Of Flags, Flag Poles, Public Buildings & Viewpoint Discrimination

Of Flags, Flag Poles, Public Buildings & Viewpoint Discrimination

2019| Week of September 2 | Radio Transcript #1323

Remember how we began the summer in Wisconsin? Governor Evers proclaimed June as “Gay Pride Month” and issued an Executive Order authorizing the “Rainbow Pride Flag” to be flown over the state capitol and giving other state and public buildings the right to do so as well if they chose.

Like so many citizens, we were appalled by the Governor’s decision regarding the flag.  We immediately issued a press release condemning the governor’s decision based on the premise that the state capitol represents all Wisconsin citizens; and flags representing a narrow special interest group should not be permitted to fly over that building.

Based on personal observation for over twenty years and some research, other than the American Flag and the Wisconsin flag, up until Governor Evers’ recent Executive Order, I believe the only other flag that has flown over the state capitol is a POW flag, representing members of the nation’s military who are or have been prisoners of war. The military represents all citizens in securing our freedom and way of life.

We asserted while what the governor did isn’t illegal, it was, at a minimum, ill-advised and very divisive. The “Rainbow Pride Flag” certainly doesn’t represent all the citizens of this state and is even offensive to many.  In our press release I rhetorically questioned whether the Governor would let other flags representing various other groups fly over the capitol, including the Christian flag, which doesn’t represent all the citizens of this state either.

But there just might be more to this incident than many think.  Last week the Christian legal group Liberty Counsel was in federal court in Boston asking the court to rule that a Boston resident and his Christian civic organization, Camp Constitution, be allowed to fly the Christian flag on Boston’s City Hall flagpoles. Based on our argument regarding the flying of the gay pride flag over our state capitol, you’d probably think we would be on the side of City Hall. But we’re not. This situation is notably different from what happened here, and that difference is instructive and important.

The difference is that the city of Boston refers to its flagpoles as “public forums” and allows private organizations to temporarily raise their own flags on the flagpoles almost weekly.

According to Liberty Counsel, “[t]he undisputed facts reveal that Boston has allowed more than 300 flag raisings by private organizations on the City Hall flagpoles, including the Turkish flag (which depicts the Islamic star and crescent) and the Portuguese flag (which uses religious imagery). City officials have also never denied the ‘messages’ communicated by the ‘Chinese Progressive Association,’ the LGBT rainbow flag of Boston Pride, and a ‘transgender’ pink and blue flag….”

The City is censoring only the Christian flag, which Liberty Counsel’s press release notes would have been raised only during a one-hour event held by Camp Constitution on September 17 in observance of Constitution Day, to celebrate the civic and social contributions of the Christian community to the City of Boston, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, religious tolerance, the Rule of Law, and the U.S. Constitution.

As Mat Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel, notes, “The city’s discrimination against Camp Constitution’s religious viewpoint is unconstitutional and must end. Where the city of Boston never censored numerous flags from private organizations, it cannot ban the Christian flag by Camp Constitution.”

This denial by the City to fly the Christian flag is viewpoint discrimination that our constitution prohibits. Because Boston has allowed all these other flags to fly on city flag poles, it is legally bound to let the Christian flag fly as well.

This will be an interesting case to follow, to be sure. For us in Wisconsin, viewpoint discrimination means technically now that Governor Evers has allowed the gay pride flag to fly over the capitol, he’d have a very hard time denying other groups the same opportunity, whether religious in nature or not.  The governor may ultimately deeply regret the unfurling of the gay pride flag over the state capitol.

This is Julaine Appling for Wisconsin Family Council, reminding you the Prophet Hosea said, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.”

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