A federal judge today tossed Hal Shurtleff's suit alleging religious discrimination because city officials wouldn't let him fly an explicitly Christian flag from one of the three flagpoles that rise over City Hall Plaza.
Shurtleff, a former John Birch Society official, has been trying since 2017 to get the city to let him get his flag on the pole. Federal judges have repeatedly rejected his request to make the city run the flag up while his suit continued.
Today, US District Court Judge Denise Casper granted the city "summary judgment," basically telling Shurtleff enough already and ending his suit - unless he appeals.
As she - and the federal appeals court in Boston - kept telling Shurtleff and his Florida lawyers in rejecting his requests for injunctions, the city has a right to use the pole for "government speech" and decide what can and cannot fly on it.
Shurtleff argued the city was violating his religious rights and noted that some of the flags that the city has allowed, such as the Portuguese flag, have Christian elements.
Casper said that Shurtleff had it backwards, that by rejecting explicitly religious flags, the city was complying with the establishment clause of the First Amendment, by not showing favoritism towards any one religion. Portugal? Although its flag might, in fact, have symbols representing Christ's wounds on the cross, the city let it fly as a symbol of friendship with the nation of Portugal, not to show favoritism toward its Catholicism and a rejection of Shurtleff's style of Protestantism.