Fanning the Flames: The Freedom Project Blog


Taxation as Representation?

By Shawn Healy
Tomorrow the U.S. Supreme Court will consider a case involving the rather mundane issue of taxpayer standing in filing lawsuits against the government for programs enacted in violation of the Establishment Clause of the 1st Amendment. The case, Hein v. Freedom From Religion Foundation developed close to home. The Wisconsin-based organization challenged the constitutionality of the White House's Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, and a federal district court in Madison turned them down, arguing that such standing applied only to cases involving congressional taxing and spending issues, not executive orders issued by the President.

In an appeal to the 7th District Court of Appeals, however, the court reversed course and ruled in favor of the plaintiffs. Judge Richard Posner wrote: "Taxpayers have standing to challenge an executive-branch program, alleged to promote religion, that is financed by congressional appropriation, even if the program was created entirely within the executive branch..."

His colleague, Judge Kenneth Ripple, in dissent, warned of a "dramatic expansion of current standing doctrine" if this decision stands. The petitioners themselves, the Office of Solicitor General, claim that the 7th District ruling goes so far as to violate the separation of powers doctrine, as the judicial branch invades upon executive branch authority.

The significance of a reversal by the Supreme Court could be a dramatic curtailment of Establishment Clause challenges by taxpayers. Stay tuned to this blog for updates on the oral arguments, the eventual decision and its long-term impact.


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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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