If you’d been asked to weigh freedom of speech against false claims of military honors, how would you have voted?

There was another Supreme Court decision yesterday: The court struck down the Stolen Valor Act, which Congress had passed in 2005. The justices held that people who lie about having received service medals are engaging in protected speech under the First Amendment. Today’s Question: If you’d been asked to weigh freedom of speech against false claims of military honors, how would you have voted?

  • John

    Lying is lying.

  • Rich

    I guess that freedom and liberty thing cuts both ways.

  • Steve the Cynic

    The SVA was passed as a war-time show of symbolic patriotism designed to drive a nationalistic wedge between the war’s supporters and critics. It was entirely unnecessary, as it was already possible to adequately punish such liars, either by prosecution for fraud or swindle, or civil suits under tort law, or by simple social aprobrium. The true patriots in those days were folks who were pointing out that the wars (Iraq in particular) were doing our country more harm than good.

  • Lance

    Lying about having received military honors is low, petty, slimeball behavior. This behavior should be exposed and the perpetrator should be publicly humiliated as a lying slimeball.

    That being said, those who truly did earn those military accolades fought to defend the constitution and the freedom you have to misrepresent yourself as an upstanding hero. This is the ruling I agree with from yesterday’s decisions. The other one – not so much.

  • matt

    As a veteran (did not serve in combat, but did serve during the time of the first invasion of Iraq) I cannot see why lying about this subject (or any other particular subject) should be punished differently.

    Amazingly enough political leaders, who passed the law, feel no shame at all about stating that the military has been keeping us safe and defending our freedom when both statements are just outright lies. Those are the men and women who need our disdain the most. They have taken the brave acts of young men and women and used them for land grabs and furthering the interests of their corporate benefactors.

  • GregX

    oh but we are puritan’s to the core of our ignorance. we’d rather (falsely) believe that we voted for a war hero or that our CEO is a hardened combat leader – than accept the reality that the military is no better shaper of decision makers or leaders than any other structured system. Once we turnoff the worship of the military and start treating them for what they are : regular people. The live, breathe, love, fear and doubt.

  • Jim G

    I agree with the Court’s decision. People: children, teenagers, and adults lie. It is a learned behavior that rewards the liar.

    “Don’t you b-e-L-I-E-v-e me?”

    This is a question I heard many times during my teaching career.

    So, I used this technique to stay sane.

    First, I look at the evidence to determine whether the words matched the deed.

    Secondly, I made a judgment on whether or not I believe them.

    Lastly, I act according to my evidence backed belief or non-belief.

    As trusting people we will have to work hard to consistently examine statements before taking them at face value. But it keeps the B.S. out of our relationships.

    Let the buyer beware is a prudent philosophy every person should live by. Don’t buy every lie.

  • frank wright

    People lie left and right all day long. The politicians who passed the law are some of the most prolific. How could they think they could control others lying if they don’t do it themselves? Wouldn’t it be nice if once they were proven to have lied they lost their job and their last opponent got their job? Our govt would change dramatically!

  • Craig

    I agree with the decision. I agree with Steve’s assessment of the act’s origins. But there is an ancient bargain struck between those who have large holdings and those who have nothing. That bargain is; after risking one’s life to defend (or expand) that asset base, one is entitled to a piece of it. Decorations should be seen as hard won certificates redeemable with those who have great wealth.

  • georges

    The Court made the right decision. If someone wants to lie about military service, or anything else, to feel better about themselves, so be it, it is not the duty of the Government to make honest people out of them, or punish them for their dishonesty.

    Unless there is intentional fraud that results in monetary (or other) gain to the person doing the lying.

    Such as Elizabeth Warren, Democrat Party candidate for the US Senate, who falsely claimed to be Native American, receiving preferential status at Harvard, thereby putting extra bucks in her bank account. She should be prosecuted for fraud.

