Aug 17, 2018
First Amendment Earns a B-
WASHINGTON — 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.
The Freedom Forum Institute is the education and outreach partner of the Freedom Forum and the Newseum. The Institute includes the First Amendment Center, the Religious Freedom Center, the Newseum’s education department and diversity and inclusion programs. The Freedom Forum Institute’s affiliate organizations include the Al Neuharth Media Center at the University of South Dakota; the Overby Center for Southern Journalism and Politics at the University of Mississippi; and the John Seigenthaler Center at Vanderbilt University. The Freedom Forum Institute is a 501(c)(3) public charity funded by generous individuals, corporations and foundations, including its principal funder, the Freedom Forum.
The First Amendment Center conducts the Seigenthaler-Sutherland Cup First Amendment Moot Court; produces the State of the First Amendment national survey and its quarterly First Amendment Report Card; works with the federal judiciary to improve the flow of news about the courts to the public; and hosts programs to help the public and the media understand one another better.