For Immediate Release
Kate Uesugi, firstname.lastname@example.org, 202-238-9088 (ext. 105)
(Washington, DC, December 22, 2021) – The American Humanist Association (AHA) signed an amicus brief filed in the United States Supreme Court today in support of the City of Boston’s refusal to fly the Christian flag at city hall in Shurtleff v. Boston.
“Our Bill of Rights leads with the separation of church and state for a reason: our freedom and democracy depend on it. The City of Boston’s refusal to fly the Christian flag over city hall in a manner that would connote a strong alliance between church and state was therefore mandated, not only by the First Amendment, but democracy itself,” noted AHA Legal Director and Senior Counsel Monica Miller. “Tragically, we can all but guarantee the Supreme Court will rule in favor of the Christian plaintiffs – the question is, at what cost?”
The brief submitted by Americans United for Separation of Church and State and joined by the AHA, along with numerous other secular and religious groups, argues that the flags in front of Boston’s city hall represent government speech rather than private speech. Government speech is subject to the restrictions of the Establishment Clause.
“In these circumstances, Boston is not constitutionally obligated to vary its practice so as to display divisive religious images that will graphically associate the city government with the beliefs of particular faiths, in a manner that will alienate many residents and inevitably generate feelings of exclusion and resentment,” the brief recounts.
In 2020, the AHA joined a friend of the court brief when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit heard the Shurtleff case.
“The misconception that the United States is a Christian nation is dangerous and should not be furthered by allowing a Christian flag to fly at a city hall,” comments AHA Executive Director Nadya Dutchin. “We urge the Supreme Court to protect the rights of Bostonians who would feel ostracized by the flying of a religious flag that does not represent them.”
Arguments in Shurtleff v. Boston will be heard January 18, 2022.
A copy of the amicus brief can be found here.
The American Humanist Association (AHA) works to protect the rights of humanists, atheists, and other nontheistic Americans. The AHA advances the ethical and life-affirming worldview of humanism, which—without beliefs in gods or other supernatural forces—encourages individuals to live informed and meaningful lives that aspire to the greater good of humanity.
Special thanks to the Louis J. Appignani Foundation for their support of the Appignani Humanist Legal Center.