A Three Rivers Water District official stood up in a public meeting not long after being elected and told a long, elaborate story about his accomplishments and adventures in his 25 years in the United States Marine Corps. He talked about his wounds he suffered, how his helicopter was shot down in Vietnam, and how he helped rescue the U.S. Ambassador in Iran.
It wasn’t until he said that he’d been awarded the Medal of Honor that he broke the law. That’s because the entire account was a lie.
In 2006, the U.S. Congress passed a law called the Stolen Valor Act, which made untruthfully claiming military decorations a crime. Top of the list is the Medal of Honor – an award so exclusive that there are only 83 living recipients.
Xavier Alvarez was convicted of violating the Stolen Valor Act and faced a fine and imprisonment. However, his conviction was overturned by the 9th Circuit, which declared the law unconstitutional. The question now has made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court, and Alvarez finds himself – for the first time – on the front lines. This time, it’s the front lines of First Amendment Law.
From the Los Angeles Times Article “Supreme Court Hears Medal of Honor Case, Ponders Political Lies”:
The Supreme Court justices spoke with disdain about liars who claim to have earned military honors, but they sounded less sure how to handle another group known for shading the truth: politicians.
“In the commercial context, we allow a decent amount of lying. It’s called puffing. ‘You won’t buy it cheaper anywhere,’ ” said Justice Antonin Scalia. “So maybe we allow a certain amount of puffing in political speech as well. Nobody believes all that stuff, right?”
Read the full article here.