    President Obama, who claims to be “America’s Greatest Hero” because he, “Killed America’s Greatest Enemy” is also committing a fraud upon the People. Neither is true. He didn’t kill America’s greatest enemy, and if he was in my immediate family he wouldn’t even be in the top 100 heros.

    (My family has been here for 83 years longer than this country has been a country. We didn’t immigrate, we were already here)

    We won’t even get into Obama’s claim that he would change the way the Federal Government works. He didn’t, just kept on with Dubya’s (and the other presidents since LBJ) way of doing business. He IS George W. Bush’s rightful son. Of course, he put the whole thing on steroids, but that isn’t really change. Ripping the People off at a faster pace is just…….impatience.

  • Keith

    Not sure where georges is getting his “facts”. I Google’d the Elizabeth Warren thing – sounds like a non-issue. Nothing I read seems to indicate she gained any advantage for her claimed status, and whether her claim is bogus or not is debatable. She admits she has no proof other than family lore, so who’s to dispute (or prove that). Now why you would think that being 1/32 of anything is significant is another discussion. I’m probably at least that much German, but I certainly wouldn’t claim to be German in any regard.

    And the Obama “greatest American hero” claim? I turned up nothing on that. Must have been the Faux New feed streaming through georges’s brain to his fingers.

    In any case, you can’t legislate lying, although you can punish it when doing so under oath. It’s hard to believe in this day and age that someone thinks they can get away with claiming something they’re not when there are so many easily accessed sources to verify the claim, especially in the case of awards and honors..

  • suzie

    Yes, lying is lying. But in todays world, lying is accepted as a normal human condition. Kid are taught that lying as a child is not so bad, and lying and cheating in school is acceptable because, after all – everybody does it. How many of our high school and college graduates cheat on their papers and tests? So now this carries through into our daily lives and lying seems to be easier than telling the truth.

    But after saying that, if someone claims to be a “war hero” and has a Congressional Medal of Honor or other such medal, their name should submited to a VFW or Legion post and have it verified. If that person did not receive such a medal or other medals, they should be sent a letter asking them to cease such lying. And, now that the Supreme Court threw out the case against the self-rightous types that were protesting accross from funerals of soliders killed in action, stating that it was their right to protest – then I would say that it is the right to protest where the liar works and lives. After all – Freedom of Speech can go both ways.

  • georges

    Yes, suzie, by all means, get out there and protest if you like. It does cut both ways.

    But, remember, speech is not absolute. If you say things with the intent to harass, harm emotionally, intimidate, bully, terrorize, etc., someone, and you do accomplish that intent, you have then commited a crime or civil tort, which is actionable and compensable.

    Many people believe they can say anything to anyone, as long as what they say is true. Not so. The truth is only a defense for libel or slander, etc., not the other possibilities, such as those I have mentioned above.

  • David Poretti

    I am much more concerned about the steady stream of propaganda and lies that pass as facts and news, and are swallowed completely and without question by the party faithful, and then regurgitated on the rest of us, over and over and over (…if you repeat a lie often enough, it becomes the truth…). I feel sorry for those folks, and the denial or trauma they must find themselves in, when they discover that their primary news source is not “Fair and Balanced”, and that their favorite talk radio jock has been feeding them a line for how many years? If someone wants to lie about their accomplishments or their age, unless it is an attempt to qualify for something that they are not eligible for, why would I care?

  • georges

    “…although you can punish it when doing so under oath.”

    Yes, and you can also punish lying when it is not under oath. Such as in the case of Ms. Warren.

    If it is done to extract wealth or other value from a person or the system, etc.

    There should have been no advantage to claiming to be Native American. Such laws/rules violate the equal protection clause. But there is advantage, so those with little morals will lie to achieve the advantage presented.

    Look at the recent law passed by Congress and signed into law by Obama. The one that gives returning military personel advantage in being hired for private sector jobs. Clearly a violation of equal treatment. But Congressmen and Obama want to tell the voters what great guys they are, helping the military to get jobs.

