Williams & Connolly Files Amicus Brief in Support of Freedom of Speech in Boston Flag Case

December 2021

On November 22, 2021, Williams & Connolly filed an amicus brief on behalf of the American Civil Liberties Union (“ACLU”) and the ACLU of Massachusetts supporting a private group’s claim that the City of Boston violated the First Amendment by denying the group’s request to display a Christian flag for a single hour on a flagpole near City Hall.  For more than a decade, the City had opened its flagpole to similar, temporary displays of flags by private groups—approving 284 flag-raising requests in a row without denying a single one.  In this case, however, the City denied the request based on its concern that allowing the group to temporarily display a religious flag would violate the Establishment Clause.  

In the brief filed by Williams & Connolly, the ACLU argues that once a government generally opens a forum to private speakers, as the City did here, it may not deny access to particular speakers simply because they express religious viewpoints.  The ACLU further argues that it would not offend the Establishment Clause to allow the group to display a religious flag for a single hour on a single day on a flagpole that the City opened to a diverse range of private speakers.  

The Williams & Connolly team representing the ACLU includes Lisa Blatt, Matthew Nicholson, Michael Mestitz, and Peter Jorgensen.  The ACLU and ACLU of Massachusetts attorneys on the brief include David Cole, Daniel Mach, Heather Weaver, Ben Wizner, Brian Hauss, Jennesa Calvo-Friedman, Matthew Segal, and Ruth Bourquin.  

Click here to read coverage by The New York Times and here to read the amicus brief. 

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