Young People Diss First Amendment; Porn Arrests Continue

Since 1997, the First Amendment Center has supported an annual survey of American attitudes about the First Amendment.

Can you name the five rights guaranteed by the first amendment? (See below *) Only 2/3 of Americans can name one. After freedom of speech, familiarity with the First Amendment (FA) drops dramatically. Over 1/3 of Americans can’t name any of the rights it guarantees.

On the positive side, almost 2/3 of Americans say the FA does not go too far in protecting freedom. But 1/3 say it does. Perhaps most disappointingly (and dangerously), half of 18-30-year-olds agree that the FA goes too far in the rights it guarantees. African-Americans and Hispanics are equally dubious—1/2 of each group say it goes too far in its protections.

And yet 3/4 of 18-30 year-olds say musicians should be allowed to sing “offensive lyrics.”

One wonders if these young people, Blacks, and Hispanics understand exactly what the FA protects. You want to criticize your Congressmember? It protects you. You want to worship rabbits, the sun, or Rush Limbaugh? It protects you. You want newspapers, websites, and TV to be able to investigate and report the news? The FA guarantees this right. You want to get a few dozen of your neighbors together and march to City Hall to protest the George Zimmerman verdict? You can.

You want your favorite musician to be allowed to sing “offensive lyrics,” right? In Russia, the members of Pussy Riot will be in jail until they’re sick and forgotten.

People who say the FA goes too far in protecting our rights presumably mean other people’s rights. I’ve never heard someone say “I shouldn’t be allowed to worship my own oddball religion,” or “My songs are so radical I shouldn’t be allowed to sing them in the park.”

I’m in no way a conspiracy theorist (after all, never attribute to evil what can be explained by stupidity). But surely our government doesn’t mind that half of our young people and largest ethnic minorities don’t understand just how far their rights are protected—and why it’s so absolutely essential that they are.

Speaking of which, do people who diss the FA understand that without it, their porn is gone? Their video games are gone, their Daily Show is gone, even their tattoos are in danger? And did I mention their porn is gone? And that without the FA, Mormonism could easily be outlawed, and evangelical Christians could be zoned out of building churches? And did I mention that porn would be gone?

Speaking of porn, yet another poor clerk was arrested May 7 for selling porn DVDs in a Florida convenience store. Fortunately, Minakashiben Patel was able to get pro bono representation from super attorney Larry Walters, who reminded Polk County, Florida of that First Amendment that 60 million Americans think protects us way too much.

Still, the state only agreed to drop the case if Ms. Patel “donated” $2,000 to the Drug Abuse Prevention Fund. And even then, she won’t get back the DVDs seized by police, another financial burden. In fact, attorney Walters couldn’t even learn the titles of the confiscated movies, because they’re treated as contraband.

Sheriff Grady Judd’s stated goal is to eliminate pornography from Polk County. One day he will die. But there will always be another generation of Sheriff Judds to replace him. That’s why we’ll always need another generation of attorneys like Larry Walters, and another generation that can name, and support, the extraordinary protections of the First Amendment.

[* Freedom of the press, freedom of religion, freedom to assemble, freedom to petition the government, and freedom of speech.]

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