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Greg Peck: A patriotic pop quiz this Fourth of July week

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Greg Peck
July 3, 2014

Quick: Name our First Amendment freedoms.

If you can't, don't feel too badly. You're not alone. It's sad, but true—rare is the American who can name all five freedoms. The new annual survey by the First Amendment Center verifies that.

For the record, the First Amendment guarantees our freedoms of speech, religion, press, assembly and petition.

The First Amendment Center has been conducting annual surveys since 1997. It's worth noting that the percentage of Americans who could identify freedom of speech went from 59 percent last year to an all-time high of 68 percent. Perhaps that's not surprising given the debate over the Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United ruling, which held that the First Amendment prohibits the government from restricting political spending by corporations, associations and labor unions.

The survey also showed that those who could name freedom of religion ticked up from 24 percent to 29 percent. That, too, might not be surprising, given the case of Hobby Lobby, which this week won a 5-4 Supreme Court ruling. The high court ruled corporations can hold religious objections that allow them to opt out of the Obamacare requirement that they cover contraceptives for women.

Only 14 percent could name freedom of the press. That's sad, too. It was heartening, however, to learn that 80 percent of respondents agreed that it's important in our democracy that the media act as a government watchdog.

Only 7 percent could name the right to assemble, and a paltry 1 percent named the right to petition.

As we mark our nation's independence this week, the lack of awareness about our freedoms offers little to celebrate.

Greg Peck can be reached at (608) 755-8278 or gpeck@gazettextra.com. Or follow him on Twitter or Facebook.



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