Are You Smarter than a Half-Term Governor? Almost Half of Americans Aren’t When it Comes to the First Amendment

1082084_10152164487027489_1650931769_nIf I said that this news shocked me I would be lying, because it really doesn’t.  Especially after the recent Phil Robertson/Duck Dynasty controversy where the ignorance many Americans had about our First Amendment and “freedom of speech” was on full display.

I’ve always known that when it comes to the Constitution, most Americans treat it like they do the Bible.  They pick and choose what they want to follow, while ignoring what they don’t.  It’s also something people like to interpret for what they want it to protect instead of what it really protects.

Which is partially proven by a recent poll that showed nearly half of all Americans believe that the First Amendment protects an employee from being disciplined at work for something they say.  Much in the same way Phil Robertson, of the popular show Duck Dynasty, was very briefly suspended by A&E several weeks ago for comments he made about homosexuals.

The poll showed that 45 percent of Americans believe the First Amendment protects people from being fired from a job for expressing their views, while 36 percent said the Constitution does not protect against such a firing.

I invited many people who believed Robertson’s suspension was a violation of his First Amendment rights to walk into work the next day and openly express their feelings toward their boss or anyone else in their place of employment whom they strongly disagree with.

These people apparently believe Americans should be allowed to go into work and insult anyone they want because that’s their “First Amendment right” to do so.

They would be wrong.

The First Amendment protects Americans from government prosecution for saying most things (there are of course exceptions, like no yelling “bomb” in an airport or “fire” in a movie theater).  It doesn’t protect Americans from any repercussions they might face from private groups or employers.

You can absolutely be fired, suspended, demoted or face any number of other punishments for things you say and do as an employee of a specific company.  Again, the First Amendment protects us against repercussions from our government — not private entities.

Honestly, I don’t get what’s so hard to understand about this.  What if someone is staunchly anti-homosexual but their boss is gay?  Does the First Amendment give them the right to walk into work and insult their boss for their sexual orientation?

Absolutely not.  And if you think that it does you’re nuts.

But while this poll isn’t exactly shocking, it’s still disheartening that nearly half of all Americans (at least judging by this poll) seem unable to grasp such a simple concept as what the First Amendment protects.

So to once again simplify this for these people, the First Amendment protects against government prosecution — it does not mean that Americans have the right to say or do whatever they want without facing repercussions from private groups or employers.

Allen Clifton

Allen Clifton is a native Texan who now lives in the Austin area. He has a degree in Political Science from Sam Houston State University. Allen is a co-founder of Forward Progressives and creator of the popular Right Off A Cliff column and Facebook page. Be sure to follow Allen on Twitter and Facebook, and subscribe to his channel on YouTube as well.


Facebook comments

  • Jayme S Kennedy

    Prob the people that voted for her in the first place! wow…

  • hhtamu88


  • Karlheinz Groeger

    Not surprising!

  • Mick

    I’m an Australian, so I haven’t lived under the get out of jail (so to speak, in some cases) free card called the 10 Amendments, but is it possible to tweak them?
    e.g. Right to keep & bear arms (but only if you’re law enforcement).etc

    • Lan

      It is possible to change them via other amendments but it will never happen. There is too much division in our government to ever get anything off the ground.

      • Peter Simatos

        believe that it can be changed by 75% vote of the populace

      • Joi Owen

        Maybe in your state, but not at the federal level.

      • sewmouse

        Peter – read the Constitution. The method for amending the document is outlined in Article 5

      • Peter Simatos

        remembered that 75% was the number, but it’s states not populace. Government class was a long, long time ago. Class of 69

    • Jim Bean

      Then who protects the people from corrupt law enforcement?

      • Chris Ritzer

        I’m really sick of this ‘corrupt cops’ argument. Not every police officer is some corrupt, power-mad asshole, and to think otherwise is ludicrous. It’s like saying all teenagers are disobedient juvenile delinquents who all spend their time in gangs and creating graffiti.
        It’s also, a very PARANOID perspective, I might add, to claim people need their guns to protect them from the people who are supposed to protect them. It doesn’t make you smart, just paranoid, and paranoia is not something to be proud of, but rather, it is something to be ashamed of.

