Outside Legal Counsel PLC

Survey: Three in Ten Americans Cannot List Any First Amendment Rights

For Immediate Release | Jul 13, 2011

A survey conducted by the First Amendment Center has found that most Americans can name at least one of the five freedoms found in the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. Yet, a staggering three in ten could not list a single First Amendment right.

The First Amendment to the United States Constitution is part of the first ten amendments of the originally enacted US Constitution now known as the Bill of Rights.

The five rights include the right of free speech, free press, free assembly, religious practice, and to petition government for redress of grievances.

The annual survey was conducted by the First Amendment Center, a nonpartisan program of the Freedom Forum associated with the Newseum and the Diversity Institute.

“The numbers show that Americans understand and support First Amendment principles, even though many do not know from where their rights originate,” states Philip L. Ellison, an attorney and civil litigator at the law firm of Outside Legal Counsel PLC in Portage, Michigan.

First Amendment issues have long been a discussed and litigated as aspect of our nation’s social fabric despite being adopted in 1791 when George Washington served as President.

In March 2011, the US Supreme Court overturned a $5 million judgment in favor a father of a dead Marine who sued church members that picketed his son's funeral. Members of the church picketed with signs containing phrases such as “Thank God for dead soldiers.” The Court ruled 8-1 that the First Amendment protected “hurtful speech on public issues to ensure that we do not stifle public debate.”

Just three weeks ago, the Supreme Court also struck down a California law enacted in 2005 that bans the sale of certain violent video games to children without parental supervision as a form of protected speech under the First Amendment.

Other survey findings include:
Philip L. Ellison, MBA, JD, Esq is an attorney, business counselor, and civil litigator with Michigan-based Outside Legal Counsel PLC. Visit his online profile at www.olcplc.com