The 2018 State of the First Amendment survey has been released by the Freedom Forum Institute’s First Amendment Center, and to put it bluntly, the news is NOT good!

In other good news, three out of four Americans (77%) are supportive of the First Amendment and the freedoms it guarantees. Unfortunately, most Americans are generally unaware of what those freedoms are. More than one-third of the survey respondents (40%) could not name a single freedom guaranteed by the First Amendment, and another third of the respondents (36%) were only able to name one. Only one respondent out of the 1,009 people surveyed was able to correctly name all five freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment. Many more respondents (9%) thought that the First Amendment guaranteed the right to bear arms (a right that is actually guaranteed by the Second Amendment).

2018 State of the First Amendment Report

So while most Americans are supportive of the First Amendment, it appears most of them don’t know what it actually says.  I’m sure many of you think this a failure of our education system and I would agree, but only if we include ourselves in that system.  I’m not surprised that our governments aren’t teaching to our children the limitations the Constitution puts on them.  But that begs the question: Why do we hand our children over to the government to be educated?  Why don’t we oversee our children’s education?  Why don’t we make sure our schools are teaching what is important and holding our school board members and other elected officials accountable if they don’t?  If our fellow citizens don’t know what is in the First Amendment, then it’s our fault for not making sure they were taught it, either in our schools or in our homes.

I believe it’s this lack of education that leads to many of the other results found in the survey.  The fact that over half of Americans believe a person should be forced to create something (a violation of a person’s right to free speech) even if doing so violates their beliefs (a violation of their right to freedom of religion).  70% believe a person should have their invitation to speak at a college retracted if others may react violently.  If done by a public school, this is not only a violation of the person’s free speech rights, but also of the assembly rights of those who wished to hear the speaker.  Some of you may be saying the protesters have a right of assembly as well, which would be true if it’s a peaceful assembly, but the question was “if people would react violently”.  In fact, half of those surveyed thought an invitation should be rescinded because the student body might protest.

Some of the results were quite disturbing.  Almost one-fourth of respondents thought the First Amendment goes too far in protecting freedoms.  I wouldn’t be surprised if those respondents were exercising those very freedoms at the time they answered the survey.  Almost half think the government should monitor and remove speech on social media.

While not all the news was bad, this survey continues to show a general ignorance about the Constitution through several widely held beliefs that are not only antithetical to our Constitutional Republic, but destructive to our liberties.  If we wish to remain the land of the free, we must start by learning what our freedoms are and how to protect them.  To do that we should start by reading and understanding our Constitution, the freedoms it protects, and the ways it protects them.  Only then will we be prepared to defend and assert those freedoms and the self-governing nation that we have inherited.

Author: Paul Engel

Paul Engel founded The Constitution Study in 2014 with the goal of helping everyday Americans read and understand their Constitution. Author, blogger, podcaster and speaker, Paul writes and podcasts at http://constitutionstudy.com. You can also find his books at http://amazon.com/author/paulengel

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