UNION, NJ – The 225th anniversary of the Bill of Rights was celebrated on Monday night at the Union Public Library with a lecture about the First Amendment to the Constitution, Freedom of Speech, by New Jersey attorney Gary Potters. 

The first 10 Amendments to the Constitution form the Bill of Rights.  Potters touched on all 27 amendments to the Constitution, but spent the majority of time discussing the First Amendment:  Freedom of religion, speech, press, and assembly, and petition, passed by Congress on September 25, 1789. 

The First Amendment says, “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.”

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Potters reviewed a 1919 case with Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes concerning enforcement of the Espionage Act of 1917 during World War I.  The Court concluded that defendants who distributed fliers to draft-age man, urging resistance to induction, could be convicted of an attempt to obstruct the draft, a criminal offense. 

Potters concluded that “freedom of speech was not an unlimited right to speech.”  Potters reviewed Whitney v California, a 1929 case involving the freedom to establish a Communist party with speech that raised a threat to society.  Both of these cases, said Potters, talks about the limitations of freedom of speech