Fanning the Flames: The Freedom Project Blog


Loose Ends

By Shawn Healy
Turns out that Illinois' Silent Reflection and Student Prayer Act isn't mandatory after all, seeing that the legislation lacked punitive mechanisms for school districts who failed to implement its mandates. US District Judge Robert Gettleman made this determination in a case concerning Buffalo Grove High School, stifling further practice at this school even though it proceeds elsewhere. The Judge has yet to rule on the constitutionality of the mandate, but the defendants promise a class-action suit to force the issue.

Two legislators are already pushing for an amendment to remove the mandate altogether. Since a similar statute has already been on the books since 2002 allowing districts to hold a moment of silence at their own discretion, we're apparently back to square one. Stay tuned.

Out in the Rockies, Colorado State's Board of Student Communications, composed of both students and faculty, acted to cement their status as publisher of the student newspaper, the Collegian. Given the Board's relationship with the university, free press concerns of potential censorship emerge.

Remember, this is the paper where Editor Michael McSwane invoked a four letter word critical of President Bush and the unrelated tasering incident at the University of Florida. The Collegian is independently funded, but does rent office space from the university, and is subject to supervision from the BSC, partially composed of professors employed by a public university, thus implicating the First Amendment.

McSwane, as expected, sides decisively on the side of press freedom. "Punishment for speech is punishment for speech. How is that not censorship?"

The BSC is set to meet on November 27th for final consideration of the proposed policy, and if adopted, hold tight, for more litigation may be in the works.


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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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