Fly Your Flag Proudly: Religious Displays on Public Property
So I missed this last week, but the Supreme Court has decided to hear Shurtleff v. City of Boston, a case brought by a Christian group that was denied permission by the City of Boston to fly its flag, which features a Latin Cross, on a flagpole at Boston City Hall. According to the lawsuit, the City encourages private groups to fly their flags on the city flagpole, and over the course of twelve years had allowed over 280 groups to do so, including Juneteenth and LGBTQ-related flags. But the group claims they were denied permission solely because their flag was religious.
The ABA has a good article on this case here: Supreme Court will hear case of Christian group that wanted to fly its flag at Boston City Hall. As I said, I haven’t been following this case, so let me dig into it a little bit. I suspect the First Circuit, which ruled for the City of Boston, relied on the “government speech” doctrine, which holds generally that the government does not open a forum that would require “rebuttal speech,” when the government speaks on its own and expresses its own opinions. But usually the “government speech” doctrine does not apply when the government is allowing third parties to use its property.