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.”

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Image Credit: U.S. Army

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Kathy Perez
Kathy Johnson3 years ago

nothing honorable about lying. what a sad person, to discredit those who actually die and fight for our country

Stanley Rampersad
stan Balgobin3 years ago

The Supreme Court Ruling implies it is legal to lie about your Education record, your marital status,. your date of birth, your employment history, your criminal background. In fact it is legal to lie about anything!

Sharon Beth Long
Sharon Beth Long3 years ago

Ernest R is right. Although one's parents or teachers may tell one otherwise the false witness commandment probably only refers to false witness in a trial. However in the Old Testament G*d only approves of lying if the purpose is to save a life, either one's own, someone else's or a group.

Carl Oerke
Carl O.3 years ago

Legal yes. But also reprehensible.

John B.
John B.3 years ago

As your Commander in Chief I see nothing wrong with the ruling

Juliet Defarge
judith sanders3 years ago

If you've been in the military yourself, it's usually pretty easy to spot the liars. Laughing at them is the best revenge.

Lauren Graham
Lauren Goldman3 years ago

My first reaction was to support the criminalization law. But, after cooling down a bit, I realized that there are ways to detect fraud by employers, government agencies, etc. Although telling stories of military service that are untrue can be entertaining, my opinion of persons doing it drops to zero.

Margaret G.
Margaret Garside3 years ago

Jeff sums it up pretty well. Some jerk fibbing about his military record in order to get laid does not devalue the service of real veterans.

PS. Both of my parents, my husband, both of his parents, my grandfather, two aunts, and more cousins and uncles than I can count are veterans.

Veronica Rundell
Veronica Rundell3 years ago

My father, a Vietnam veteran, once told me the best way to know if a person had served in combat: he or she will never speak of it. They will simply tell you, "Yes, I'm a veteran of such-and-such." and leave it there.

I never learned he had a Bronze Star and an Airborne decoration--despite being Infantry--until I was in my twenties. He had a couple humorous tales of a ten click march to spend the night in a rice pattie that he would sometimes relate, but he never spoke of battle. He never spoke of the LZ's he volunteered to drop into, not at all throughout my childhood. And, he made it clear it was something he didn't want me to ask about. It's the way every combat veteran I have known acts.

So now if I hear somebody recounting their glorious war stories for all and sundry, I buy that person a beer and take it for entertainment, not fact. It's worked so far.

Jamie Clemons
Jamie Clemons3 years ago

If lying was a crime there would be no politicians left on either side to make rules so that they can break them and lie about them.