The composite grade point average for the five freedoms of the First Amendment slightly increased from 2.29 to 2.51, elevating the overall grade from a C+ to a “barely there” B-. This fifth installment of the Freedom Forum Institute’s First Amendment Report Card, released on August 17, 2018, reflects events that have taken place over the prior six months. 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 Freedom Forum Institute’s First Amendment Center launched the report card in April 2017 to evaluate the state of each of the five freedoms of the First Amendment in the age of Donald Trump. The Summer 2018 report card is based on the opinions of a panel of 13 First Amendment experts — academics, lawyers, journalists and activists from across the political spectrum — who contributed their insights to the Spring 2017, Summer 2017, Fall 2017 and Winter 2017/18 report cards. The report card is transitioning to a semester schedule, where each report card will reflect the six-month period that came before it.
We asked our panelists to start with their grades from the previous report card and alter or confirm them based on changes in legislation, executive orders, judicial decisions and indicators of public opinion that have occurred since the last report card. Please note that this includes issues, such as speech on college campuses, or state legislation, that the Trump administration does not directly control.
Panelists were instructed to assign each freedom a letter grade, without using pluses or minuses. In determining the overall grade of a First Amendment freedom for our report card, we used the average of the grades assigned by our panelists.