Fox News: The Supreme Court ruled unanimously that a program of the city of Boston that allows outside groups to fly flags at city hall must permit the flying of the flag with a cross that a camp referred to as a “Christian flag.”
The question before the court was whether flying the flag as part of a government program was considered government speech if the flag belonged to a private organization, in this case, Camp Constitution. The Supreme Court ruled that it is not.
“We conclude that, on balance, Boston did not make the raising and flying of private groups’ flags a form of government speech,” Justice Stephen Breyer wrote in the court’s opinion, stating that as a result the city improperly violated Camp Constitution’s free speech rights.
Critics were quick to praise SCOTUS on Twitter for their decision and also took the opportunity to highlight the fact that Boston allowed gay pride flags and “50 other flags” to be displayed at city hall but not a Christian flag.
Boston argued that flying the flag was government speech because it was the city’s flag pole – indeed the pole is normally used to fly the flag of Boston when it is not used for this program. During oral arguments, the city’s attorney Douglas Harry Hallward-Driemeier noted that the city’s website says “we” commemorate flags of many countries and “our goal is to foster diversity,” which would indicate that it is the city’s decision to fly the flags in order to promote its own message.
Boston had acknowledged that they denied the application because of its religious content, due to their belief that it would have been government speech. Once the court decided that there was no government speech involved, that spelled the end of the city’s case.
“Under our precedents, and in view of our government-speech holding here, that refusal discriminated based on religious viewpoint and violated the Free Speech Clause,” Breyer wrote.