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May 16, 2022 2:10 pm
This week on Family Policy Matters, host Traci DeVette Griggs sits down with Mat Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, to discuss the U.S. Supreme Court religious liberty and free speech case that Staver recently argued, Shurtleff v. City of Boston. The High Court issued a unanimous 9-0 ruling in Staver’s favor earlier this month.
Family policy matters and engaging and informative weekly radio show and podcast produced by the North Carolina family policy Council hi this is John Ralston, presidency, family, and were grateful to have you with us for this week's program is our prayer that you will be informed, encouraged and inspired by what you hear on family policy matters and that you will flow better equipped to be a voice of persuasion for family values in your community, state and nation, and now here's our house to family policy matters. Tracy Devitt Griggs thanks for joining us this week for family policy matters, while the US Supreme Court has been front and center in the news in recent weeks. Many of us may have missed an important unanimous ruling, the high court issued on May 2. That case has important religious liberty implications for joining today by attorney Matt Stabler who successfully argued this case at the US Supreme Court. He is founder and chairman of Liberty Council of Christian ministry, working to advance religious liberty, the sanctity of human life and the family through several outlets, including strategic legislation. Matt Stabler welcome to family policy matters.
Thank you to be with you.
First of all, tell us a little bit more about what your organization's goals are and what some of the outlets that we just mentioned that you work through to achieve those goals.
The mission has always been the same since 1989 that is to advance religious freedom, the center of human life and then later in the 90s we did the third prong, which is the family threats to God's natural design for family husbands and wives male and female, and we do that through litigation in the courts all over the country as well as public policy giving information and guidance to legislators so that we can have good laws that actually align with good society and are inconsistent alignment with our values.
Let's talk about this case that I mentioned in the opening its shirtless versus the city of Boston. So what were the circumstances that led to this lawsuit against the city Boston began back in 2017 where and how shirtless the founder of Camp Constitution wanted to have an event in the city of Boston on the public policy and by the flagpoles, both of which were considered for 12 years by the city of Boston as public forms 1/3 term open to all applicants again, that's their term and their policy, and he wanted to as well.
It does have an event for one hour talking about the Judeo-Christian history of the history of Boston. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the founders including John Adams, John Quincy Adams and others. He wanted to temporarily raise the Christian flag on one of the flagpoles that they designated as a public forum open to all applicants for 12 years.
The city Boston did not censor a single flag of private flag raising applications at 284 no denials, virtually no review but then how shirtless application came across the desk and they censored it. They censored it, not because the flag itself, flag itself is not the problem. One word on the application caught the attention of a Boston city official who was approving or reviewing these applications and that is the word Christian associate with the word flag. He did not solely because of the word Christian. He said to how shirtless if you called it anything but Christian call of the Camp Constitution apply call it anything, just don't call Christian we would grant your approval. But if you call it Christian were going to deny it and so that's how it actually begins was very clear they didn't hide the fact that indeed they were censoring the Christian viewpoint.
They tried to defend themselves, but they clearly admitted that it was the Christian viewpoint that was not welcome.
So really it wasn't a policy that they wanted to open all applicants. They only wanted to open it to people that they agreed with, but that was the constitutional violation that this 90 to Supreme Court decision ultimately shut down always amazes me. It's like help people get into these positions and not understand what some of the legal precedents are that already been in place, can you talk a little bit about those. I mean, he should've known that right to be an easy issue when houseful of got the denial we should surely must be a mistake. Let's send a demand letter will clear it all up know they dug their heels and they said no. This is Christian speech viewpoints were going to censor it and we can and we must because of the so-called establishment clause and that they said now it's really government speech which makes no sense because for 12 years. They included private displays of procommunist China mounts I done and about a week later anti-communist China and timeouts I done, and those were by private citizens will was the city speaking out of both sides of his mouth. One week it's pro China pro communism Pro mall.
The next week is anti-China anti-communism anti-mouse was clearly private individuals become a speech on public form.
They said no. They're going to censor. We filed a lawsuit. We thought surely this would be easy to resolve know what happened is you realize how far off the constitutional platform.
These churches have gone and in fact in this case we lost in the lower court when we appeal to the Court of Appeals.
We thought surely will win here and we lost 30 who have backed down for additional discovery found more applications that they had granted.
Not a single denial 284/12 years with no denials, etc. house because of its Christian viewpoint. We thought surely this would win the case.
Note we lost again went back to the same Court of Appeals panel 30 loss another time. And so it was stunning how off-base these judges were we asked the Supreme Court for review.
They saw the significance of the case, of course, and now I got a 9 to 0 decision, which really is great in the sense that there is no shadow under which these judges were some of the naysayers can hide and say well I agree with this dissenter. There are no dissidents.
It was a slamdunk huge when in fact the Boston Herald the day after this decision on the very front page took up the entire front page regarding this case and in bold letters they said supreme spanking and they talked about this case with the Christian flag. The lower court's dear arguments for denying this site it will caught up with the idea that you don't typically fly Christian flag on public flight told her that there's just no way you could actually do that that would be an establishment of religion, and we should look at the policy. Look at the practice. 12 years. We also have a policy that says that the public form that it's open to all applicants. You can exclude religious viewpoints from a public form.
They were so much against religious speech so much anti-Christian animus. I think coming from these judges that they ended up reaching a result that they wanted to without even addressing the core issues and so this is now going to assume that this is Boston speaking in Boston can say whatever they want to, so they can exclude you.
