In 2017, Harold Shurtleff wanted to fly a flag at Boston City Hall. The banner featured a red cross against a blue background, flanked by white on three sides. Its purpose was to recognize “the civic and social contributions of the Christian community to the City, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, religious tolerance, the Rule of Law, and the U.S. Constitution.”
The city wasn’t thrilled by the idea, so they gave Shurtleff the thumbs-down. As it turned out, the flag would violate its “policy and practice of respectfully refraining from flying non-secular flags on City Hall flagpoles.”
Gregory Rooney, Boston’s property management commissioner, explained the position in an email:
“This policy and practice is consistent with well-established First Amendment jurisprudence prohibiting a local government ‘respecting an establishment of religion.’ This policy and practice is also consistent with City’s legal authority to choose how a limited government resource, like the City Hall flagpoles, is used.”
It’s hard to imagine the founding fathers — who placed a time capsule in that very city 223 years ago — agreeing with Rooney.
In fact, the Massachusetts constitution has quite a bit to say about God. A few examples:
“It is the right as well as the duty of all men in society, publicly, and at stated seasons to worship the Supreme Being, the great Creator and Preserver of the universe. And no subject shall be hurt, molested, or restrained, in his person, liberty, or estate, for worshipping God in the manner and season most agreeable to the dictates of his own conscience; or for his religious profession or sentiments; provided he doth not disturb the public peace, or obstruct others in their religious worship.
“And no subject shall be hurt, molested, or restrained, in his person, liberty, or estate, for worshipping God in the manner and season most agreeable to the dictates of his own conscience.
“…Our wise and pious ancestors, so early as the year one thousand six hundred and thirty-six, laid the foundation of Harvard College, in which university many persons of great eminence have, by the blessing of God, been initiated in those arts and sciences, which qualified them for public employments, both in church and state: and whereas the encouragement of arts and sciences, and all good literature, tends to the honor of God, the advantage of the Christian religion, and the great benefit of this and the other United States of America… ”
Shurtleff’s hoping a court sees the absurdity: he’s filed a lawsuit against the city, claiming the secular-only practice is “invidious and hostile, towards religion.”
The flag at issue belongs to Camp Consitution, whose mission is to “enhance understanding of our Judeo-Christian moral heritage, our American heritage of courage and ingenuity, including the genius of our United States Constitution, and the application of free enterprise, which together gave our nation an unprecedented history of growth and prosperity, making us the envy of the world.”
According to representing attorney Roger Gannam, “The city’s censoring of Camp Constitution’s Christian Flag is the ultimate insult to the First Amendment and Boston’s rich heritage as a focal point of liberty and free speech at America’s founding.”
While the city prohibits a Christian flag from being flown on government grounds, it’s absolutely fine with a flag of another color:
— City of Boston (@CityOfBoston) June 1, 2018
At what point does the question at hand cease to be about religion, and clearly fall into view as an issue of ideology, in which case the government is promoting one and banning the other? Why do Camp Constitution’s moral positions, for instance — which, in addition to historical elements, are certainly represented by their flag — pale, so says the government, compared to those of #Pride, by nature of Pride’s failure to officially recognize a Creator?
America was founded upon a belief in God. As such, it was ignited as a burning flame for liberty: the freedom — granted by the Maker of Heaven and Earth — to express one’s beliefs. Including those related to virtue, morality, philosophy, and religion.
And the government of Boston — a great city founded by English Puritans — should remember that the flag it flies at all times — the Star-Spangled Banner — waves in the wind to proclaim that very ideal.
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