      • surfjac

        BUT, we do have corrupt cops, So who protects from corrupt law enforcement?
        Shouldn’t two cops who kill someone under arrest be punished? Shouldn’t a cop who shoves a broomstick up the ass of someone who’s been arrested be held accountable?

      • Reynard Vulpes

        Yep, and that’s a classic been there done that occurrence. You wouldn’t know about it had they not been brought to justice.

        And you have read of cops being charged arrested, and convicted for murdering someone under arrest. You will again.

      • Jim Bean

        I never said every one was corrupt, or most are, or too many are. They are no more or less likely to be unethical than anyone else in society. But history is full of tragic examples of well armed governments massacring people who try to overthrow an unwanted government. Current death toll in Syria is around 110,000. Anyone who tells me he’s decided its in my best interest for him to render me defenseless is most certainly not looking out for me first. And nearly everyone murdered in this country was mortally wounded BEFORE the police showed up. And did you see what surfjac said to you? I don’t wanna be havin me no broomstick stuck up my butt. 🙂

      • ettore

        sad to say, i’ve witnessed a fair amount of thuggish behavior on the part of police, who, after all, come very close to having a license to kill. it’s a tough-guy, bullying culture, in my view, and should never be tolerated. here in my city we have just had a change in administration, new mayor gets to appoint a new police chief. new mayor says she’s looking for chief who will turn around some parts of this thuggish culture. head of of the police union says no way, the cops will resist.this was in the paper.

      • moe/larry & curly keys

        non corrupt law enforcement

      • Chris Ritzer

        Surfjac, nobody said there were no corrupt cops, nor that they shouldn’t be held accountable. But the number of corrupt cops is very very few.

        Jim Bean, you certainly implied that you thought a majority of police officers are corrupt, and even still, your argument is still based on fear and paranoia. And by the way, the people of this country DO overthrow the government pretty regularly. We just call them ‘Elections.’ As of yet, we haven’t really had much for Government massacres.

      • moe/larry & curly keys

        jim bean assimilates large quantities of grain alcohol whilst viewing FOX “news”

      • Reynard Vulpes

        AHHA… Now you can explore the Second amendment. And the fourth, and .. well, just read.

    • Joe

      The word itself…Amendment… means t hat something got changed. The forst ten amendments, or The Bill of Rights, wasn’t even a part of the Constitution until later. It was added to make the Constitution stronger, but wasn’t something the Founders thought about when they were writing the Constitution. Either way, there is a process for changing amendments, as seen in the case of prohibition. But, since there’s so much confusion about the amednments themselves, it’s unlikely the Bill of Right would be altered.

      • strayaway

        I would be happy if they were observed instead of being whittled away. The Fourth Amendment, for instance, is under attack and the Tenth Amendment tends to be ignored by both parties.

      • J P

        Actually there is a great deal of documented support that the Founders did have the concepts in the bill of rights in mind all along, but waited for what amounts to political reasons involving ratification of the constitution prior to adding them.

    • Reynard Vulpes

      Yes, legislatively .. it’s a little complex, and by another amendment, again complex in that it requires more than a majority of states to sign off on it. We are a republic, not a democracy per se. The latter is one of those dangerous utopian fantasies, and a pure disaster where they’ve been tried. Populists take wonderful rides on democracy.

      Hitler’s Germany was one. Most people don’t get the connection to democracy and fascism but they are tight as cojoined twins.

  • Jim Bean

    People make irrational projections of the constitution all the time. Other recent ones held that the founding fathers consciously intended to protect abortion and gay marriage (even though those things were not socially acceptable when they wrote the bloody thing.)

    • moe/larry & curly keys

      or that some( any) scumbag religion is( should be?) in our governmental policies……. religion in our government———-superstitious VOODOO ( religion) in our government!!!

    • Amy

      Or the SCOTUS saying that the second amendment protects the rights of private citizens to own whatever guns they want. It doesn’t. The Amendment is clearly 1 sentence and is referring to a well regulated militia, not Joe the plumber.

