Chenango County Justices Discuss Incredible Power Of Free Speech

By: Zachary Meseck

Chenango County Justices discuss incredible power of free speech

NORWICH – This year's Chenango County Law Day celebration honored a retired army veteran with the Liberty Bell Award and promoted the responsible use of free speech.

The event began at 1 p.m. Friday at the Chenango County Courthouse, and representatives of different aspects of the local legal system were present.

One of the speakers at the event, Supreme Court Justice Elizabeth A. Garry, discussed the importance and power of the United States Constitution, and the importance of using that responsibly.

"I'm going to take a quote from Spiderman," said Garry. "With great power comes great responsibility."

She said the power of the constitution and of free speech has been proven time and time again in the United States legal system, but it has been challenged, sometimes for good reason.

"The first amendment ensures with very limited exceptions, the government does not punish or limit us in what we say, think, or write," said Gary. "Our constitution in fact, allows all sorts of unquestionably bad, indecent, even immoral behavior."

She said in a famous case, The Village of Skokie vs. The National Socialist Party of America, which occurred in 1978, the United States Supreme Court held that exercises of free speech are protected by the constitution.

"Nazi storm troopers, carrying signs that proclaimed, 'White free speech,' and 'Free speech for the whites,' with swastika emblems," said Garry. "These people were allowed to march in a small village, and in this village more than half of the population were of Jewish faith or ancestry."

She said approximate 10 percent of the people in the village had actually been Nazi concentration camp survivors.

"When we pause, as we should, to think about the absolute outrageousness in that, the indecency, in some manner we now know the cost of our freedom," said Garry. "I know that sounds very grim, but I'm going to turn a little bit and tell you that one of the great quotes from Spiderman, 'With great power comes great responsibility."

She said each and every one of us are fully entrusted with maintaining the fabric of our free society.

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