Support for the First Amendment

Support for the First Amendment has eroded significantly since Sept. 11, and nearly half of Americans now think the constitutional amendment on free speech goes too far in the rights it guarantees, says a poll released Thursday.

The sentiment that the First Amendment goes too far was already on the rise before the terrorist attacks a year ago, doubling to about 40 percent from 2000 to 2001.

The new poll found that 49 percent think the First Amendment goes too far.

“Many Americans view these fundamental freedoms as possible obstacles in the war on terrorism,” said Ken Paulson, executive director of the First Amendment Center, based in Arlington, Va., which commissioned the survey. Almost half also said the media has been too aggressive in asking the government questions about the war on terrorism.

The center, which also has offices in Nashville, asked the University of Connecticut’s Center for Survey Research and Analysis to measure views about the First Amendment.

The poll of 1,000 adults was taken from June 12 to July 5, and has an error margin of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

The researchers said they designed this year’s survey, in part, to test the “public’s willingness to tolerate restrictions on the First Amendment liberties during what they perceive to be wartime.”

They found that 48 percent of respondents agreed the government should have the freedom to monitor religious groups in the interest of national security — even if that means infringing upon the religious freedom of the group’s members. Forty-two percent said the government should have more authority to monitor Muslims.

The survey also found a dip in the number of people who think newspapers should freely criticize the U.S. military about its strategy and performance. Fifty-seven percent were supportive this year, compared with 69 percent in 2001.

This is really scary! Anyone who will give up freedom for some imagined sense of security deserves neither

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