Supreme Court: It’s Legal to Lie About Military Service
The ruling on the Affordable Care Act was not the only ruling handed down by the Supreme Court on Thursday. The court also struck down a federal law making it a crime to lie about receiving military awards.
The Stolen Valor Act was signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2006. The law was written by Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., and was designed to crack down on people who were using false claims about military service for personal benefit.
The Supreme Court struck down the law by a 6-3 vote, saying the law violated the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
“Falsity alone may not suffice to bring the speech outside of the First Amendment,” wrote Justice Kennedy for the majority. “The Government has not demonstrated that false statements should constitute a new category.”
Kennedy said that Congress had less-restrictive ways to preserve the integrity of military honors, including “creating a database of Medal winners accessible and searchable on the Internet, as some private individuals have already done.”
Chief Justice John Roberts joined Kennedy’s opinion, as did Justices Elena Kagan and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Justice Stephen Breyer was joined by Justice Elena Kagan in a concurring opinion, while Justices Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas dissented.
Jameel Jaffer, deputy legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union, said the court was right to strike the law down.
“While it is true that some false statements lack social value, many others, such as those meant to be satire or parody, serve important social interests,” Jaffer said. “The First Amendment reserves to individual citizens, not the government, the right to separate what is true from what is false, and to decide what ideas to introduce into private conversation and public debate.”
Richard Denoyer, Commander in Chief of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, said the VFW was “greatly disappointed” in the ruling, but added, “Despite the ruling, the VFW will continue to challenge far-fetched stories, and to publicize these false heroes to the broadest extent possible as a deterrent to others.”
Image Credit: U.S. Army