      • Actually Amy, SCOUTS did not say that a private citizen has the right to own whatever guns they want. Scalia clearly states in the Heller ruling that the 2nd Amendment does not give you the right to any weapon for any purpose.

      • Reynard Vulpes

        You beat me too it. Thanks. The commenter is no doubt referring to the 2nd meaning that only if you are in a militia, and that of course strongly suggests the lack of skills in grammar so many these days suffer from.

        They have a terrible time with their tenses. Those who do not read that last phrase accurately. It refers to a preexisting right being protected so that the state had a ready body of militia members. Not that you had to be in a militia to posses, or bear, arms.

        It’s not the least ambiguous. Grammarians that comment on it agree.

        The question of what is meant by arms is not answered, but it is in various letters and papers expressing the intent of the framers. It was the arms common to the battle field infantryman.

        We should be able to “bear.” machine guns, but of course the vagueness had to do with the Anti federalist sentiments at the time and so like other parts of the Constitution, the wording is vague and leaves another avenue open,

        “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.”

        — The United States Constitution, Amendment X, 1789

        This would, of course, actually, if we chose to challenge our states’ laws, leave the decision of what the bear as arm up to the people, as it says above.

        Since we are a nation of laws under states of laws we are bound by the state. Laws controlling arms more locally have been successfully challenged and will be continually tested in coming years.

        It’s the platform of the Open Carry demonstration movement, the media has very slyly distorted. It began with a citizen, veteran, arrested for walking on a country road armed with his son, in pig country being wrongfully arrested .. even the local law didn’t say he couldn’t but the ignorant LEO thought he had the local ordinances behind him.

        That’s how Occupy and other movements are born frequently. Lawlessness by the government. And we muddle along and it works. And it works so much better than other systems. Blessed by the muddle.

    • astromiami

      I never heard anyone claim the founding fathers consciously intended these protections. The nature of the constitution is that it sets forth principles, so that it can govern things that the writers could not foresee.

  • dutch163

    oh thank goodness I AM smarter than Sarah Palin..LOL..
    I knew the 1st amendment protects free speech from govt. prosecution…but not from consequences from private companies…or from individuals…so if someone calls you stupid and ugly you do not have to associate with them any more…LOL

    • lindylou

      I never gave it any thought, in the terms of grassing either my boss or a co-worker, except that it is bad and will get back to you. I am still smarter than Sister Sarah.

  • Janis1270

    Sad but true, it was never a first amendment issue

  • moe/larry & curly keys

    im not smarter than she is——————- she has figured out how 2 capitalize upon the stupidity of white trash regressive religious idiots,,,,,,I haven’t figured that out yet. NOTE: I still wanna have a ton of consensual sex with her- she is yummie

    • Marc_Hutton

      You confusing lack of anytype of morals with intelligence. Sara Palin is not only stupid but she is a narcissist lacking any morals that will do anything to make money. Moral highly intelligent people not suffering from mental illness are incapable of doing this.

      • moe/larry & curly keys

        well; if FOX “news” came to me and said “here is 500K per year for 5 years and we want you( me) to eviscerate liberals nightly” I would sign up instantly. I guess Im mental !! ( but behind closed doors I would be telling the REAL truth about regressive white trash republicans)

      • Chris Isner

        Yup, you’re no better than they are. That’s sad.

      • giankeys luvs shemale porn

        making 500K or more is sad??
        im lachrymose!!

      • Miguel Angel Lopez

        I would join you money makes people happy

      • gian keys LOVES shemale porn

        I don’t know if it makes us happy,,,,,,but I would rather be wealthy and sad than broke and sad

    • Chris Isner

      What is it about mindless savagery you find so sexually stimulating?

      • giankeys luvs shemale porn

        don’t care as I will be able to shut her up– its her sexy body which I like- plus I wager she has a ( probably dormant) great sexual appetite
        ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,and: NATURAL breasts!!

    • mickey

      open a church, just say god, and the money will roll in

    • Reynard Vulpes

      That’s pretty close to necrophilia, pal. You sure you’d go through with it? That’s the first thing that comes to my mind, nor her physical looks. That I’d be plonking a brain dead patient.

