Do atheists have the same rights as other American citizens?
That sounds like a weird question since of course we do… but only 79% of people thought that was true, according to a new survey by the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg Public Policy Center.
Most respondents, though not all, know that under the Constitution, U.S. citizens who are atheists or Muslim have the same rights as all other citizens. Seventy-nine percent of respondents know it is accurate to say that U.S. citizens who are atheists have the same rights as other citizens, and 76 percent know it is accurate to say that citizens who are Muslim have the same rights as other citizens.
So… one out of every five people in the U.S. think atheists don’t have equal rights. (Anyone want to guess which party they vote for?)
Actually, the numbers were even more disappointing. When you look at the raw data, only 61% of Americans said the statement about atheists having equal rights was “very accurate.” The folks at Annenberg lumped them together with the 18% who said it was “somewhat accurate”… but if that group thinks atheists having equal rights is “somewhat accurate,” then they don’t believe we have equal rights.
The survey also found that most Americans don’t know the freedoms listed in the First Amendment — only 48% could name freedom of speech and it went downhill from there — and only a quarter of people could name the three branches of government.
All the more reason students need to take basic civics classes in school. An uninformed electorate got us into the mess we’re in now, and it’s clear our country isn’t going to fill in those educational gaps without a lot of help.