Nearly Half Of All Americans Say
First Amendment Goes Too Far
'Survey suggests many Americans see freedoms as obstacles in war on terror'
"For the first time in the annual State of the First Amendment survey, almost half (49 percent) of those surveyed said the First Amendment goes too far in the rights it guarantees -- a 10-percentage-point jump from 2001, which suggests new public concerns in the wake of the Sept. 11 terror attacks....
"'The stakes have risen for the First Amendment in the wake of September 11,' said Ken Paulson, executive director of the First Amendment Center. 'The results of our 2002 survey suggest that many Americans view these fundamental freedoms as possible obstacles in the war on terrorism.' In 2001, 39 percent of those surveyed said the First Amendment went too far in the rights it guarantees.
"'That's not to suggest a monolithic response to these core First Amendment values. In truth, Americans are of multiple minds about the 45 words drafted by James Madison,' Paulson said. 'While a majority says they respect the First Amendment, a significant percentage seems inclined to rewrite it.'...
"More than four in 10 said they would limit the academic freedom of professors and bar criticism of government military policy.
"About half of those surveyed said government should be able to monitor religious groups in the interest of national security, even if that means infringing upon religious freedom.
"More than four in 10 said the government should have greater power to monitor the activities of Muslims living in the United States than it does other religious groups.
"About 40 percent of those surveyed said they have too little access to information about the government's war on terrorism, compared to 16 percent who said there's too much. Forty-eight percent of those surveyed said there's too little access to government records, compared to just 8 percent who believe there's too much.
"The least popular First Amendment right once again was freedom of the press. Forty-two percent of respondents said the press in America has too much freedom to do what it wants, roughly the same level as last year.
"The survey also found, as in previous years, that many Americans are unable to name the five freedoms guaranteed in the First Amendment. The percentages of those responding who were able to identify individual freedoms:
"58 percent -- freedom of speech
"18 percent -- freedom of religion
"14 percent -- freedom of the press
"10 percent -- freedom of assembly/association
"2 percent -- freedom of petition..."