The Constitution and the Ten Commandments: a Christian group plants its flag
The case was taken up by the United States Supreme Court.
Boston banned the flag — a white banner with a red Christian cross in a blue rectangle — as a reflection of the government’s endorsement of religion. But during arguments last month, Supreme Court justices from all ideological backgrounds said the city erred in violating the right to free speech.
The camp’s appeal to the High Court has also received support from the US Department of Justice and the American Civil Liberties Union.
The question is whether the city reserved the flagpole as a public forum open to private organizations and causes, or whether the city was engaging in official, protected discourse in choosing which flags it would endorse.
“Private parties are free to wave their flags in City Hall Square or even raise a temporary flagpole there,” Douglas Hallward-Driemeier, an attorney representing the city, told the Supreme Court. “But they can’t commandeer the city flagpole to send a message that the city doesn’t approve of.”
Until Camp Constitution’s application was denied, nearly 300 groups had been allowed to fly flags on one of three poles outside City Hall. Camp officials said they had hoped to honor Constitution Day, which falls on September 17.
For Craft and others at the camp, the city’s denial is more fodder for their argument that religious groups face government discrimination in a country whose founders routinely sought divine intervention and guidance.
“I never intended to have him turned down. It was the last thing on my mind,” said Hal Shurtleff, who co-founded Camp Constitution in 2009. However, he added, “I could say that God put it in my heart to raise the flag.
The flag, a non-denominational design more than a century old, flew from the house where Shurtleff, other camp officials and former campers gathered on a recent afternoon.
Shurtleff, 62, of Alton, NH, said Camp Constitution leaders “don’t want a theocracy.” Instead, the organization states, its mission is to teach “the principles of liberty, liberty and our nation’s divine heritage.”
This mission revolves around a week-long summer camp, to be held this year at Singing Hills Christian Camp in Plainfield, NH, which features many of the activities found at other camps: archery , Wiffle ball, a chess tournament, songs to sing, even a daily .
The camp also has a shooting range, where a photo on its website shows a young camper with a 5.56 caliber Tavor shotgun, a semi-automatic weapon whose magazine is located behind the trigger and allows for a shorter design and more concealable.
Outdoor activities are complemented by a strong educational component, with classes on topics such as the Second Amendment, the Bill of Rights, the Electoral College, and the influence of religion on political thought.
The camp also offers lectures on a wide range of topics, including COVID-19. In a presentation, the website shows, a camp instructor presented a controversial talking point that describes COVID as the sole cause of death for just 6% of the more than 900,000 U.S. deaths attributed to the virus by officials. health authorities.
This 6% figure, however, does not represent the vast majority of COVID-related deaths that have been exacerbated by underlying conditions such as heart disease and obesity, or conditions such as respiratory failure caused by the COVID.
None of the three camp leaders interviewed by the Globe said they had been vaccinated against the virus. Shurtleff said he contracted and recovered from COVID.
“These mask mandates are ridiculous. It just gives people a false sense of security,” said Shurtleff, who argued that COVID mandates are an example of creeping government overreach.
“It seems more than obvious, and what’s more concerning is that so many people seem to be complying,” Shurtleff said.
One of the objectives of Camp Constitution is to reinforce the idea of individual freedoms.
“There are a lot of people who are new to the patriot movement,” said Shurtleff, an Army veteran who hosts a weekly Camp Constitution radio show. “Our goal is to help train potential teachers, CEOs, politicians and the most important thing – parents.”
A big part of achieving that goal, Shurtleff said, is instilling more religious sensitivity at all levels of the US government.
“Adherence to religious principles can help bring closer adherence to the Constitution,” Shurtleff said. “How? Those who adhere to the religious principles set out in the 10 Commandments and the Golden Rule will most likely take their oath of office seriously.
The Constitution, according to the camp’s website, has been tarnished by “abuses and perversions.”
According to Shurtleff, examples include “aiding and abetting illegal aliens by shipping them all over the United States instead of deporting them,” mask and vaccine mandates, foreign aid, and the U.S. Department of Health. Education, which he says has no authority under the Constitution. and should be abolished.
Many of the roughly 150 campers, most in their mid-teens, come from home-schooled families, Shurtleff said, as opposed to public schools he says were hijacked by socialists decades ago.
“We want to raise children who are constitutionally sound,” said Edith M. Craft, who runs programs for young campers and is the chaplain’s wife. “We have to start when they are young.”
Adults are also drawn to the camp program. Kathleen Lynch, mother of two from Westford, decided to attend on her own last year.
“The Constitution is the law of our land and we are not getting a good education in our public schools. I need to get better at understanding the document, Lynch said. “I fear the Constitution will be shredded.”
Lynch said she has First Amendment concerns that “speech is being suppressed,” especially on social media platforms where “fact checkers” and others can delete posts or ban people altogether. contributors.
Shurtleff and other camp leaders interviewed by the Globe lean far to the right on issues such as climate change, gun rights and election integrity.
“I don’t see palm trees growing in our backyards,” Shurtleff said of the effects of climate change. “We don’t think the world will end in eight years. It’s about more government control.
Of the 2020 election, Shurtleff said, “I think it was very possible that Trump would win. … I wouldn’t accuse Trump of being a constitutionalist, but I think he was one of the best presidents of my life.”
And Chaplain Steven Craft, who is black, has rejected the introduction of critical race theory, which examines issues of racial justice in America, into American education.
“There is only one race, the human race,” Craft said.
Critical race theory, he argued, teaches that “there are only two kinds of people in America, the oppressor and the oppressed. Martin Luther King said that people should not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. What happened to that? »
Shurtleff said he doesn’t assume the Supreme Court will rule in favor of a small camp that draws fewer than 200 people. But he still hopes his efforts to make a small, symbolic statement outside Boston City Hall will stick.
“You never know how a Supreme Court will decide,” Shurtleff said, “but it looks good.”
Brian MacQuarrie can be reached at [email protected]