at city hall in order to avoid appearing like the city supports one religion over others.
“The ‘Juneteenth’ flag has been raised by the private National Juneteenth Observance Foundation,” the group wrote in its original complaint, saying that they were “censored” because they’re Christian. “A homosexual rainbow flag has been raised by the private organization Boston Pride. Even a ‘transgender’ pink and blue flag has been raised.”
A year later a federal judge dismissed their suit, saying that the “primary purpose” of flying the Christian flag at city hall “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.”
“Plaintiffs also emphasize the City’s prior decisions to grant permission to private parties to raise the LGBT rainbow pride flag, transgender rights flag and the Juneteenth flag on the City flagpole,” the judge wrote. “However, none of these flags are religious on their face.”
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit also rejected the group’s claim, saying that the city’s rule of rejecting flags from all religions is neutral and therefore constitutional.
The Supreme Court, though, has agreed to hear the case, which may mean that Liberty Counsel could still win. Six of the nine Supreme Court justices are conservative and several have past associations with extreme Christian conservative organizations.
“The separation of church and state is the constitutional principle that guarantees everyone’s right to religious freedom and to be treated equally under the law,” said Americans United for the Separation of Church and State President and CEO Rachel Laser in a statement. “To protect this core American principle and to respect the religious diversity that defines our country, the Supreme Court should not force the City of Boston to fly a Christian flag at city hall.”
“To force any American city to erect new religious displays would not only undermine the foundational principle of church-state separation, it would play right into the hands of Christian nationalists who want the government to force everyone to live by their beliefs – threatening everyone’s religious freedom and widening inequality in our communities and country.”
A decision is expected by next June.