OUR VIEW: False claims are disturbing, but don’t alter Stolen Valor ActThe court will be reviewing the Stolen Valor Act, which was enacted in 2006 under the George W. Bush administration and is designed to keep people from falsely represent themselves as winners of any U.S. military decoration or medal.
The U.S. Supreme Court has a challenge this week, one that will be closely watched by current members of the military, veterans and patriots in general. The court will be reviewing the Stolen Valor Act, which was enacted in 2006 under the George W. Bush administration and is designed to keep people from falsely represent themselves as winners of any U.S. military decoration or medal.
In short, the law is meant to keep people from lying about their service awards. It seems logical enough. As outlined in recent reports by The Associated Press, some folks have unduly gained recognition or personal benefit by lying about their war record.
In research for this editorial, we learned that the U.S. House of Representatives has more than once voted to name a post office after men who claimed they received military awards but were later found to be lying. The Air Force named an award after a man who falsely claimed to have survived the Bataan Death March and also that he received the Silver Star during World War II. The Boxing Writers of America once named an award after a man who lied about surviving a POW camp during the Korean War and also falsely claimed that he received the Navy Cross.
These were terrible cases of deceit. We figure everyone would agree with that.
But should lying be outlawed? Essentially, that’s the Supreme Court’s challenge this week.
Dishonesty — whether fibs, fish tales or downright hurtful lies — is generally protected by the First Amendment. There are exceptions, of course, such as lying under oath, deceiving law-enforcement officers, etc.
But what if an aged man, in his waning years, exaggerates his war exploits and claims undue honors? Should he be prosecuted if he claims title to a service medal that, in truth, was never pinned to his chest in some glorious ceremony?
Today, he could be charged with a misdemeanor and face up to six months in jail. Those who falsely claim ownership of the prestigious Medal of Honor could face up to a year in jail.
The Supreme Court this week will consider whether that the Stolen Valor Act is unconstitutional.
In honor of veterans everywhere — whether clerks during peacetime or infantrymen in times of war — we say leave the Stolen Valor Act as it is.
We acknowledge that a newspaper’s job is to defend the First Amendment, but we have found exceptions in the past, including our opposition to the vile act of protesting at the funerals of war veterans.
The Stolen Valor Act is another exception, and we hope it stays in place.