Remember Shurtleff v. City of Boston, the Christian flag case in which the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled last year that Boston could not exclude Christian messages from a city flagpole? Well, MFI just helped achieve victory for free speech in an almost identical situation in Billerica – only this time, the flag that the town was poised to reject was a flag promoting the pro-life movement.
Over the years, the town of Billerica had approved requests from many private groups to raise flags commemorating their favored causes. For the week of Columbus Day, the town allowed the Sons of Italy to raise the Italian flag, commemorating their Italian Heritage. On the anniversary of the Armenian genocide, the town allowed an Armenian group to raise the Armenian Genocide Commemoration flag. And for LGBTQ Pride month, the town not only approved a resident’s request to raise the Pride flag, but issued a proclamation in support of LGBTQ Pride. Yet, when a local pro-life group sought to generate awareness for Respect Life Month by raising their flag this October, the select board publicly signaled that they would likely vote to reject the request. They also indicated that they would likely pass a policy banning all private flags from city flagpoles.
When MFI heard from the pro-life group that they might be unfairly excluded from flying their flag, we drafted a letter to the select board advising them of the law. We told them about the Shurtleff case, but they were especially surprised when MFI arranged to have Hal Shurtleff himself, the plaintiff in the case, to call into their recent meeting to tell them they needed to let the pro-life flag fly!
Thankfully, the Billerica select board heard the message and ended up voting to allow the pro-life flag to fly during the last two weeks of October! One board member even commented that while she had come into the meeting planning to vote down the flag request, she was convinced that the pro-life group had just as much of a right as anyone else to make their voice heard in Billerica. Through a combination of passionate and respectful local advocacy and MFI’s legal support, we achieved a win for free speech in this important case.
MFI believes that communities are stronger and more vibrant when they allow for a diversity of opinions on important issues. That is why we will always stand for your right to advocate for life, liberty, and the Gospel in the public square. Would you support our work and enable more of these victories by making a donation today?