Fanning the Flames: The Freedom Project Blog


First Amendment Flagged

By Shawn Healy
The Supreme Court yesterday, in another unanimous First Amendment decision, ruled that the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association (a state actor according to a separate 2001 decision) did not violate the First Amendment rights of Brentwood Academy's football coach who mailed recruiting letters to prospective players prior to their matriculation.

Justice Stevens, joined in judgement by his eight peers, but limited by the five conservatives through concurring opinions, said that because Brentwood joined the TSSAA voluntarily, some standards restricting free speech are permissible, this one seeking to level the playing field for other high schools, particularly public ones competing against a perennial contender.

Concurring opinions by Justices Kennedy and Thomas arguably limit the scope of the decision's First Amendment impact, applying it largely to the specific context of this case. The conservative majority (Kennedy, Thomas, Roberts, Scalia, and Alito), in an ironic twist of fate, seems to be evolving into staunch defenders of freedom of speech. This formula will be tested in the next week when the Bong Hits 4 Jesus decision is unveiled.


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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