      • giankeys luvs shemale porn

        she is a sexy Looking woman,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,, so if U wanna call her dead so be it– wet is wonderful as long as its warm

    • lindylou

      That comment does not say a lot for you, dude, except that you think you are totally HOT and the only thing you are good for is scoring HOT chicks. Not relationship-worthy,

      • gian keys LOVES shemale porn

        I better inform my live-in girlfriend ( 13 months so far)
        im not ” totally hot”………….. even though my gal says so
        I suspect STRONGLY that U– indeed– are not “hot” at all

  • Edward Krebbs

    Are you smarter than Sarah ? There’s no reason for you to be insulting me. In all seriousness, I’d love to see a breakdown by political affiliation.

  • strayaway

    Oliver Wendall Holmes opinion was that no one can yell “fire” in a theater. I disagree. The first Amendment says that there can be NO abridgment of free speech. However, for practical purposes, Holmes was right. Someone yelling ‘fire” in a theater could and should be cited for disturbing the peace, and sued for damages to the theater owner and for the reckless endangerment of people and property.

    • Chris Isner

      I tend to agree. That would be a case of civil suit rather than State prosecution. If the State could prosecute people for being idiots, Sarah Palin would have been lethally injected years ago.

      • giankeys luvs shemale porn

        sexually injected –by me– is MY judicial ‘punishment’

  • ettore

    i want to say a few things.
    (1) part of the reason, it has turned out, that we have the Supreme Court, is that some provisions of the Constitution are in conflict with others, and we need a way to resolve these contradictions. so it’s not at all illogical that we common folk cherry-pick our favorite parts.
    (2) i wish i remembered which Justice from quite a while back said “the Constitution is what I say it is”. Since justices come and go, but are not honest enough to put it the way that Justice did, there is no immutability, despite what Scalia would like, at times, to pretend.
    (3) the author of this article skirts the issue of employer control over the private lives of employees. his examples are about prohibited speech in the workplace. i have a HUGE problem with an employer having ANYTHING to say about what we do on our own time. i would like to see either (a) a Supreme Court re- interpretation of free speech to provide protection from this gross abuse of “the power of the purse” or, failing that, (b) a constitutional amendment to correct it.
    by the way, the same should apply to drug testing. the only thing that really matters is performance on the job.

    • Jim

      That quote sounds like Ned Beatty in “Shooter”.None of our current members of SCOTUS would go along with you because none of them are activists. Unless you were exercising your religious freedoms at work, especially in terms of discriminating against pregnant womens.

    • Reynard Vulpes

      I’m not the least surprised you’d forget the role of the employee’s union. They have both failed so much and been disregarded so much they haven’t much power these days. Not enough at any rate.

      But there are laws in some states. You might look at your state Department or Secretary of Labor for some help with oppressive employers. I’ve testified at some arbitration and the Labor sec sends very competent people. My friend won.

  • melinda Goldman

    My door knobs are smater than her !

  • marecek21

    With regret I must conclude that the problem relates more to willfulness than to utter ignorance. People think that what they want to be true IS true.

  • Chris Isner

    Just as it is impossible for the acutely stupid to recognize intelligence greater than their own (as with any mental disorder, if the stupid were able to do so, they would have no choice but to admit that their stupidity and such an admission would render them no longer stupid, just terribly ignorant (that’s some catch, that Catch-22!)), it is also very difficult for intelligent people to comprehend the level of stupidity on which most Americans operate: a jaw-droppingly, absolutely mystifying level of mindlessness that seems almost sub-human at times, but given that the vast majority of them would staunchly deny being Homo if asked, it very well may be a case of speciation.

    • Chris Isner

      I surely do love run-on sentences 🙂

      • Jim

        That one is a humdinger, as we used to say.

      • Reynard Vulpes

        The provenance of the profoundly intelligent. You didn’t recognize it? Tsk. 😉

      • gian keys LOVES shemale porn

        the accuracy of his non perfect ( irrelevant reply by U) statement is luminary
        you must be one of the oligophrenials that he details in his post