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christian flag Archives – Concerned Women for America

Boston Violates First Amendment by Targeting Christian Flag

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All nine justices of the United States Supreme Court agree in Shurtleff v. City of Boston. The city violated the First Amendment rights of Harold Shurtleff, the director of Camp Constitution, by refusing to allow him to fly the Christian Flag at a public pole where the city allowed private groups to fly their flags indiscriminately.

 

“The most salient feature of this case is that Boston neither actively controlled these flag raisings nor shaped the messages the flags sent,” wrote Justice Stephen Breyer in his majority opinion as the Court concluded what Boston was engaging in was not government speech. “Boston told the public that it sought ‘to accommodate all applicants’ who wished to hold events at Boston’s ‘public forums.’” Except for those pesky Christians.

 

Thankfully, the Court 9-0 (though using different rationales) declared, “Boston’s refusal to let petitioners fly their flag violated the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment.” The Court correctly stated, “When the government does not speak for itself, it may not exclude private speech based on “‘religious viewpoint’; doing so ‘constitutes impermissible viewpoint discrimination.’”

 

Breyer’s majority opinion was joined by Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett. They were also three concurring opinions. One by Justice Kavanaugh, a second by Justice Alito joined by Thomas and Gorsuch, and a third by Justice Gorsuch joined by Justice Thomas.

 

Justice Kavanaugh, concurring, made clear this case only got to the Supreme Court “because of a government official’s mistaken understanding of the Establishment Clause.” We should also add that many judges share the mistaken view, also. But as Kavanaugh writes, “Under the Constitution, a government may not treat religious persons, religious organizations, or religious speech as second-class.”

 

Justice Alito’s concurrence agrees with the Court’s ultimate conclusion but disagrees with the majority’s analysis. And with good reason. Justice Alito rightly points out that some of the “tests” the majority uses to answer the question here, like “the extent to which the government has actively shaped or controlled expression,” can actually be used by bad actors to discriminate against those with whom it disagrees. But that, too, would be an impermissible violation of the First Amendment.

 

Justice Alito smartly advocates for a more precise and robust definition of government speech, which, after all, is the only organism restricted by the First Amendment. “Government speech,” he writes, “is thus the purposeful communication of a governmentally determined message by a person exercising a power to speak for a government.” Furthermore, after establishing that government speech is at issue, “the government must establish it did not rely on a means that abridges the speech of persons acting in a private capacity.” This is the type of clear definitional guidelines that will help judges around the country administer justice in a much fairer way. Let us hope Justice Alito’s test finds wide acceptance in the years to come.

 

Finally, Justice Gorsuch writes a concurring masterpiece on what is known as the Lemon test. This is an approach that Concerned Women for America  has asked the Court to overturn on many occasions. As he wrote, “Lemon ignored the original meaning of the Establishment Clause, it disregarded mountains of precedent, and it substituted a serious constitutional inquiry with a guessing game.”

 

The historical discussion especially is worthwhile in Gorsuch’s concurrence; I commend it to you. Here is a taste (citations omitted):

 

As a close look at these hallmarks and our history reveals, “[n]o one at the time of the founding is recorded as arguing that the use of religious symbols in public contexts was a form of religious establishment.” For most of its existence, this country had an “unbroken history of official acknowledgment by all three branches of government of the role of religion in American life.” In fact and as we have seen, it appears that, until Lemon, this Court had never held the display of a religious symbol to constitute an establishment of religion. The simple truth is that no historically sensitive understanding of the Establishment Clause can be reconciled with a rule requiring governments to “roa[m] the land, tearing down monuments with religious symbolism and scrubbing away any reference to the divine.” Our Constitution was not designed to erase religion from American life; it was designed to ensure “respect and tolerance.”

 

It is a critical discussion that accentuates his clear thinking on religious liberty issues.

 

This is a great win that envisions even greater protections for religious freedom for decades to come—a great development for all Americans regardless of religious belief.

 

CWA Stands for Religious Freedom and the Christian Flag at the Supreme Court

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Today, Concerned Women for America (CWA) was proud to stand for the Christian principles of our founding in an important First Amendment case before the United States Supreme Court. Annabelle Rutledge, National Director of CWA’s Young Women for America program, delivered an impassioned speech (below) in front of the Court as they heard oral arguments in Shurtleff v. Boston.

 

Statement by Annabelle Rutledge
National Director
Concerned Women for America’s Young Women for America
Delivered January 13, 2022, at the United States Supreme Court
Shurtleff v. Boston Oral Arguments Rally

Good morning everyone

My name is Annabelle Rutledge from Concerned Women for America, the largest public policy organization for women in the nation. I serve as the national director of CWA’s Young Women for America project, which is training the next generation of young women on the Christian and constitutional principles that are the foundation of our liberties and freedoms.

I stand here on behalf of hundreds of thousands of women who want to see an end to the pernicious hostility towards religion that has become all too common in our day and age. If we are being honest, the hostility we see in many cases is directed specifically at Christians.

Many Americans fail to realize that the very foundations of the liberties they enjoy sprout out of Biblical soil. Therefore, in attacking religion as a whole, and Christianity more specifically, they work against their own interests, against their own liberty.

This case is a prime example that sometimes the loudest voices crying for diversity and tolerance are the most intolerant of diversity when that diversity is also inclusive of people of faith with whom they disagree.

The City of Boston has a worthy goal for its flagpole policy in its city hall plaza. The city explained that it wants “to create an environment in the City where everyone feels included and is treated with respect.” Except that “everyone,” according to the City of Boston, does not include Christians—we are apparently the right kind of people to exclude.

The city’s website further explains their policy this way, “We also want to raise awareness in Greater Boston and beyond about the many countries and cultures around the world. Our goal is to foster diversity and build and strengthen connections among Boston’s many communities.”

Accordingly, LGBTQ+ communities are loudly celebrated, their flag displayed with pride, no pun intended. Likewise, flags with Muslim themes from countries other than our own are welcomed with open arms. “Yay, diversity!”

But the flag that represents the faith of the very people who founded the City of Boston (the Puritans) that flag is just not welcomed. For Boston, diversity stops at Christianity’s doorsteps.

Needless to say, this nonsensical policy stands in clear violation of the First Amendment to our Constitution, which states plainly, as applied to the states, that the city “shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof….” In targeting religious speech and somehow saying it is unworthy of the same protections afforded other types of speech, the city violates the most basic principles of justice and fairness, not to mention the essence of our First Amendment.

As we pointed out in our brief before the Court, the city’s attempt to differentiate between religious organizations and civic organizations fails to recognize the nature of our faith. By their very nature, religious organizations are civic organizations. Our concern for the poor and needy, for the weak and oppressed, and for justice and righteousness cannot be contained to the four walls of a building. Call that building a church or call it what you want.

Our faith is a living faith. We are called to go and love our neighbors. We cannot do otherwise.

That faith gave birth to many of the freedoms we enjoy. The faith that is at the root of the City of Boston, whose very city flag contains its motto in Latin words that read, “God be with us as he was with our fathers.”

Fitting, since from the founding of our country, churches have been the most important civic institution, bringing incredible progress. It is why the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 declared that “religion, morality, and knowledge [were] necessary to good government.”

The words of John Adams also stand as a similar reminder when he said that “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

Religion and faith are not only compatible with our Constitution; they are indispensable to its proper understanding.

We are confident the Supreme Court understands this, and we expect a unanimous Court to send a clear message by striking down this unconstitutional policy.

Thank you.

Click here for a PDF version of the statement.