Hal Shurtleff of Camp Constitution requested a permit to raise a “Christian Flag” at a Constitution Day event at the Boston City Hall Plaza in September 2017. He had no idea that the subsequent denial of that permit would lead to a landmark Supreme Court decision upholding the First Amendment and clarifying the often-used phrase “a wall of separation between church and state.” The permit denial by the City of Boston and the subsequent legal case highlights the conflict between the written words of the First Amendment and subsequent inferences of their meaning.
The initial sentence of the First Amendment, often referred to as the Establishment Clause, reads:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof . . .
Establishment of a religion” clearly refers to the European practice during and subsequent to the Middle Ages in which ruling monarchs forced adherence to their chosen religion. Those who refused were discriminated against, tortured, or murdered. The Spanish Inquisition (1478 – 1834 A.D.) is often cited as an extreme example of the brutal practice of discriminatory violence against non-believers. As was so often the case, the primary target was the large and prosperous Jewish community in Spain. Sanctioned by Pope Sixtus IV, the Catholic Spanish monarchs were authorized to name “inquisitors” to force Jews to choose between Baptism or torture and death.
The words “separation of church and state” do not appear in the US Constitution or Bill of Rights. The often-quoted phrase appears in letters and legal decisions, the most famous of which was written by Thomas Jefferson. In his 2021 opinion essay, Austin Cline states, “The absence of this phrase does not mean that it is an invalid concept or that it cannot be used as a legal or judicial principle.” To support his hypothesis, Cline cites the phrases “right to privacy” and “right to a fair trial” and states, “the absence of these specific words does not mean that there is also an absence of these ideas.”
In disagreement with his argument, the basic components of the “right to privacy” and “right to a fair trial” are clearly expressed in the Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Amendments. The words of the Establishment Clause, however, only prohibit the “establishment” of a government religion and do not imply in any way the necessity for government to erect a “wall of separation” between government and religion. The original text is specific in that regard in spite of subsequent attempts to embellish the concept based on political agendas.
In its decision last May, SCOTUS ruled unanimously that the City of Boston violated Hal Shurtleff’s First Amendment right of free speech because of his religious viewpoint. The City’s argument was based on the “separation of church and state” concept and was rejected by the Court. The City of Boston did not supervise the flag raisings or visually inspect any groups’ flags. The City rejected Camp Constitution’s flag only because it was called a “Christian Flag” while allowing flags of every other description and message to be displayed on the plaza. SCOTUS ruled that the flag raisings were events by private citizens and groups, did not constitute government speech, and, therefore, were protected by the First Amendment.
The Supreme Court must actively and aggressively protect individual Natural Law Rights and freedoms as outlined in the Bill of Rights and preserve the system of checks and balances prescribed by the Constitution. They are required to prevent lower court judges from acting as de facto legislators in direct violation of Article I, Section 1 of the Constitution (“All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States . . . . “). The preservation of our Constitutional Republic depends on their vigilance.
Trust in Freedom and Resist Tyranny!
Dr. Dan’s guest on Freedom Forum Radio this weekend is Hal Shurtleff, Co-Founder and Director of Camp Constitution. Shurtleff teaches the genius of our United States Constitution and the benefits of free-market economic principles, which together gave our nation an unprecedented history of growth and prosperity, making us the envy of the world.
Camp Constitution is held for five days each summer at the Singing Hills Christian Camp in Plainfield, New Hampshire. The camp’s motto is “Honoring the Past, Teaching the Present, Preparing the Future.” This year’s camp dates are Sunday, July 16 to Friday, July 21, 2023.
Shurtleff is a U.S. Army Veteran who spent two years in West Germany and a year in the 101St Airbourne, and he is a member of the Sons of the American Revolution.
Additionally, Shurtleff hosts a weekly radio show that airs on WBCQ The Planet and has appeared as a guest on hundreds of radio shows. He is married with five homeschooled children and two grandchildren.
Don’t miss part one of this two-part interview beginning this weekend, Saturday and Sunday, December 10-11 on WJRB 95.1 FM and streamed live over the Internet. Part two streams Saturday and Sunday, December 17-18. Streaming times are Saturday at 8:00 am and 9:30 am and Sunday at 2:30 pm and 7:00 pm. All programs are available by podcast following air time here.