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Supreme Court takes up Sen. Cruz’s campaign finance challenge, dispute over Christian flag in Boston

The Supreme Court said Thursday that it will hear a challenge brought by Sen. Ted Cruz to federal campaign finance limits and a dispute over Boston’s refusal to let a group fly a Christian-oriented flag on a city pole.

The court granted the new cases from among hundreds that have piled up over the summer as it prepares for the start of its new term on Monday.

The dispute between Cruz, a Texas Republican, and the Federal Election Commission involves candidates who make personal loans to help finance their own political campaigns. The candidates can accept a maximum of $250,000 in repayment from the campaigns, even if they loaned the campaign more than that.

A 2002 law limits the amount of money that candidates can accept from donors after an election as they seek to have their campaigns repay the personal loans. A lower court ruled that the limitation impermissibly burdens a candidate’s political expression, violating the Constitution.

Cruz challenged the law after he defeated Democratic Rep. Beto O’Rourke in the 2018 election. Cruz said he loaned his campaign $260,000.

The justices also agreed to take up an appeal filed by a volunteer group, Camp Constitution, which says its mission is to “enhance understanding of the country’s Judeo-Christian heritage, the American heritage of courage and ingenuity, the genius of the United States Constitution, and free enterprise.”

In 2017, it applied for permission to raise its flag, which includes an image of a Christian cross, on a flagpole outside Boston’s City Hall as part of a program that lets private groups fly their flags to increase public awareness. But the city turned Camp Constitution down, saying that it does not allow nonsecular flags on City Hall flagpoles.

The group sued, saying the refusal violated its free speech rights. But lower courts ruled for the city, finding that allowing the Christian flag would amount to a government endorsement of religion.

In recent years, the Supreme Court has been especially receptive to claims that government actions amount to a restriction on religious freedom.

The Supreme Court will hear both cases early next year and issue decisions before the end of June.

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