Can you pass First Amendment test?

Published 12:00 am Sunday, July 3, 2011

Do you know how many and which freedoms are guaranteed in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution?

If you answered five — religion, press, speech, assembly and to petition the government — you joined a select group of citizens who actually know these rights granted to all Americans.

Only six percent of citizens know what the First Amendment says, according to recent First Amendment Center surveys.

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The sad thing is that if you asked people to name the last five winners of American Idol, the percentage would likely be much higher.

USA Today and the First Amendment Center have teamed up to create the Great First Amendment Quiz, an interactive Q&A about the document that provides the fundamental freedoms that, sadly, many citizens take for granted.

“This year marks the 220th anniversary of the ratification of the First Amendment and the Bill of Rights,” according to organizers of the quiz. “These core principles drafted by James Madison set America apart from all other nations and served as a cornerstone for democracy.”

The quiz is 20 questions. I’m kind of embarrassed to say that I only got 19 correct.

My only miss was the year the Supreme Court said the Internet was protected by the First Amendment. Not sure what I said. It was 1997.

I have to admit that I guessed on one question about what famous American said, “Free speech … rocks,” after a defamation lawsuit was dropped. It was Oprah Winfrey.

The quiz emphasized the point that the 14th amendment and a variety of court cases established that the First Amendment applies to state and local governments as well as the federal government.

My guess is that many people missed a question about whether or not the First Amendment says we are a Christian nation.

It doesn’t.

The document does rule out any form of religion test to run for office and says all citizens have the right to freely exercise individual religious beliefs.

This is a message that many people agree with in principle but not as much when it comes to practice.

Far too many people see freedom of religion as only protecting those to which they agree.

Here is where you can find the quiz:

This weekend also marks the one year anniversary of the 1 for All campaign that was an unprecedented effort to educate about the First Amendment.

According to its mission, statement “1 for All is the collaborative effort of educators, artists, journalists, lawyers, librarians and many more who believe that the American public would benefit from a greater understanding of the First Amendment and the need to protect all voices, views and faiths.”

On this holiday weekend, it would be nice if every parent and every child took this quiz to better understand the foundations of freedom our nation was built upon.

Michael Caldwell is publisher of The Tribune. To reach him, call (740) 532-1445 ext. 24 or by e-mail at