    We didn’t fight to get unequal treatment under the law.

    We fought for equal rights for all.

    Politicians……..a pox on both your houses.

  • georges

    “Faux News”?

    Is that Fox News? I don’t watch it. I do see a minute of it now and then, though, as I flip through the channels. Just like I see a minute of those really obnoxious people on msnbc, that union stub, Ed something, and that screaming maniac, Maddow. I can’t take more than a minute of any of them, but, the Fox ones act more like real adult people.

    That is typical. I haven’t watched the Conventions in recent election cycles, but I used to. It was always a very dramatic contrast….the Dems hysterical, crazy, unkempt, unruly, immature……the Reps calm, rational, peaceful, mature, like real grownups. The African Americans in the GOP convention crowd were nicely dressed, neatly coiffed hair, calm, reasonable people, most either small business owners or professionals. The ones at the Dem Con……well, lets just say they were the exact opposite.

  • Kurt Nelson

    I think the Court got this right. The First Amendment is not absolute, but carving out more exceptions is not a good direction. The guy is a punk for lying about his service, but it is not a crime, nor should it be.

    Oh, and Justice Kennedy’s opening line in the opinion. “Lying was his habit”.

  • JasonB

    I would have agreed with the ruling.

    As I said in a past similar ‘Today’s Question’: Being a jerk is not a crime, much as I sometimes wish it was. While the idea of someone being able to lie and make false claims about military service is repulsive, our constitutional freedoms have to be maintained, no matter how vulgar the lie. Besides, there should already be laws on the books for any lies that result in actual damages or loss, like fraud.

    Being able to separating our emotional responses from legal responses is important. We have to be vigilant towards any feelings of self-righteousness we may have. Remember that the Nazis genuinely thought that they were doing a good thing when they tried to eliminate the Jews and other “undesirables”.

  • Steve the Cynic

    Georges, besides revealing yourself to be a racist bigot in recent days, you now show yourself to be a liar, too. Or if not a liar, then a dupe who believes and repeats others’ lies. Obama has never claimed to be “America’s greatest hero.” Conservative talking heads accused him of claiming that in their comments about his playing up the killing of bin Laden, but that was a mischaracterization of what he actually has said.

  • georges


    There’s my little huckleberry.

    Steve the Zimm…….

    The self-appointed control freak zealot, patrolling the various streets of this semi-gated community, German 9mm always at the ready to shoot down any and all he doesn’t like the look of, or the speech of, or the walk of, or the clothes of……..

    Determined to eradicate his superiors from the neighborhood, by intimidation, if possible, but by mean gun force whenever necessary, keeping the streets he loves clean of opposition, sterile and without life, inhabited, in his mind, by only himself and those who think just like him……..

    Steve the Zimm……

    Out and about, patrolling like a madman, attacking in the shadows…..but…….alas………..when he pulls his Glock and fires…….

    ……….it contains only blanks…………alot of noise, nothing more………

    Steve the Zimm………..

    Standing his ground, by God…….the terror of the inept self-aggrandizing inferior minds run amok in the narcissistic here and now………

    Runting around the wallow……….



  • Steve the Cynic

    That’s nothing but projection, georges.

  • Sue de Nim

    If the DoD would simply make a searchable database of military honors accessible on their public web site, defense.gov, the problem would be solved.

  • DrS

    Lying is a personal freedom and a part of “Society.” Lying under oath is a regulatory issue and part of “Government.” I do not need Government to regulate my interactions with “Society.” We already have much too much of that.

  • jockamo

    We allow some Americans to get away with lying, and we condemn others.

    For instance, Martin Luther King Jr. lied and falsified and plagiarized at will. It was his general way of living. Yet, he gets away with it.

    Jessie Jackson Jr. says he did not try to buy the Obama Senate seat that Gov. Blagojevich was selling, even though there is an audio recording. He has never been charged with the crime.

    To be rich and black in America has real advantages.