Stolen Valor, Birth Control, Gay Marriage, and Abortion
While driving home from work today, I learned that 2005’s Stolen Valor Act was being challenged in front of the Supreme Court.
If you aren’t familiar with it and you don’t feel like clicking on the wikipedia link, the general gist of the law is this:
It’s illegal to lie about having received U.S. Military decorations or medals (specifically, saying that you’ve received them when you haven’t). The penalties for lying about the Medal of Honor are pretty much double.
There are two someones who have gotten arrested for this law, as far as I can tell. The first is a guy who started a “Veteran’s Organization” and posed as a Marine Captain who had won various medals in his appeals for funds for his charitable organization (or, perhaps, “charitable organization”).
This isn’t the case that made it to the Supreme Court, though. The case that made it to the Supreme Court is just about a guy who happened to lie about it. He got elected to a water district board and, in one of his speeches where he introduced himself, said “I’m a retired marine of 25 years. I retired in the year 2001. Back in 1987, I was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. I got wounded many times by the same guy. I’m still around.”
This statement broke that law.
Now the questions that struck me as interesting are the ones that the Supreme Court kicked around, specifically:
Is a knowingly false statement about having won a medal or honor speech that is protected by the First Amendment?
Is making a knowing falsehood speech that is protected by the First Amendment?
Does this law create a chilling effect on speech?