Although they don't exclude anyone else that would win the day. That's pretty obvious. But no, we lost and obviously that's what caught the attention of the US Supreme Court.
Mama got a 90 decision rights to talk a little bit about how that decision came about. What were some of the comments made during the argument, there is an interesting comment was first by Justice Breyer. He asked me as I was arguing and this question was followed up by Justice Kagan to the city attorney after my argument and that is why did the case not settle as above, you know, we thought was going to be an easy situation, but the city dug its heels in and would not budge, and you don't want. If you're defending here at the Supreme Court.
The last person you want to ask you this question is Justice Breyer Justice Kagan, what you settle the case.
Expect Justice Kagan said to the city attorney You made a mistake. What in his subtle move on. It looks like you have placed what flights go down. The only flag he didn't allow that was this Christian flag that looks like a violation of the free-speech projects.
Those were the kinds of comments that came out during the argument. The good thing is that when the decision was actually written.
It's not only 90. But Justice Cavanaugh has a great concurrence. He says specifically that religious persons, religious organizations, religious symbols, they are not. You cannot censor them under the Constitution. When you allow these other secular symbols speech and organizations to have their own viewpoints and justice Gore such said with regards to the so-called lemon test patient. How did the city get the so wrong while they relied upon this outdated terrible lemon test going back to 1971 he says that came about during that era where the justices were more freewheeling and not consistent with the original intent and understanding of the Constitution. Those days are long gone.
He called it the bygone era and he noted that none of the nine justices raised the lemon defense. He noted how this is now a new era and in fact the lemon test has been the favorite weapon of people who want to censor religion and religious viewpoints or religious symbols like nativity scenes they've raised that to ultimately intimidate government officials and use that as a defense to censor and the good news is over the years we've chipped away at that.
We moved forward with this religious, free-speech and viewpoint litigation and this is a culmination of many years of litigation and strategy that started back in the 1990s. So this is a very significant case far beyond the Christian flag because somebody might say well I don't fly Christian flagger there's nothing like that in my county or my city right but the fact is, there's afterschool programs there's renting of facilities. For example, churches in schools on Sunday. There's public ban shells that are in the public parks that you might want to use for an event there is library community rooms was always public for all over the country and what this case stands for is that you cannot censor religious viewpoints from these public form or marketplace of ideal locations.
Comment is the unanimous ruling is very rare to get unanimous ruling by the justices on any issue certainly noncontroversial issue, but even more so a controversial issue, one that typically would perhaps split votes in religion always splits votes.
Whether it's a religious symbol religious speech, but in this particular case, to get a 90 decision on this issue is an incredible situation and I think it really silences the critics. In fact, one nice thing about it is if there was even one dissenter that raised the sky is falling kind of argument it would have been that which had gotten most of the print in the newspaper they would've quoted that person.
There's not a single justice. That's a naysayer on this case.
So all of the dissenters that otherwise would not agree with religious free-speech had nothing to hang their hat on. They have no shadow to hide in joke. It is very unusual and it has a very powerful opinion. I think for that reason alone.
It magnifies the impact of the case said earlier that anti-Christian animus and how you found that to be stunning, especially from so many different panels of judges. Is this a wake-up call for us should we be alarmed as Christians in the marketplace as a wake-up call because it shows you that some of these judges below.
Whether it's in the District Court of the Court of Appeals that is the problem.
Most of these cases. Don't ever get to the US Supreme Court. So those that ultimately lose in the Supreme Court doesn't take up the case. The fact is that you know you got have some changes and consequently what happens is that we need no selections matter because it matters, who's in the White House is nominating these judges at the federal and state level. It matters when were electing state judges are having state judges appointed because they're the ones that are out there making a lot of these decisions, good or bad, consistent or inconsistent with the Constitution. Many of these cases that otherwise should be winning like shirtless case here. They don't ever make it to the US Supreme Court. So it's a big issue and we have to be cognizant of that.
I think the one thing that we want to certainly emphasizes.
Don't give up if you've been discriminated against censored in your viewpoint. Like in this particular case, don't just simply walk away because more than your speech is affected if you don't challenge it. You don't move forward with this kind of a challenge and write the system and someone else is going to be censored and by lack of challenging it becomes a policy in the practice of these government officials that think they can get away with whatever they want to. The recourse is for people to go to organization such as yours are when you recommend yeah absolutely they need to go to liberty councils website LC.org. We evaluate these cases we don't charge for anyone that we decide to take away can take every single case, but will send out demand letters or will, in this case, particularly the US Supreme Court whatever is necessary, but this is a great example. It's a great example that Hal Shurtleff just didn't give up when he got denied he ended up contacting liberty councils. We looked at his case.
We evaluated it and we didn't give up. Neither did he. Any step along the way. That's great victory. Now with this precedent that will echo through history and of course he just gave us your website and that's very simple LC.org and you can go there to follow the good work that Matt Stabler and his colleagues are doing. Matt Stabler, founder and chairman of liberty counsel. Thank you so much for being with us on family policy matters. Thank you so much and thank you for what you're doing listening to family policy matter. We hope you enjoyed the program in plenitude and again next week to listen to the show online insulin more about NC families work to inform, encourage and inspire families across Carolina go to our website it NC family.award that's NC family.org. Thanks again for listening and may God bless you and your family