Tag: Stolen Valor Act

Cheap Valor

The hits just keep on coming. Not satisfied with smacking the individual states around, those wacky SCOTUS judges decided the military needs some “judicial activism”, just to let them know who’s boss. Hence we now have The Stolen Valor Act, deemed unconstitutional, allowing any gutless douche bag to lie about actually having a pair of balls and exhibiting same on the battlefield:

The Supreme Court struck down the Stolen Valor Act today, saying that the First Amendment defends a person’s right to lie — even if that person is lying about awards and medals won through military service.

The case started in 2007 when California man Xavier Alvarez was convicted under the Stolen Valor Act of 2006 — federal legislation that made it illegal for people to claim to have won or to wear military medals or ribbons they did not earn. Alvarez had publicly claimed to have won the country’s highest military award, the Medal of Honor, but was later revealed to have never served in the military at all.

I understand the free expression angle on this, akin to not criminalizing the burning of American Flags, but this one I am having a hard time with. The SVA in it’s original form made perfect sense to me, namely, that there are things in life you don’t lie about, period. We honor the bravest of the brave with certain accolades and awards that are sacrosanct, their actions are deserving of a certain respect that others don’t get, and those accomplishments are protected. Those entering this particular arena without the proper credentials are not only exposed, but they pay an awful penalty, in memory of the real heroes. But now SCOTUS tells us that the accomplishment is not protected, that any loud mouth pussy can lie about this sacred act, and get away with it. I don’t like it.

In its 6-3 decision, the Supreme Court justices said today that as written, the act is too broad and ignores whether the liar is trying to materially gain anything through his or her false statement, which would be more akin to fraud.

Why does the gain have to be “material”? The simple fact that the lie was told reveals some gain that is pursued by the liar. Whether on a job resume, at the public gathering to curry favor, gratitude or an enhanced esteem, or even to facilitate fornicating with some pick up, the pretense is false.

The government’s argument talked about the harm incurred by telling this lie, and here is where I think the justices had an easy out. One of the free speech exceptions is defamation , this lie damages the reputation of every single legitimate MOH winner. The other angle of “fraud” I think is equally valid. There is no incident that I can think of where the telling of this lie was not intended to enhance his station or better his situation, but whatever gains he received from the telling of that lie was gained fraudulently.

I remember when the story of that POS Xavier Alvarez first surfaced, you can hear the offending words come out of his mouth here. This dumb shit didn’t realize that there is an easy accessible database of all MOH winner’s.

The original penalty given to Alvaraz was in my mind appropriate:

three years probation, a $5,000 fine and community service

But added to that, I would have had Alvarez write to every living MOH recipient (and the families of those passed) apologizing to each of them for stealing a small bit of their own valor.

I always thought that military heroism was worth protecting, a minority opinion?

Stolen Valor

The Stolen Valor Act — which criminalizes making false claims about military service — is up for review by the Supreme Court. The case involves a California politician who made up a Marine career, including a Medal of Honor. You can see the case for here, which is basically a argument that the Constitutional protection of free speech should not be extended to lies.

But I find myself, not surprisingly, agreeing with Jacob Sullum:

But since the Court is applying a constitutional provision that says “Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech,” this approach seems backward. Shouldn’t the question be whether the government has a compelling enough reason to overcome what sounds like a very strong presumption against punishing speech? At the very least, the First Amendment puts the burden of proof on the censors, who must justify their speech limits, rather than the speaker, who need not show that his words have value.

This should be our approach to almost all issues of civil liberties. It is not the people who must justify our freedom; our freedom is implicit; it comes to us from our Creator. It is government that must justify its intrusion.

So, is it justified here? I can’t help but wonder if more generalized fraud provisions would be a better course. If my doctor makes all kinds of false claims about training and awards, I could sue for fraud. If an employee makes false claims about their education and experience, I can fire them. Why shouldn’t false claims of any type be grounds for a fraud complaint or removal from office?

I’m not going to defend Xavier Alvarez, who is a scumbag. But should we be making a federal case out of this? Should he be facing time in federal prison?