VFW leads twenty-five veterans organization in their request to Supreme Court
December 12, 2011
By Rick Maze – Staff writer
Twenty-five organizations representing millions of veterans have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold a federal law making it a crime to falsely claim receiving a military award for valor.
The case pits First Amendment rights of free speech against allowing impersonators to erode the meaning and prestige of military medals. Oral arguments are planned for sometime in 2012.
“Imposters, who have included state and federal officials as well as many other successful, prominent people, have enjoyed undeserved praise, honors and other intangible and non-pecuniary benefits by wrongfully taking advantage of the goodwill associated with those awards,” the groups say in a briefing filed in the case involving the constitutionality of the Stolen Valor Act, a 2006 law that makes it a federal crime to falsely claim to have received military medals.
Two federal courts, one in Colorado and one in California, have ruled the law is unconstitutional because it restricts the right of free speech. The case before the U.S. Supreme Court, U.S. vs. Xavier Alvarez, involves a man who claimed he was a Marine retiree who had received the Medal of Honor but had, in fact, never even served in the military. Alvarez was convicted by a lower court, but the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decided this summer in a split decision that while his lies were “deliberate and despicable,” the First Amendment’s free speech protection applied even to lies.
The 25 organizations, led by Veterans of Foreign Wars, the nation’s largest organization for combat veterans, say in their brief that lying about military service has become common, making it difficult for the public to know who has rightly earned an honor.
“Whether a person is masquerading as a decorated general at a veterans’ celebration or a braggart whose false claims of receiving prestigious decorations move a neighbor to write a school essay about him entitled The Hero Next Door, lies about military honors take advantage of the public’s trust. They allow con men to benefit in innumerable tangible and intangible ways from the virtually inexhaustible reservoir of goodwill, admiration and honor that military heroes have earned over the past 235 years,” the brief says.
It is my opinion that even with the law making it illegal to impersonate a decorated servicemember, he is still free to say whatever he wishes. Anything you do or say comes with a price. The price for the actions needs to be weighted in his decision to perform that action. Hate speech could fall under the same decision “while his lies were “deliberate and despicable,” the First Amendment’s free speech protection applied even to lies.”. What is the difference?