Originally created 07/04/97

Your right to know



An extensive national survey by the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research finds one-third of all Americans cannot name any of the five freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment to the Constitution. Incredible.

It means either one of two things: All too many schools, with curricula being "dumbed down," have stopped teaching young people about what our constitutional republic means. Or, these freedoms are just plain being taken for granted.

It's due to the First Amendment that Americans can say or write almost anything without being hauled into court. We can assemble freely, or petition our elected representatives. We can freely attend any religious house of worship.

Also, due to the national Freedom of Information Act passed 31 years ago, government must operate openly.

So the recent Roper poll gives new impetus to this week Ä one designated by the American Society of Newspaper Editors as national "Your Right to Know Week."

The law allows access to untold numbers of public records and meetings. When attempts are made, as has been done recently by the city of Aiken to stifle police grievance reports, the citizen/taxpayer suffers. So we must diligently exercise our right to know, remembering that openness helps keep government officials honest and accountable.