Misreading the Bill of Rights
Top Ten Myths Concerning Your Rights and Liberties
by Kirby Goidel, Craig Freeman, and Brian Smentkowski
March 2015, 243pp, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
1 volume, Praeger

Hardcover: 978-1-4408-3233-8
$65, £50, 57€, A90
eBook Available: 978-1-4408-3234-5
Please contact your preferred eBook vendor for pricing.

What if the Bill of Rights had never been added to the U.S. Constitution?

The Bill of Rights—the first 10 amendments to the U.S. Constitution—are widely misunderstood by many Americans. This book explores the widely held myths about the Bill of Rights, how these myths originated, why they have persisted, and the implications for contemporary politics and policy.

Interestingly, most Americans today—even professional political commentators—misinterpret or misunderstand what the Bill of Rights’ intended meaning and purposes were. Culturally ingrained myths about the Bill of Rights have helped to define what it means to be an “American” but also limited the range of political debate and justified unfair and unequal treatment of minorities. This book addresses the top ten myths regarding the Bill of Rights from the standpoint of public understanding (and misunderstanding) from a non-partisan, objective point of view, provoking independent thought and enabling readers to reach their own educated conclusions and opinions.

Written by two experts in the fields of political science, public policy, media law, and civil liberties, the work explores the key role of modern news and entertainment media in contributing to public misunderstanding of individual rights and liberties. The authors also apply and interpret data from public opinion surveys to further examine public beliefs about the Bill of Rights and closely connect the analysis of misperceptions to existing political beliefs.


  • Carefully separates out widely held contemporary beliefs about the Bill of Rights and connects them to debates over meaning, enabling readers to see how the meaning of rights is historically and contextually determined
  • Explores the Bill of Rights in the context of myths that define the American political culture
  • Provides an even-handed but incisive analysis of individual myths, pointing out where both the left and the right often misinterpret the true meaning of the Bill of Rights
  • Places the debates regarding rights in contemporary politics and modern society by considering the complex challenge of protecting individual freedoms in the context of a digital age, international terrorism, and ongoing threats to national security
Kirby Goidel is professor in the Department of Communication and the Public Policy Research Institute at Texas A&M University. Previously, he was the Scripps Howard Professor of Mass Communication in the Department of Political Science at Louisiana State University where he also served as director of the Public Policy Research Lab. Goidel is the author of America's Failing Experiment: How We The People Have Become the Problem and edited and contributed to Political Polling in a Digital Age: The Challenge of Measuring and Understanding Public Opinion.

Craig Freeman is professor of media law and entrepreneurial journalism at Oklahoma State University's School of Media and Strategic Communications. Previously, he taught at Louisiana State University where he won multiple teaching awards, served as an award-winning host of Louisiana Public Square, was an elected member of the school board, and worked as an attorney specializing in media law and civil liberties. His research has been published in leading law reviews as well as in political science and communication journals.

Brian Smentkowski is associate director of faculty and academic development and a member of the Department of Government and Justice Studies at Appalachian State University. Prior to his appointment in 2013, he served as codirector of the Center for Scholarship in Teaching and Learning, professor of political science, and former associate dean of the College of Liberal Arts at Southeast Missouri State University. His primary teaching and research interests include American political institutions and judicial politics. He has authored more than 20 articles and book chapters on a broad range of topics, including political parties, legislative elections, law and policy, and teaching and learning within and across the discipline.
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