On August 17, the Freedom Forum Institute’s First Amendment Center released its regular “report card” on the state of the First Amendment. Grades for the five freedoms of the First Amendment stand as such in the summer of 2018: religion (B-); speech (C+); press (C); assembly (B-); petition (B). The grades average a B-, an improvement from the C+ grade the First Amendment received in the previous report card.
The report card series was launched in April 2017, as a way to systematically assess the state of our core freedoms during the current presidential administration. Grades are assigned by a panel of the nation’s leading constitutional experts. This is the fifth First Amendment report card to be released by the First Amendment Center. The report card is transitioning from a quarterly schedule to a semester schedule, so that each report card will reflect the six-month period that came before it.
The improvement in the First Amendment’s overall grade can be attributed to a series of Supreme Court decisions panelists viewed as favorable to the freedoms of religion and speech, and the absence of national controversies surrounding the freedoms of assembly and petition. The grade for freedom of the press remained constant and is once again, the most precarious of the First Amendment freedoms.
The grading was performed by 13 panelists from across the political spectrum, each of whom served on the grading panel last year. Panelists were advised to consider the following four elements in their evaluations: legislation, executive orders, judicial decisions and public opinion; and also to consider long-term trends and actions.
The next First Amendment report card will be released in January 2019. To view the spring and summer report cards, and read more about our panelists and grading methodology, visit the Freedom Forum Institute website.