Stolen Valor: The Supreme Court’s Other Ruling Yesterday
Millions of Americans are furious over a Supreme Court decision announced on Thursday. No, not that one- the nation’s highest court also struck down a law that federally criminalized lying about receiving military honors. In a 6-to-3 ruling, the justices declared that while the acts were deeply unethical, the law was written much too broadly. However, several justices did suggest that successors to the Stolen Valor Act might succeed by more narrowly defining the crimes.
The plurality led by Justice Kennedy noted as their biggest concern that the Stolen Valor Act restricted speech that did not necessarily cause immediate and material harm, like monetary fraud or lying under oath (perjury).
Contrasting the Stolen Valor Act with laws punishing “false claims . . . to effect a fraud or secure moneys or other valuable considerations,” the plurality noted that the Stolen Valor Act “seeks to control and suppress all false statements on this one subject in almost limitless times and settings,” and applies “without regard to whether the lie was made for the purpose of material gain.” The plurality cautioned that if the Stolen Valor Act were upheld, it would justify regulation of speech regarding “an endless list of subjects.”
According to NPR, first amendment lawyer Gary Bostwick put it this way: “there has never been a law that outlaws simple lying.”
SCOTUSblog also notes that a new version of the law is already in the works which specifically outlaws lying about military decorations “in order to obtain anything of benefit.”
What do you think? Is this a good constitutional decision? Or an insult to those who received the honors?