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October 16, 2017

Only 19 percent of Americans know the First Amendment guarantees freedom of religion

ReligiousFreedomStampThere are five freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment.

One-third of Americans can’t name a single one.

The annual “State of the First Amendment” by the Newseum Institute yet again revealed substantial ignorance about the basic freedoms guaranteed by the Bill of Rights.

Only 19 percent of survey respondents knew the First Amendment guaranteed freedom of religion. Fifty-seven percent knew it protected freedom of speech.

Awareness of the three remaining freedoms was significantly lower:

  • Freedom of the press:  10 percent
  • Right to assembly:  10 percent
  • Right to petition:    2 percent

Contrary to prevailing public attitudes, the First Amendment really says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or abridging 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.”

Did you notice how religion is first? The Founding Fathers did it to ensure the government never established a national religion, AND they ensured Americans could freely practice their faith without government interference. They had good reason to do so; things didn’t go so well back in England when Henry VIII established the Church of England as the national religion, and things went from bad to worse when he and subsequent rulers started executing people who dared to have different religious beliefs. (To be fair, other rulers were content with simply persecuting or imprisoning dissenters rather than sticking their severed heads on London Bridge.)

The Founding Fathers would be ticked off to learn that more than 80 percent of the today’s U.S. population is completely unaware we have freedom of religion, and given recent headlines, an even greater number fail to acknowledge the pesky phrase “or abridging the free exercise thereof.”

Unfortunately, the free exercise of religion has been abridged.

Our government has required faith-based organizations to pay for contraception and abortifacients as part of the Affordable Care Act,  even though some faiths are opposed to chemically-induced birth control, and others vehemently believe life begins at conception and products such as the IUD and morning-after pill destroy a developing human being.

Why? Paying for others’ birth control is more important than respecting the faith of those fitting the bill.

Freedom of religion also interferes with the political aspirations of many government officials. While speaking on women’s reproductive rights, presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton made no effort to hide her disdain for deeply held beliefs when she said, “Laws have to be backed up with resources and political will. And deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs and structural biases have to be changed.”

Why? Changing religion’s influence on families is more important than respecting the faith of those who created families by choosing life.

Some states have categorized religious objections to homosexual marriage as hate speech and discrimination. Just last week an Oregon state agency affirmed its ruling that required the Christian owners of a bakery who refused to make a cake for a lesbian wedding to pay the couple $125,000 for “damages.”

According to US News, many gay marriage advocates say the claims of religious objection are merely a cover for bias and an attempt to deprive gays of their newly won rights, and in his dissent of same-sex marriage, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts predicted a clash ahead between religious freedom and same-sex marriage, especially for faith-based houses of worship, charities, hospitals, schools. Others are now openly discussing revoking non-profit status for churches that won’t perform marriage ceremonies for same-sex couples.

Why?  Protecting the rights of LGBT Americans is more important than protecting and respecting the faith and rights of people who have a Constitutional right to disagree.

It’s time for Americans to understand and honor  ALL FIVE of the guarantees provided by the First Amendment, not just the politically fashionable ones.

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1 Comment on Only 19 percent of Americans know the First Amendment guarantees freedom of religion

  1. Amusing & sad to me how many people simply tune out when it comes to this subject…it matters. The exercise thereof should only be impeded upon if it causes danger to someone else… radicalized beliefs like I should kill you for not believing as I do – not cool. I want to let a poisonous snake bite me because that is how I prove my faith… cool have at it but you keep that to yourself because I’m I am not into that. It really should bet his simple – I have friends of many faiths – we wish one another joy and happiness on our respective holy days and are not offended by the celebration and sometimes invitation to share in that celebration…
    Life is short people…. find some happy…our constitution encourages it!

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  1. Would YOU link your identity with something that goes against your deeply held beliefs? - Roadkill Goldfish by Kim Keller

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