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Poll shows support for government monitoring of religion. (People & Events).

The ongoing war on terrorism has apparently taken a toll on the First Amendment. A new poll shows that nearly half of Americans surveyed believe the First Amendment goes too far in protecting rights, and increasing numbers believe the government should be able to monitor some religious groups.

The poll, "State of the First Amendment 2002," was issued last month by the First Amendment Center, an arm of the Freedom Forum in Nashville. In the survey, 49 percent said the First Amendment goes too far in protecting the rights it guarantees--a jump of 10 points since 2001.

About half of the respondents said the government should be allowed to monitor religious groups in the interest of national security, even if that infringes on religious freedom. Forty percent said the government should have greater powers to monitor Muslim groups.

Ironically, the survey also indicated that many Americans are apparently not aware of what freedoms are listed in the First Amendment. Asked to name the specific freedoms in the amendment, only 18 percent could identify freedom of religion. (Fifty-eight percent could name freedom of speech, but only 14 percent knew freedom of the press is included.)

Other findings from the poll about church-state separation include:

* Seventy percent of Americans say the Constitution gives Americans the right amount of religious freedom. Six percent say it gives too much, and 20 percent say too little.

* Eighty-three percent call the right to practice the religion of your choice an "essential" right. Only 2 percent say this right is not important. Sixty-nine percent say the right to practice no religion at all is "essential."

* Most people agree that public criticism of religious groups should be permitted. Fifty-seven percent said they either strongly or mildly agreed with the statement, "People should be allowed to say things in public that might be offensive to religious groups." Forty-two percent strongly or mildly disagreed.

* Sixty-six percent strongly or mildly agreed with the idea of Muslims being allowed to hold a public rally, even if some found it offensive. Thirty-one percent strongly or mildly disagreed with allowing such a gathering.

* Fifty-three percent said students have too little religious freedom in public schools. Forty percent said they have the right amount; 3 percent said they have too much.

* Fifty-two percent strongly agree with the government posting the Ten Commandments in public buildings; 18 percent mildly agree. Sixteen percent strongly disagree, and 12 percent mildly disagree.
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Publication:Church & State
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 1, 2002
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