Fanning the Flames: The Freedom Project Blog


First Freedom Under High Court Scrutiny

By Shawn Healy
The Court's shrinking caseload has disappointed First Amendment followers in recent years with a dearth of cases invoking the five freedoms. Recent activity suggests otherwise. In addition to the Bong Hits 4 Jesus case, the Supreme Court earlier heard a case involving union dues as a form of political speech, and on Friday granted cert to a case considering taxpayer standing to file suit when one feels executive action violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

One must typically show harm to file suit against a given law, but the Supreme Court made an exception to this in 1968 when it comes to the Establishment Clause. One's status as a taxpayer was deemed sufficient. The case involves the constitutionality of Bush's faith-based initiatives, and while it does not directly interpret the Establishment Clause, a ruling favorable to the executive could open the door for a more direct relationship between church and state by curtailing citizen lawsuits.


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Managing Director

McCormick Freedom Project

Shawn is responsible for overseeing and managing the operations associated with the McCormick Freedom Project. Additionally, he serves as the in house content expert and voice of museum through public speaking and original scholarship. Before joining the Freedom Project, he taught American Government, Economics, American History, and Chicago History at Community High School in West Chicago, IL and Sheboygan North High School in Wisconsin.

Shawn is a doctoral candidate within the Political Science Department at the University of Illinois at Chicago where he received his MA in Political Science. He is a 2001 James Madison Fellow from the State of Wisconsin and holds a bachelor's degree in Political Science, History, and Secondary Education from the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

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About Fanning the Flames and the McCormick Freedom Project

Fanning the Flames is a blog of the McCormick Freedom Project, which was started in 2006 by museum managing director Shawn Healy. The blog highlights the news of the day, in hopes of engaging readers in dialogue about freedom issues. Any views or opinions expressed on this blog represent those of the writers alone and do not represent an official opinion of the McCormick Freedom Project.

Founded in 2005, the McCormick Freedom Project is part of the McCormick Foundation. The Freedom Project’s mission is to enable informed and engaged participation in our democracy by demonstrating the relevance of the First Amendment and the role it plays in the ongoing struggle to define and defend freedom. The museum offers programs and resources for teachers, students, and the general public.

First Amendment journalism initiative

The Freedom Project recently launched a new reporting initiative with professional journalists Tim McNulty and Jamie Loo. The goal is to expand and promote the benefits of lifelong civic engagement among citizens of all ages, through original reporting, commentary and news aggregation on First Amendment and freedom issues. Please visit the McCormick Freedom Project's news Web site, The Post-Exchange at

Dave Anderson
Vice President of Civic Programs
McCormick Foundation

Tim McNulty
Senior Journalist
McCormick Freedom Project

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