The First Amendment: freedom and truth

Today’s special report focuses on the First Amendment and free speech.

Jake Weyer

Approximately one in three Americans thinks the First Amendment goes too far, according to the 2004 State of the First Amendment survey.

The First Amendment Center conducts the survey to find out what Americans think about the cornerstone of democracy that’s often taken for granted.

Although this year’s study showed more support for the First Amendment, there is still a troubling number of citizens who think they have too much freedom.

Whether to support an amendment allowing the freedom of religion, speech, the press, assembly and the right to petition should be a no-brainer. But a lack of First Amendment education and the uncertainty and fear created by terrorism and war have caused Americans to question their liberties.

During unstable times, people want strong leadership. The tendency is to follow and trust that things will be fine. But in the United States, people forget they are the leadership.

A citizenry that’s not informed of its basic freedoms cannot run a successful democracy. A population that is afraid to express unpopular viewpoints only makes it easier for the government to clamp down on basic rights.

Followers did not create the United States.

The stories in this issue examine the significance of the First Amendment today. You will find stories on the state of the press in Iraq and the debate over what implications the First Amendment has on the Internet. There are also stories that hit close to home.

Hopefully, these stories will provide insight into why the First Amendment matters and the State of the First Amendment Survey will start to reflect an American population that believes in its foundation.