First Amendment Survey Finds Knowledge Lacking

Article excerpt

Byline: George Archibald, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

More than two-thirds of college students and administrators who participated in a national survey were unable to remember that freedom of religion and the press are guaranteed by the Bill of Rights.

In surveys conducted at 339 U.S. colleges and universities, more than one-fourth of students and administrators did not list freedom of speech as an essential right protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution.

More than three-fourths did not name freedom of assembly and association or the right "to petition the government for a redress of grievances."

"If one thinks of the First Amendment as a foundational American liberty, the ignorance and misunderstanding of it by administrators at our nation's colleges and universities is frightening, and the general ignorance and misunderstanding of it by students is quite depressing," said Alan Charles Kors, president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) in Philadelphia, which commissioned the surveys.

"The shocking results demonstrate a profound and dangerous failure to comprehend the moral and legal basis for religious liberty," says a summary of the findings by the Center for Survey Research and Analysis at the University of Connecticut at Storrs.

The surveys were conducted from December to May and involved 1,037 students and 306 administrators at public and private colleges and universities.

The findings were compiled and analyzed over the past six months, Mr. Kors said.

The FIRE report said the surveys provide "rigorous data" that both students and administrators who govern their life on campus showed "pervasive ignorance surrounding vital issues of American liberty."

"The surveys show that students and administrators lack the most fundamental understanding - let alone appreciation - of the free exercise of religion and of the deep importance that devout individuals attach to their faith," FIRE concluded in a statement issued with the report. …