It’s A High-Flying Flag: Shurtleff v. Boston and Municipal Flag Policies

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its decision in Shurtleff v. Boston in which it ruled unanimously that the City of Boston violated the Constitution by denying a request from a religious organization to fly a Christian flag on a flagpole in front of City Hall. The Supreme Court held that Boston’s actions violated the First Amendment by restricting speech based on a religious viewpoint.

The Court’s decision supports the advice that Preti Flaherty has been providing to its municipal clients for several years. While community members may pressure municipalities to fly flags showing support for various causes, there is simply no clear way for municipal governments to avoid expressing impermissible viewpoint preferences when deciding what flags may or may not be flown. As a result, the best policy is to avoid the problem in the first place by only flying federal, state, and local government flags from municipal buildings. 

The full text of the Supreme Court’s decision may be found here.