Facts of the Case
The City of Boston owns and manages three flagpoles in front of City Hall, the seat of Boston’s municipal government. Ordinarily, the City raises the United States flag and the POW/MIA flag on one flagpole, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts flag on the second flagpole, and its own flag on the third flagpole. Upon request and after approval, the City will occasionally fly another flag for a limited period of time instead of its own flag.
Gregory T. Rooney, Commissioner of Boston’s Property Management Department, reviews applications for flag-raising events to ensure the flag is consistent with the City’s message, policies, and practices. The City has approved 284 flag-raising events over a 12-year period, and Rooney had never denied a flag-raising application.
Camp Constitution is an organization that seeks “to enhance the understanding of the country’s Judeo-Christian moral heritage” and applied to fly a “Christian flag” for its event. Rooney denied Camp Constitution’s flag-raising request, finding it was the first time any entity or organization had requested to fly a religious flag. Camp Constitution sued, and the district court found for the City. On appeal, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit affirmed.
Does Boston’s refusal to fly a private religious organization’s flag depicting a cross on a city flagpole violate the organization’s First Amendment rights?
For over fifty years, Establishment Clause jurisprudence has been haunted by the malleable nature of...