The Satanic Temple is unable to raise its flag at Boston City Hall as the city’s program remains suspended.
Earlier this month, the Satanic Temple applied to have one of its flags raised in Boston after the Supreme Court ruled Boston violated free speech rights when it refused to fly a Christian’s groups flag.
“Religious Liberty is a bedrock principle in a democracy, and Religious Liberty is dependent upon government viewpoint neutrality,” Lucien Greaves, cofounder of The Satanic Temple, previously said in a statement. “When public officials are allowed to preference certain religious viewpoints over others, we do not have Religious Liberty, we have theocracy.”
But the city said it’s not currently an option as the program was suspended on Oct. 19, 2021. It did not state if or when the program is returning. However, a city spokesperson said Boston is considering next steps.
“We are carefully reviewing the Court’s recent decision and its recognition of city governments’ authority to operate similar programs,” a city spokesperson said. “As we consider next steps, we will ensure that future City of Boston programs are aligned with this decision.”
The Supreme Court ruling was from a 2017 incident. According to court documents, Boston refused to let Camp Constitution, a New Hampshire-based Christian organization, hoist its flag in front of the third flag pole at City Hall Plaza as part of a ceremony in 2017.
The commissioner of Boston’s Property Management Department said that flying a religious flag at City Hall could violate the city’s Establishment Clause — which prohibits a government from establishing an official religion.
But Boston has allowed different flags in the past.
Between 2005 and 2017, Boston approved the raising of around 50 unique flags for 284 such ceremonies, court documents said. The majority of the flags were of other countries, however, some were associated with groups or causes, such as the Pride Flag.
Camp Constitution sued the city, claiming that Boston’s refusal to let them raise their flag violated the First Amendment’s Free Speech Clause.
In the recent ruling, the supreme court said Boston could not discriminate on the basis of the religious group’s viewpoint without violating the Constitution.
“We conclude that, on balance, Boston did not make the raising and flying of private groups’ flags a form of government speech,” the supreme court said. “That means, in turn, that Boston’s refusal to let Shurtleff and Camp Constitution raise their flag based on its religious viewpoint ‘abridg[ed]’ their ‘freedom of speech.’”
Greaves said he’s working on following up with the city, which had not responded to him.
But the current program being suspended is not likely to deter the group, which opened its first official headquarters in Salem in 2016.
They don’t view Satan as an evil figure, but as one who dared question authority. The group mostly advocates for the separation of church and state and is known for attempting to get its one-ton goat-headed idol statue put next to the 10 Commandments monument on public grounds.
The group recently said in a letter to the Food and Drug Administration that abortion is part of a religious ritual, and preventing access to treatments that can terminate pregnancies violates religious freedom.
The announcement was in response to Texas’ abortion law, which went into effect Sept. 1, outlaws abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected. And was furthered by a report from Politico that stated that the nation’s highest court voted to reverse Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 case that legalized abortion nationwide.
“I hope that with the leaked draft of the Supreme Court majority opinion overturning Roe v. Wade, more people will wake up to the fact that these efforts by The Satanic Temple are actually high stakes frontline battles to preserve the basic rights of all, and not merely clever ‘pranks’ to expose already well-known hypocrisies,” Greaves said.
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