(WASHINGTON, D.C) – “The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit has struck down a federal law making it a crime to falsely claim a military honor or decoration, and this is a most regrettable decision,” said John Rowan, national president of Vietnam Veterans of America. “We trust that this case will be reviewed by the U.S. Supreme Court. We hope that the court will agree with those legal experts who hold that the Constitution of the United States does not protect egregious false statements of fact.”
In a 2-1 ruling on August 17, the appeals court found the Stolen Valor Act—a 2006 federal law that prohibits falsely claiming to have won a military decoration, making it a crime to lie about receiving the Medal of Honor and other military decoration--unconstitutional, throwing out the conviction of Xavier Alvarez, an elected member of a California water district board, who, on several occasions, falsely claimed to be a recipient of the Medal of Honor.
“The right to speak and write whatever one chooses--including, to some degree, worthless, offensive and demonstrable untruths--without cowering in fear of a powerful government is, in our view, an essential component of the protection afforded by the First Amendment,” Judge Milan Smith said in the majority opinion.
Said Rowan, “While we embrace the right of any American citizen to express opinions freely, lying about one’s alleged military accomplishments in order to gain future prospects for advancement is simply wrong. This ruling degrades the honor that has been earned by our military personnel for their sacrifices in combat. Further, this is more than an issue of the violation of one’s constitutional rights. In essence, it approves lying and could have significant implications in efforts to police false statements in political ads and campaigns.”