For over two centuries, our nation has held firm to the principle of free and open expression. But militant secularists in recent years have persistently launched severe attacks on religious speech—and inevitably on free speech in general—instead of letting it flourish.
It’s no secret that in our present day, political correctness has led to a censorship of religious voices. That’s one reason prompting many think tanks to ask deep—and quite possibly existential—questions about the state of the First Amendment.
Recently, the Campaign for Free Speech (CFS)—a nonpartisan First Amendment advocacy group—conducted a 10-question survey asking Americans various questions about the freedom of speech and the First Amendment.
In this special feature, we’re highlighting three key findings—and you may be shocked by what a majority of your fellow countrymen have to say about our nation’s first freedom.
The CFS survey asked Americans if they thought the First Amendment, written over 200 years ago, goes too far in allowing “hate speech” and if it should be updated to reflect today’s cultural norms.
Shockingly, more than half of Americans (51%) responded that the First Amendment is outdated and should be rewritten.
CFS also asked Americans if they think “hate speech” should be against the law. Close to half (48%) responded that it should be illegal. Of those, a majority (54%) also responded that the punishment for “hate speech” should include possible jail time, while the rest think it should just be a ticket and a fine.
Of course, the problem with outlawing so-called “hate speech” is deciding who determines what type of speech is hateful enough to be illegal. As we’ve seen in recent years, when the government decides what is or isn’t hateful speech, then it’s only a matter of time before Americans are overtly punished for expressing or living according to their beliefs—as was the case with First Liberty’s own client, Melissa Klein.
Lastly, CFS asked whether the following was a true or false statement:
“The constitution preserves the right to free speech. The First Amendment allows anyone to say their opinion no matter what, and they are protected by law from any consequences of saying those thoughts or opinions.”
While 79% answered that this was a true statement, it is actually false.
The fundamental purpose of the First Amendment is to prevent the government from punishing you for your speech, whether it’s you expressing your religious beliefs or any other viewpoint. While the First Amendment does give everyone the right to voice their opinion, it was not meant to protect anyone from the social and cultural consequences, or the discomfort that may come as a result of expressing unpopular ideas.
Free speech and religious freedom are two core principles on which America was founded. The idea that we can peacefully live in a society while expressing our beliefs and living according to our convictions is what has set America apart as a beacon of freedom for over two centuries.
The results from the CFS survey should make it clear that our country desperately needs to get back to the Constitution, especially increasing our understanding, awareness and knowledge of why the First Amendment was enacted in the first place. A thriving and free society demands that we prioritize and protect the principles—such as free speech and religious liberty—that have been a bedrock of our republic.
First Liberty wants to know your thoughts on this issue. Take our 30-second survey on the First Amendment below and our team will share the results in an upcoming FLI Insider edition.