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