It seems that every demographic has a flag these days.
Flags are a powerful symbol of community and culture, and often celebrates and honors a group’s identity.
Flags are flown in places of prominence and businesses around the world to let members of the community know they are welcome.
In fact, in Boston, over 280 ethnic and cultural groups are welcomed by the flying of their flags.
But as of today, Christians aren’t among them.
The city of Boston permits 284 different flags to be flown within its jurisdiction.
These flags include the LGBTQ rainbow flag, the Chinese communist flag, and the transgender flag.
But the city refuses to fly what one group calls “the Christian flag.”
Hal Shurtleff first asked the city of Boston to fly the Christian flag in September 2017.
Not only did the city deny his request, but it also banned the flag – stating that flags with “non-secular” emblems could not be flown by the city.
Nevermind that the city already flies the Turkish flag which carries Islamic symbolism in the form of a crescent and a star.
Shurtleff is the director and co-founder of Camp Constitution, an organization whose mission is to “enhance understanding of our Judeo-Christian moral heritage” as a nation.
“We want to motivate, inspire, and activate this generation of Patriots as well as the next generation,” says the organization.
Its leadership seeks to foster a sound appreciation for “God, home, and country.”
To that end, Shurtleff had organized a one-hour event “celebrating the link between Christianity and the United States.”
He intended for the Christian flag to be an integral part of the event when he asked the city of Boston to fly the flag in solidarity with Camp Constitution for that single hour.
The Christian flag itself is simple and unassuming – primarily white, with a red cross situated on a blue rectangle in the upper left-hand corner. It acknowledges the strong historic ties between Christianity and America as a nation.
The Christian flag isn’t a new idea, either. It was initially designed in the early 1900s to represent several Protestant denominations of the faith.
The city of Boston, however, considers it to be an inadmissible message in the public forum.
But this now begs the question of whether the city violated the Constitution in its decision.
“Censoring religious viewpoints in a public forum where secular viewpoints are permitted violates the First Amendment,” said Mathew Staver, founder of Liberty Counsel, a law firm representing religious freedom cases.
“Boston city officials may not ban the Christian flag as part of a privately-sponsored event when they allow flags by numerous private organizations,” Staver continued.
“It’s time…to stop the city’s unconstitutional censorship.”
Shurtleff first filed a lawsuit against the city of Boston in a federal court and later continued the case in a court of appeals.
Both courts ruled against the flying of the Christian flag, but Shurtleff has continued the suit.
He and Staver are confident that “key facts” will “compel a result in Camp Constitution’s favor.”
Boston has flown many religiously symbolic flags in past years, including the Cuban flag and the Vatican flag. So the city’s ban on the Christian flag specifically seems to represent a stance on Christianity that is all too familiar.
“Despite all of these many flag raisings containing religious symbols and imagery…Camp Constitution’s proposed flag raising was denied because it was ‘religious,’” Staver stated in the suit.
“There can be no dispute that the City’s denial impermissibly discriminated between religion and non-religion, and discriminated between religious sects,” Staver continued. “Both violate the Establishment Clause.”
Shurtleff agreed. “There’s no question that it is an unconstitutional act and…was a violation of the First Amendment.”
Ironically, the city stated that it could not fly the Christian flag for fear of violating the First Amendment!
Shurtleff wondered if his request might have been answered differently if he had called the flag “the Camp Constitution flag,” but he remains committed to the ideal of the Christian flag.
And he’s ready to take the case all the way to the Supreme Court if he has to!
The city of Boston and others who oppose the raising of the Christian flag argue that it will only serve to divide people, but as Shurtleff duly notes, “You really cannot have a flag that represents all people unless you have a blank flag.”
And already too many people in our culture are trying to fly blank flags.
Pray for Shurtleff, Staver, and the rest of those involved in this lawsuit as they seek to honor God in a public forum.