Know Your Rights
March 1, 2006
by Samantha Harris
As Robert just pointed out
, Canadians do not have the same rights to free speech and expression that we have in America, and are more vulnerable to censorship. We are lucky enough to have a First Amendment that strongly protects our expressive rights, but it seems that most of us don’t even know it!
According to a study released today
, more Americans can name two members of the cartoon family The Simpsons
than can name the five rights protected by the First Amendment (freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, freedom of religion, and the right to petition for redress of grievances). The study also found that more people could name the three American Idol
judges than could name even three of the First Amendment rights!
This is a sorry state of affairs indeed. If Americans do not know their rights, they will not know when those rights are being threatened. Every day, we see public universities trying to restrict speech that is protected by the First Amendment, and it is crucial that students at these universities understand that this is illegal. For this reason, education is a key part of FIRE’s mission. Through our Guides to Student Rights on Campus
and other educational efforts, we hope to arm students and faculty at America’s colleges and universities with the information they need to defend their rights against would-be censors. Beyond the universities, however, all Americans should take the time to educate themselves about their fundamental rights. Trust me, it is time well spent.