ACLU Comment on Supreme Court Decision Upholding Group’s First Amendment Right to Fly a Religious Flag

May 2, 2022 1:45 pm

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NEW YORK — In a 9-0 unanimous decision, today the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the city of Boston violated the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment when it refused to grant a religious organization access to the city’s flagpole forum, where Boston has long allowed private groups to temporarily fly flags in front of city hall. For more than a decade, the city has allowed nearly 300 private groups to fly their flags outside of city hall for a short time, but the city denied Camp Constitution’s request to raise its flag for a single hour because the flag featured a Latin cross. The ACLU and the ACLU of Massachusetts filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court in support of Camp Constitution, a fundamentalist Christian organization.

Below are comments from:

David Cole, ACLU national legal director:

“We applaud the Supreme Court’s decision upholding Camp Constitution’s First Amendment right to fly its flag in a public forum. For more than a decade, Boston approved nearly 300 applications to fly private flags on its flagpole without denying a single applicant, until Camp Constitution applied to fly its flag bearing a Latin cross. While in most cases displaying a religious flag on government property would violate the Establishment Clause, where a city chooses to turn its flagpole into a public forum for all comers, it can’t turn away Camp Constitution’s flag because it’s religious. ”

Carol Rose, ACLU of Massachusetts executive director:

“This decision rightly reaffirms well-established principles regarding viewpoint discrimination in forums that have been opened to the public for private expression. Governments remain free to retain control of their flag poles and express views there that they conclude — with input from those they represent — are in the best interest of the local community and avoid concerns about establishment of religion.”

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