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Stolen Valor Act Violates Free Speech, Struck Down in 6-3 Vote

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Stolen Valor Actor has been struck down in a recent vote, according to The Hill. The law, which was passed by Congress during George W. Bush’s turn as President, would have made it illegal to lie about receiving military honors and awards. However, since lying, even about earning medals in the armed forces, is protected under the First Amendment. As such, the Stolen Valor Act was deemed unconstitutional. The law failed to pass by a vote of 6-3.

“The First Amendment risks flowing from the Act’s breadth of coverage could be diminished or eliminated by a more finely tailored statute, for example, a statute that requires a showing that the false statement caused specific harm or is focused on lies more likely to be harmful or on contexts where such lies are likely to cause harm,” the Supreme Court said.

However, all is not lost. The court did find that the law had “substantial justification”, which means that it could be re-written in a narrower form by Congress.

The case began in 2007 following the arrest of Xavier Alvarez, who claimed he had received the Medal of Honor for his service to the country. As it turns out, Alvarez was never in the military; everything he’d said was an outright lie, and the government decided to make him pay for his deceit. The man was sentenced to three years probation, issued a $5,000 fine, and ordered to perform community service. His lawyer, meanwhile, said that the Stolen Valor Act was unconstitutional, and appealed to have Alvarez’s conviction overturned.

Although the First Amendment does protect all forms of free speech, the government felt that lying about military honors and awards causes harm to those who have actually spent their lives serving their country.

“False claims make the public skeptical of all claims to have received awards, and they inhibit the government’s efforts to ensure that the armed services and the public perceive awards as going only to the most deserving few,” the government argued.

Stolen Valor Act Violates Free Speech, Struck Down in 6-3 Vote
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  • Randall E. Hirsch

    The Supreme Court has started something that will ripple throughout our society. If it is my right to lie about receiving a military decoration that I am not entitled to have then why is it not my right to lie to a law enforcement officer or to the Congress of the US. A lie is a lie and if one lie is covered by the 1st Amendment under free speech then why is another lie not?

  • David Bradbury

    Roger Clemens should have told congress that he didn’t take steroids, received the medal of honor, 10 purple hearts, the Navy Flying Cross and a dozen silver stars. Then they couldn’t have touched him.

  • Duane

    If a lie is protected under the 1st Amendment, then all laws in regards to perjury should be removed from the books. Think Randall is right, this could open up a big can of worms.

  • L Rod

    A lie not told under oath is free speech!

    A lie told under oath is perjury!

    see People vs. Marc Fuhrman

    If your swear to something in court. it better be true!

    That guy never swore to anything in court.

  • Johnny805

    As an armed forces member, it sickens me to say this, but the Supreme Court is right to claim that this would in fact be a violation of free speech as it does not fall into any of the American Government’s previous precedents set throughout our history (See: http://www.freedomforum.org/packages/first/curricula/educationforfreedom/supportpages/l04-limitsfreedomspeech.htm). A freshman political science major could easily see this to be so. I feel it was irresponsible of legislators to waste government time and taxpayer money trying to pass a bill that could easily be stricken down. In order to best serve the principle of this bill, perhaps legal demand of proof of military decoration should be enforced by employers, akin to proof of citizenship. This can be easily done through databases such as the recently launched http://valor.defense.gov/ though the database should be more exhaustive and have more historical range.

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