City of Boston To Pay $2.125 Million Settlement In Lawyers’ Fees For Refusing To Fly Christian Flag

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The city of Boston will compensate a Christian legal group after refusing to fly a Christian flag outside of city hall in 2017.

The city has agreed to pay $2.125 million to Liberty Counsel, according to court documents filed in U.S. District Court in Boston. This will cover the organization’s attorney fees and legal costs amid its legal battle with the city.

The settlement comes after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 9-0 this past May that the city had to allow the Christian flag to be flown outside of city hall. The case is Shurtleff v. City of Boston.

Liberty Counsel represented Hal Shurtleff and his organization, Camp Constitution, in their case against the city, beginning in 2017.

“We are pleased that, after five years of litigation and a unanimous victory at the U.S. Supreme Court, we joined with Hal Shurtleff to finally let freedom fly in Boston, the Cradle of Liberty,” Matt Staver, Liberty Counsel founder and chairman, said in a press release issued by the Liberty Counsel.

Shurtleff and Camp Constitution requested that the city fly a Christian flag on the city hall flagpole in 2017 to commemorate Constitution Day and Citizenship Day (September 17); the city denied the request.

Before rejecting this request, the city had approved 284 flags between 2005 and 2017, according to Liberty Counsel. The legal group argued that denying the Christian flag was a form of religious discrimination. 

The case reached the U.S. Supreme Court after four lower courts sided with the city. 

“Indeed, the city’s practice was to approve flag raisings without exception — that is, until petitioners’ request,” liberal Justice Stephen Breyer wrote in the court’s opinion. “Because the flag-raising program did not express government speech, Boston’s refusal to let petitioners fly their flag violated the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment.”

The Court noted that Boston lacked a written policy on what flags could and could not fly and what message they could convey at the time the request was made.

Following the Supreme Court decision, the Christian flag was flown outside of Boston City Hall for several hours on August 3, 2022.

A spokesman for the city of Boston told NewBostonPost in an email message that the settlement was made to avoid any further legal action in the case.

“The city’s law department determined this number to be reasonable based on the detailed billing statements provided by Liberty Counsel and through their own analysis of rates charged by attorneys with similar experience in Boston as well as nationally among attorneys practicing in the Supreme Court,” the city spokesman said. “Settlement at this time also allows the city to avoid the costs and uncertainty associated with further litigation in this case.”

The city’s mayor at the time of the lawsuit and the filing of appeals was Marty Walsh, the current federal Secretary of Labor. A spokesman for Walsh could not be reached for comment on Friday.


Screenshot of document filed in U.S. District Court in Boston.


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