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“Stolen Valor” act ruled unconstitutional by 9th Circuit

Posted By McQ • [August 18, 2010]

Or as Josh Gerstein entitles his POLITICO piece, “9th Circuit discovers a right to lie”.

I think that probably sums it up pretty well.

In a 2-1 ruling, the appeals court panel found that the poetically named Stolen Valor Act is unconstitutional. The majority threw out the prosecution of an elected member of a California water district board, Xavier Alvarez, who claimed at a meeting in 2007 and on previous occasions that he was the recipient of a Congressional Medal of Honor.

So we’re again reduced to shaming people like Alvarez.

I understand the arguments concerning free speech.  I simply don’t buy into that argument that claiming to be a Medal of Honor winner when you’re not qualifies as free speech.  As I recall my civics classes, the right of free speech covered political speech – i.e. the government was prohibited from making laws that squelched it because our Founders had seen the effect of such laws in England and wanted none of that.

And I’d love to hear the argument or see anything in writing from them which claimed the 1st Amendment was designed to protect liars in general.

That is indeed what the court is saying though:

We have no doubt that society would be better off if Alvarez would stop spreading worthless, ridiculous, and offensive untruths. But, given our historical skepticism of permitting the government to police the line between truth and falsity, and between valuable speech and drivel, we presumptively protect all speech, including false statements, in order that clearly protected speech may flower in the shelter of the First Amendment.

But is claiming to have or be something you’re not really “protected speech”?  Not as I understand the intent of the 1st Amendment as originally written. 

So – this means that you can expect to see the uniform you revere and the medals hard earned, sometimes at the expense of the lives of our military heroes, again relegated to the realm of costume parties where fakes and frauds will openly drape our nation’s most hallowed medal for heroism around their necks and make claims on the valor of those who actually earned the award the hard way.

A “right to lie”. 

Yup, I’d bet that’s exactly what James Madison was thinking when he penned the 1st Amendment.


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