Almost a quarter of the total American population does not understand that atheists and Muslims have the same rights as all other citizens under the US Constitution. This revelation was made in a study carried out by University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg Public Policy Centre.
Among the volume of people surveyed, 22% weren’t certain if Muslims in America enjoy the provisions of the First Amendment rights. According to the famous stipulations of The First Amendment: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
The political interpretation of this law is that Congress lacks the constitutional capacity to promulgate discriminating legislation against people hailing from distinct religions.
When 1000 American adults were asked if it was right to say Muslim Americans share the same provisions and protections under the US constitution as all other citizens, 4% confessed they didn’t know. Another 18% pointed out that it was not correct to say American Muslims share equal rights with every other American. And then 76% said it was correct.
The same question was put before these surveyed persons, but this time in the Atheist dimension. When asked if it was correct to say American atheists enjoy equal rights as any American citizen, about 5% say they are not aware. Another 15% say it is not correct that the atheist American enjoys the same constitutional rights as the normal citizen, while 79% think it is correct to say the atheist American enjoys the same rights.
However, it is an unarguable enshrinement in the 14th Amendment that every American, irrespective of religious orientation or faith, shall not be discriminated against by the law.
Taking a precise excerpt from the equal protection injunction rooted in the 14th Amendment, “No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”
Some 16 years back, in a Zadvydas v. Davis case, the U.S. Supreme Court had proclaimed that the coverage of the 14th Amendment’s due process also extends to all immigrants in the US, so long their habitation of US soil is “unlawful, involuntary or transitory”.
Figures from this survey also revealed the lack of understanding the majority of Americans have about the rulings of the Constitution. A large number of those surveyed showed that they were not certain of the rights they were provided by the First Amendment. In addition, a hefty percentage of those surveyed did not know that freedom of speech is a fundamental right.
Such worries about the deteriorating levels of civic education were echoed by Kathleen Hall Jamieson, Director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center.
“Protecting the rights guaranteed by the Constitution presupposes that we know what they are. The fact that many don’t is worrisome. These results emphasize the need for high-quality civics education in the schools and for press reporting that underscores the existence of constitutional protections.”