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First Amendment 'Goes Too Far' on Freedom, Say Record Surge of Americans

Survey finds few adults aware of freedom of religion, yet record number would deny it to fringe groups.

Can you name the five freedoms guaranteed to American citizens by the First Amendment?

Nearly 6 in 10 Americans are able to name the freedom of speech. Yet fewer than 1 in 4 are able to name the freedom of religion, according to new research from the First Amendment Center. (Meanwhile, more than one-third of Americans are unable to name any of the five.)

The center's 2013 State of the First Amendment survey reveals that only 10 percent of Americans identify freedom of religion as the most important freedom that Americans enjoy (47% choose freedom of speech instead). Women were twice as likely as men to name freedom of religion as the most important freedom (13% vs. 6%).

But even though most people don't know what freedoms they have under the Constitution, that didn't stop more than 1 in 3 Americans from saying the First Amendment goes too far in the freedoms it promises. That's nearly triple the 13 percent of people who said the same last year.

"The increase is the largest one-year rise in the survey's history," according to Gene Policinski, executive director of the First Amendment Center, "and more than double the point increase seen in the wake of 9/11—when those fearing too much freedom went from 39 percent to the all-time high of 49 percent." (The center cites the Boston Marathon bombing as a likely influence.)

Most likely to believe the First Amendment goes too far are Americans under 30 years old, African-Americans, and Latinos.

The First Amendment Center also reports that nearly 1 in 3 Americans disagree that "freedom to worship as one chooses applies to all religious groups regardless of how extreme or on-the-fringe their views," which is "the highest percentage of Americans who have said the freedom to worship does not apply to extreme and fringe groups since the question was first asked in 1997."

CT has reported extensively on both the First Amendment and freedom of religion.

Posted:July 17, 2013 at 4:51PM
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First Amendment 'Goes Too Far' on Freedom, Say Record Surge of ...