Press Releases

Oct 16, 2017

First Amendment Earns a C+ on Fall 2017 Report Card

“Grades” for Freedoms of Speech and Assembly Dropped in a Quarterly Evaluation by the Newseum Institute’s First Amendment Center.

WASHINGTON — On October 16, the Newseum Institute’s First Amendment Center released its quarterly “report card” on the state of the First Amendment. Grades for the five freedoms of the First Amendment stand as such in the fall of 2017: religion (C+); speech (C); press (C); assembly (C); petition (B). The grades average a C+.

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.

The grade point averages for speech and assembly dropped significantly; the composite grade remains the same only because of the balancing effect of slight improvements in the grade point averages for press and petition.

“Freedom of speech lost many points this quarter because of hostile attitudes towards free expression from two groups that may not share anything else in common — college students and the Trump Administration,” wrote Lata Nott, executive director of the First Amendment Center.

“As for freedom of assembly, the events of Charlottesville, Va., loomed large in that area. Many of our panelists noted that the violence that occurred there has led to an erosion of public support for freedom of assembly, and to state and local governments taking actions to restrict this right.”

While the grade point average for press freedom remained the same (C), many panelists made approving comments on the press’s resilience in the face of ongoing attacks from President Trump. Freedom to petition, while it is currently rated as the strongest First Amendment freedom, is still threatened by lack of constituent access to lawmakers, and ratings for freedom of religion remained steady as panelists wait for the Supreme Court to rule on the constitutionality of the latest iteration of the Trump administration’s travel ban.

The grading was performed by 15 panelists from across the political spectrum, each of whom have committed to providing quarterly updates of their grades for one 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 2018. To view the spring and summer report cards, and read more about our panelists and grading methodology, visit the Newseum Institute website.

About the Freedom Forum Institute

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.

About the Newseum Institute’s First Amendment Center

The Newseum Institute’s First Amendment Center is a forum for the study and exploration of issues related to free expression, religious freedom, and press freedom, and an authoritative source of information, news, and analysis of these issues. The Center provides education, information and entertainment to educators, students, policy makers, legal experts, and the general public. The Center is nonpartisan and does not lobby, litigate or provide legal advice. The Newseum Institute promotes the study, exploration and education of the challenges confronting freedom through its First Amendment Center and the Religious Freedom Center. The Newseum is a 501(c)(3) public charity funded by generous individuals, corporations and foundations, including the Freedom Forum. For more information, visit or follow us on Twitter.

Press Contacts

Sonya Gavankar
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