Mirror of Justice

A blog dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory.
Affiliated with the Program on Church, State & Society at Notre Dame Law School.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Stolen Valor Act violates the 1st Amendment

Here is another important decision from the Supreme Court. In US v. Alvarez, the Court (6-3) invalidated the Stolen Valor Act, which makes it a crime to falsely claim that one has received military decorations or medals. I found the dissent from Justice Alito far more persuasive than Justice Kennedy's plurality opinion. From the first page of his dissent, here is a good summary of Justice Alito's view:

"The Court strikes down the Stolen Valor Act of 2005, which was enacted to stem an epidemic of false claims about military decorations. These lies, Congress reasonably concluded, were undermining our country’s system of military honors and inflicting real harm on actual medal recipients and their families.

Building on earlier efforts to protect the military awards system, Congress responded to this problem by crafting a narrow statute that presents no threat to the freedom ofspeech. The statute reaches only knowingly false statements about hard facts directly within a speaker’s per- sonal knowledge. These lies have no value in and of themselves, and proscribing them does not chill anyvaluable speech.

By holding that the First Amendment nevertheless shields these lies, the Court breaks sharply from a long line of cases recognizing that the right to free speech does not protect false factual statements that inflict real harm and serve no legitimate interest. I would adhere to that principle and would thus uphold the constitutionality of this valuable law."

Richard M.



Myers, Richard | Permalink

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