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.


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