State of the First Amendment 2007
Religious tolerance is notably wanting, as 65% believe the Founders intended to establish a Christian nation, and 55% suggest the Constitution cements this notion. Only 56% believe that the free exercise of religion extends to all religious groups, no matter how extreme, a decline of 16% from 2000.
Support for student expression also rates miserably, as 74% would prevent students from wearing t-shirts to public school that might offend others. Press freedom fares similarly, as 60% feel that the media fails to report the news without bias and 62% think that fabricating stories is a widespread problem. On a positive note, only 34% feel that the press has too much freedom, the lowest percentage since the survey began in 1997.
In an era when several states and the federal government have passed laws restricting funeral protests in reaction to the Westboro Baptist Church, 58% of those surveyed support the spirit of such legislation, tolerating bans even on public streets and sidewalks.
In sum, the picture is disturbing, as a full-quarter of respondents believe the First Amendment goes too far in the rights it guarantees. The bitter irony is that most Americans can't name more than one of the five freedoms embedded in the First Amendment. While 64% are able to identify freedom of speech, only 19% recall religion, 16% press and assembly, and a scant 3% petition. This parallels the results of our 2006 Simpsons survey where Americans were more likely to name the members of the Simpsons family (five in total) than they were the five freedoms.
My fellow friends of the First Amendment, our work is cut out for us. Please join me on the forward front of helping all Americans better understand, value, and protect the freedoms enabled by the First Amendment.