Fanning the Flames: The Freedom Project Blog


Brethren Back to Work

By Shawn Healy
The U.S. Supreme Court officially kicks off its 2009-2010 term today with an intriguing docket of 55 cases and growing. The conservative-leaning 5-4 majority is poised to take on a heavy load of cases involving business regulation in a political climate receptive to more intense government oversight of the private sector. Will the Roberts Court put the breaks on Obama's ambitious agenda?

The First Amendment also holds a front seat in the public gallery with the already reheard case concerning "Hillary: The Movie" as a proxy for the extent to which corporate money can play in federal elections. Simply stated, are campaign donations equivalent to speech, and if so, what level of scrutiny does the Court apply to corporate speech?

The clash between free speech and animal cruelty will also be put to the test, as state laws criminalizing the distribution of videos depicting acts of extreme violence toward animals are in question. Another Establishment Clause case considers the presence of a giant cross on public land that was later partitioned to the VFW.

Of local interest is a challenge to Chicago's 27-year old gun ban, an ordinance strikingly similar to the DC ban struck down by the Court last June when a 5-4 majority declared that the Second Amendment confers an individual right to "keep and bear arms." The remaining question was whether the Second Amendment applies to state and local laws, as DC is a federal territory. McDonald v. Chicago could make incorporation a reality. Stay tuned for more intense coverage of this potentially landmark case.

Finally, the Roberts Court weathers its third new iteration in 4 years with the coming of Sonia Sotomayor and the retirement of David Souter. On the surface, this appears as a tit for tat exchange of moderate liberals, but history tells us that "fair is foul, and foul is fair" when it comes to expectations and actual performance on the bench. Also lurking on the horizon is the probable retirement of the Court's longest-serving Justice, the 89-year old John Paul Stevens, who stands as the Supreme's liberal lion.


Blogger Chris said...

Please be advised that the case is not NRA v. Chicago, it is McDonald V. Chicago.

The NRA case was not granted cert, there are two separate cases.

1:37 PM  
Blogger Shawn Healy said...

My understanding is that the two cases were consolidated.

1:47 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

The cases were consolidated in the lower courts but both filled for cert independently and only McDonald v Chicago was granted cert.

More info here:

1:51 PM  
Blogger Shawn Healy said...

Correction noted. Thanks for the tip.

4:17 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

Thanks Shawn!

4:24 PM  

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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