With all the hullabaloo over Associate Justice Samuel Alito’s leaked draft opinion reducing any American with a uterus to an involuntary fetus decanter, another Jesus-adjacent SCOTUS decision flew under the radar on Monday.
The high court ruled that the city of Boston violated the First Amendment rights of a group that wanted to raise a Christian flag outside city hall as part of a program that welcomed various emblems in celebration of civic pride. Because the flag-raising program amounted to a public forum, the court stated, the city could not discriminate against the group, Camp Constitution, based on the religious content of its display.
And unlike Alito’s draft decision scuttling Roe, this ruling was unanimous, as it hinged narrowly on whether the displays amounted to “government speech.”
Central to the case was whether the flagpole is perceived as an example of government speech. If so, the city has a right to limit displays without violating free speech principles. The Free Speech Clause of the Constitution restricts government regulation of private speech, it does not regulate government speech. But if, on the other hand, the display amounts to private speech, in a government-created forum where others are invited to express their views, the government cannot discriminate based on the viewpoint of one of the speakers.
[Justice Stephen] Breyer concluded that the flag-raising program “does not express government speech.”
Okay, then. We’re all agreed! The flags are not considered government-endorsed speech, so Boston can’t limit who participates based on religious affiliation. So where do we go from here?
This sounds like a job for The Satanic Temple!
The Satanic Temple is hoping to raise one of its flags in front of Boston City Hall after the Supreme Court ruled Boston violated free speech rights when it refused to fly a Christian group’s flag.
“Religious Liberty is a bedrock principle in a democracy, and Religious Liberty is dependent upon government viewpoint neutrality,” Lucien Greaves, cofounder of The Satanic Temple said in a statement. “When public officials are allowed to preference certain religious viewpoints over others, we do not have Religious Liberty, we have theocracy.”
Say it with me now: “Hail Satan!”
In all seriousness, as an ex-altar boy who rejected God decades ago but somehow retained all the crushing Catholic guilt, I find this whole issue kind of annoying. Christians and other religious folks have literally hundreds of millions of acres of private land on which to build their displays, shrines, creches, Festivus poles, and other knickknacks, and yet they continually feel compelled to proselytize in public venues—in clear defiance of Jesus’ expressed wishes. These controversies would disappear overnight if people just stayed in their lanes.
In my marginally informed opinion, Satan and God are equally proficient at not existing, so in one way I don’t have a dog in this hunt. But in another, far more accurate way? I’m totally rooting for Satan and his temple.
Here’s a bit more on the group, from Masslive:
[The Satanic Temple doesn’t] view Satan as an evil figure, but as one who dared question authority. The group mostly advocates for the separation of church and state and is known for attempting to get its one-ton goat-headed idol statue put next to the 10 Commandments monument on public grounds.
Of course, conservatives will shit a pallet of Wetzel’s Pretzels the moment a Satanic flag is raised over Boston’s city hall, but they should have thought of that when they decided to shove their dogmas into every nook and cranny of public life. Sauce for the goose and all that.
Personally, I couldn’t care less if a Christian group is briefly flying flags on public land in Boston, so long as they don’t block other religions’ access to the same space. But that means all religions get the same access—including the hallucinogenic-toad-licking Rip Taylor mystery cult I’ve been workshopping in my garage during my downtime between absinthe benders and binging Succession. Is this really a workable policy?
And, to be fair, The Satanic Temple is actually being sincere when it engages on these issues—far more sincere, I’d argue, than their Christian counterparts.
“I hope that with the leaked draft of the Supreme Court majority opinion overturning Roe v. Wade, more people will wake up to the fact that these efforts by The Satanic Temple are actually high-stakes frontline battles to preserve the basic rights of all, and not merely clever ‘pranks’ to expose already well-known hypocrisies,” Greaves told MassLive.
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