Torrington officials defend Christian flag-raising at City Hall

Torrington officials are defending their decision to allow a Christian flag on the city hall flagpole.
Published: Sep. 18, 2023 at 4:52 PM EDT
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TORRINGTON, CT (WFSB) - Torrington officials are defending their decision to allow a Christian flag on the city hall flagpole.

The flag went up in a ceremony this weekend and city officials did their research in anticipation of backlash about a religious symbol being used on public property.

“The white for the cleansing of our sins, the blue the background of the earth and the red cross, the blood of Christ,” Steven Darr, Pastor of the First Congregational Church.

Darr said his church asked to fly this flag on the city’s flagpole for two weeks.

“There’s a Baptist church involved, and there’s Assembly Church involved,” said Darr.

The pastor said it’s in celebration of the faith community’s work to provide different services to people in Torrington.

Darr said, “we’re not looking to force anything on anybody what we’re doing is just ‘here’s the faith community within this town coming together to celebrate.”

The flag itself isn’t the issue but to people who oppose it’s flying over city hall like Pastor Scott Cady the concern comes from how the flag could be misinterpreted by those with less kind intentions.

“We’ve had a couple of years now where there have been some terrible incidents of violence at houses of worship some obviously growing out of some sort of animosity or hate,” said Pastor Cady. “Is it a wise thing to do? We know that some people are almost looking for excuses to look down on other faiths groups.”

The attorney for the city of Torrington said their reasoning for allowing the Christian flag to fly on the cities flagpole has to do with a 2022 Supreme Court decision

Torrington attorney Victor Muschell cited Shurtleff v. City of Boston which dealt with this exact flag and near identical circumstances.

A group asked to use the city’s flagpole and got denied.

The supreme court ruled that since other organizations used Boston’s flagpole in the past as part of a public event space.

It was an open forum, not an expression of the government’s views. Therefore, denying the Christian flag was a violation of the first Amendment.

Muschell said the Torrington could attempt to put a local ordinance in place restricting flagpole usage in the future.

It’s ordinance that could make as many waves as the flag in question.

“In my opinion it’s that you can fly whatever you want, or you fly the American flag and the state flag,” said Darr.

“Who else is going to show up to put a flag up,” said Cady. “I hope it doesn’t come to anything like that.”