Amicus Brief

Shurtleff v. City of Boston (U.S. Supreme Court, 2021)

At issue in this case is the constitutionality of a decision by the City of Boston to reject a request by some residents to raise the Christian flag in front of City Hall, next to the American flag and the Massachusetts state flag.

ADL filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court, highlighting that the consequence of a finding that Boston’s City Hall flagpoles are a public forum would be that anyone could express any viewpoint from them, subject only to reasonable time, place, and manner restrictions. Such a decision would have serious, real world ramifications precisely because flying a flag from a government flagpole is prototypical government speech. Finding a free speech right for any member of the public to fly any flag on Boston’s City Hall flagpoles would give private speakers the ability to falsely present their own message as government approved.

Previously, in the First Circuit, ADL joined an amicus brief filed by a diverse group of religious and civil rights organizations urging the First Circuit to affirm the District Court’s ruling in favor of the City. In addition to explaining why the raising of the Christian flag outside of City Hall would violate the Establishment Clause, the brief provides an in depth discussion on how and why the drafters of the First Amendment effected a separation of government and religion as the means to ensure enduring religious freedom, which in light of our nation becoming increasingly pluralistic, is more crucial than ever.