Monday, October 4, 2010

What Do You Think About This?

Feds Try to Save Law Punishing Phony Military Heroes

DENVER -- The U.S. Justice Department will appeal two court decisions that said a federal law making it illegal to lie about being a war hero is unconstitutional.

Federal prosecutors in Colorado said Friday they will appeal a ruling by a federal judge in Denver that the Stolen Valor Act violates free speech.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, ruling in a California case, also found the law unconstitutional. Late Thursday, prosecutors asked that court to reconsider.

The law makes it a crime punishable by up to a year in jail to falsely claim to have received a military medal.

Supporters say the Constitution doesn't protect people who knowingly lie. They argue the law is needed to protect the honor of real heroes.

Opponents say the law puts too much power in government hands, and that lying for financial gain is already covered by fraud statutes.


What do you think? Constitutionally protected free speech or fraudulent?

It is obviously sleazy but should it be illegal? I know what I think about it, what about you?


Z said...

I guess we can't make lying illegal..but it sure irks me that people would lie about something like military service.. How dishonorable does it get?

I have to admit that these law things sound like 'double negatives' to me (unconstitional to NOT...etc.)and I'm having my brain twisted but I'll add that I don't agree with ANYTHING the 9th Circuit says! :-)

Always On Watch said...

If we make lying illegal, Washington, D.C., will have to shut down.

I'm with Z about the 9th Circuit.

Chuck said...

Z, I don't know what to think about the law. I wanted to see what others thought. I can sort of see both sides.

If we want freedom of speech, we have to accept all forms. The obvious problem with that is that some forms are freer than others, like we see in the debate over not being critical of Muslims yet Christianity is fair game.

At the same time, freedoms are not absolute. SCOTUS has ruled that speech can be regulated, such as child pornography, etc.

I have to say I am for the law. Committing fraud is not a protected form of free speech.

If I were to say in this blog that I was in Vietnam (I was not), that may be protected free speech.

To use this assertion for personal gain though is fraud and that is not protected.

It's not really a simple question.

Z said...

Chuck, your point about "I was in Vietnam" is a good one..we can't sue someone for saying that!
But, it's another level to lie that you got medals for heroism, don't you think? But, you're right..the distinction only muddies our logic waters, I'm not sure there's a solution to this one.
very tough call.

AOW..very good line about WASHINGTON!

Chuck said...

AOW, you snuck in while I was responding to Z. There is considerable irony with Congress passing laws against lying. Also, Z is dead on about the 9th circuit. Last I heard, they have about half of their decisions overturned by SCOTUS.

Chuck said...

Z, good Lord - what are we running a chat room here ;)

I thought about that. There is a part of me that says it simply should all be illegal but the 1st amendment question is not an easy one.

I could say I am attractive (I am not). Is that illegal? Should it be?

Ticker said...

As a Vet, I really don't care what some bar stool hero claims. They get their comeuppance sooner or later so no need for another BS law passed by the biggest bunch of liars on the face of the earth.

MK said...

I didn't know there was a law against it. It is a scumbaggish thing to do but not sure about punishing for a year in jail, perhaps a fine of some sort or cleaning army toilets for a week.

Chuck said...

Ticker, interesting take - thanks

MK, the cleaning toilets idea has merit

Mustang said...

The issue, I think, has more to do with wearing undeserved military decorations than it does with inserting "I am a hero" into your professional resume. Now as it turns out, it is a felony to impersonate a police officer, medical doctor, dentist, lawyer, or other member of the judiciary. And if this is true in most states, why isn't it illegal to impersonate a veteran (given that we honor our veterans)?

I suspect the answer may depend on the level of harm to society: impersonation of a police officer or doctor has the potential for doing harm to persons and to public confidence in police and medical personnel. I'm not sure impersonating a veteran will have the same effect and this may be the rub.

Still, I like the idea of holding people accountable for wearing military decorations they are not entitled to ...

Randy said...

I think we need less, not more laws. We've had politicians lie about medals and they've been caught. The penalty is that they are not likely to win the election. If someone puts it on their resume, they can be fired later (or not hired initially). If they just tell friends or acquaintances, then probably nothing will happen, but if a friend finds out the person is lying, they won't be friends long.

It's very unfair to REAL medal holders when someone lies about this and the liars should be caught and punished. But I don't think it's a government responsibility.

Chuck said...

Mustang, glad you stopped by. I was wondering what your take on this was. I think you make some good points. I like your take on whether there is damage done, such as with police or doctors.

Randy, good points. I still have tendency to say make it illegal but I think you are right on the bit that they ultimately are punished without the law

cube said...

If we started locking up all the people who have lied about military service, we'd rapidly run out of space in prisons all over the country.

The lying braggarts deserve the opprobrium of society, but I can't approve of jail time.

Chuck said...

Cube, I think Mustang had a good point - it is partly dependent on the harm to society.