Who needs government action for people to give up their rights?

To say I am flummoxed by the results of a new poll by the First Amendment Center would be an understatement. Some 34 percent of Americans say the First Amendment goes too far in protecting freedom, according to an annual survey by the First Amendment Center.

Imagine, a third of our population believes that the Bill of Rights does too much to protect freedom of speech, press and religion, to name a few of the rights it guarantees. (Thirty-six percent of Americans cannot name any of the rights guaranteed by the First Amendment, according to the State of the First Amendment report.) The First Amendment Center points out that the survey was taken shortly after the Boston Marathon bombing and so the views of the First Amendment may well reflect “Americans’ increased willingness to give up their rights and freedoms in return for greater security when they feel threatened.” This would seem to correlate with the fact the shortly after 9/11 more than 40% of Americans thought the First Amendment went too far.

Interestingly, 47% of 18-30-year olds think the the First Amendment goes too far. I’m still pondering how that may relate to something else I observed recently. Reports indicate young people are least offended by the NSA’s massive spying on Americans. I speculate that occurs because younger people already splash their life all over social media so aren’t as offended about potential exposure of details of their private lives. I’m curious, though, what prompts the attitudes toward the First Amendment.

Also interesting is that 47% of people say freedom of speech is the most important freedom guaranteed by the First Amendment, followed by 10% calling freedom of religion the most important. On the religion front, 51% of those surveyed believe the Constitution established a “Christian nation” while half that disagree. Sixty-five percent of Americans agree that freedom to worship as one chooses applies to all religious groups regardless of how extreme or on the fringe their views may be while 31% disagree. That is the highest percentage to say the freedom to worship does not apply to extreme and fringe groups since the survey was first conducted in 1997.

The First Amendment is often inconvenient. But that is beside the point.

Justice Anthony Kennedy,
Int’l Society for Krishna Consciousness v. Lee

Comments are closed.