More Freedoms than We Know

Austin Convention Room
Austin convention room. Photo by Jeff Gardner
By Jeff Gardner

One of the most eye-opening and important presentations I attended during the CMA/ACP Conference was “The State of the First Amendment.” Hosted by Andrea Frantz from Buena Vista University, it took a look at the annual national State of the First Amendment survey. This survey has been conducted since 1997 and helps measure the general American public’s knowledge and understanding about their own rights regarding the First Amendment.

The findings for the 2014 survey are as follows: When asked to name the five specific freedoms in the First Amendment, 68% of Americans name freedom of speech, followed by 29% who say the freedom of religion, 14% mention the freedom of the press, 7% mention the right to assemble, and 1% name the right to petition.

Possibly the most surprising of all is that 29% of those surveyed said they couldn’t list ANY of the rights the First Amendment guarantees.

Maybe it’s because I’m a journalism major, or maybe it’s because I’ve taken a media law class in college, but these results are a bit shocking to me. The fact that people can’t name their rights means they can’t name when the government or others infringe upon those rights, and that’s a massive personal pitfall.

This presentation made me realize how important personal rights education is, and how in need of it we are in our culture. I’m very glad I went and am now taking steps to learn as much about my rights and the rights of others as I can. Not only for myself, but so I can inform others and, in turn, strengthen them.
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