With the McCormick Tribune Foundation Freedom Museum art competition winners released on Tuesday I thought it would be appropriate to bring up the recent The First Amendment Center survey results that showed that one out of four Americans believe the press has too much freedom. The only comfort that journalists may find in the survey is that fewer people say that than in recent years.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
The 2005 State of the First Amendment survey shows that 70 percent of Americans would OK the posting the Ten Commandments in government buildings, and that 85 percent would approve if the commandments are included as "one document among many historical documents" when displayed in public buildings, the First Amendment Center said. The study also found:
- Nearly 80 percent of respondents agreed that broadcasters should be allowed to televise the proceedings of the U.S. Supreme Court, though less than half agreed that broadcasters should be able to televise any courtroom trial they wish.
- 75 percent said that as part of a classroom discussion, public school students should be allowed to express views that others might find offensive, but just 27 percent agreed that students should be allowed to wear T-shirts with messages or pictures that might offend others.
- 64 percent endorsed increasing fines to as much as $500,000 for over-the-airwaves broadcasters "who violate government rules" regarding content on broadcast television, But 60 percent opposed extending government authority to regulate content on broadcast television to programs on cable or satellite television systems.
- 63 percent disagreed that the "government should be allowed to access records of materials borrowed by public library patrons," while 77 percent said library patrons should be told when the government asks for records of what they have borrowed from the library. On June 15, the House of Representatives weighed in, voting 238-187 to block the part of the Patriot Act that applies to library and bookstore records, though not to online searches.
- 23 percent of Americans said "the First Amendment goes too far in the rights it guarantees," compared to 49 percent in 2002 (the first survey done after the 9/11 attacks) and down from 30 percent in 2004.
How do you feel about The First Amendment?
Check out the rest of the study results here.