SCOTUS Stands By Christian Group’s Right to Free Speech
The SCOTUS has done something right for once with their unanimous decision to support the free speech rights of a Christian group in Boston!
May 2 (Reuters) – Boston violated the free speech rights of a Christian group by refusing to fly a flag bearing the image of a cross at City Hall as part of a program that let private groups use the flagpole while holding events in the plaza below, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled on Monday.
The 9-0 decision, authored by liberal Justice Stephen Breyer, overturned a lower court’s ruling that the rejection of Camp Constitution and its director Harold Shurtleff did not violate their rights to freedom to speech under the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment. President Joe Biden’s administration backed Camp Constitution in the case.
Boston’s flag-raising program was aimed at promoting diversity and tolerance among the city’s different communities. In turning down Camp Constitution, Boston had said that raising the cross flag could appear to violate another part of the First Amendment that bars governmental endorsement of a particular religion.
As a result of the litigation, Boston last October halted the program to ensure that the city cannot be compelled to “publicize messages antithetical to its own.” Boston has said that requiring it to open the flagpole to “all comers” could force it to raise flags promoting division or intolerance, such as a swastika or a terrorist group.
The Supreme Court, which has a 6-3 conservative majority, has taken an expansive view of religious rights and has been increasingly receptive to arguments that governments are acting with hostility toward religion.
At issue was whether the flagpole became a public forum meriting free speech protections under the First Amendment to bar discrimination based on viewpoint, as the plaintiffs claimed, or whether it represented merely a conduit for government speech not warranting such protection, as Boston claimed.