The city of Boston has paid Liberty Counsel, a non-profit organization that litigates in defense of religious freedom, more than $2.1 million following a five-year legal fight over a flag the city refused to fly.
In 2017, Hal Shurtleff, leader of the Christian group Camp Constitution, asked the city to fly his group’s flag outside of City Hall to commemorate Constitution Day.
Boston city officials refused the request despite approving similar requests from other secular organizations.
Starting in 2005, the city began flying flags of any groups that submitted a request. All told, the city displayed 284 flags from private organizations, including rainbow-themed pride flags, without ever denying a single request — until Shurtleff’s.
Shurtleff enlisted the help of Liberty Counsel and ultimately won a 9-0 decision before the Supreme Court in May.
The city claimed that it denied Shurtleff’s request because it did not want to appear to be endorsing a religion. However, the Supreme Court found Boston’s disparate treatment of the Christian group amounted to a violation of their right to freedom of speech in a public forum.
“The City of Boston has learned a costly lesson and paid a high price for religious viewpoint discrimination,” said Liberty Counsel founder Mat Staver.
“Government cannot censor religious viewpoints under the guise of government speech,” he said. “The freedom to express religious viewpoints has been made easier thanks to the Christian flag case.”
The Camp Constitution flag, which features a red cross on a blue square against a white background, finally flew in Boston in August.