Boston resident Hal Shurtleff and his Christian civic organization Camp Constitution wanted to fly the camp's flag – which is the Christian flag – on a city flagpole that is open to all types of flags. But the city denied the request, prompting a legal challenge from Mat Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel.
"Over 12 years, they never censored any of the 284 private applications," says Staver. "We have a statement in which they say that the only reason they censored the flag is because on the application it used the word 'Christian.'"
Courts have agreed with Boston, including a court of appeals that ruled flying the flag would amount to government speech. But Staver points out that individuals have asked for and received permission to fly flags for different nations, including Turkey and Portugal, both of which include religious imagery. So that government speech claim does not hold water.
"It is just absurd all around," he asserts. "That cannot be government speech, because it's illegal in the commonwealth in Massachusetts for the city to display on its property any foreign flag. It is a private person having a flag."
According to the Liberty Counsel founder, there is a crucial difference between government endorsement of religion and private speech, the latter being a right the government is bound to respect.
Camp Constitution wanted to raise the flag for an hour on September 17th in observance of Constitution Day. The flag was to be part of a ceremony to honor the Constitution and recognize the Christian founders.