July 11, 2012
Stolen Valor Redux: Congress to Attempt Again
With the Supreme Court's declaration in United States v. Alvarez last month that the Stolen Valor Act is an unconstitutional infringement on the First Amendment, Congress is set to revise the law - - - or, more precisely, to re-consider its revised bill, the Stolen Valor Act of 2011, that had been proposed even before the oral arguments in Alvarez.
The proposed Stolen Valor Act of 2011, by Joe Heck of Nevada, added an important qualifier to the false statement: "with intent to obtain anything of value." According to news reports, various other members of Congress are weighing additional revisions.
These might include extending the prohibited subjects from military honors to combat service or perhaps any military service.
The Pentagon is also reportedly considering implementing a database of military honors, one of the less restrictive means that could also achieve the legislation's goals.
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I am an attorney and combat veteran (yes, real combat, not some cook on the back line where the only explosions heard emanated from the heads, the effects of his slop cooking). Over the years I have found that the frauds (aka those who steal valor) are easily detectable, they are the ones who chat up their service everywhere they go, and always mention combat medals, ribbons, commendations, and awards.
Generally, combat veterans rarely talk about their experiences, nor do they trumpet awards received.
I have always considered it "no harm done" if someone wants to BS about their military service, and usually that's accurate (that the braggarts are lying or embellishing). The only victims are dates, friends, and co-workers whom the bullsheeter is trying to impress.
Where I had trouble with the Stolen Valor Act is that it did in fact criminalize speech, in this case bullsheet. It is akin to prosecuting someone for padding a curriculum vitæ and resume (I don't think the nation is quite ready for that, you lie on your resume, go to jail).
Congress amending the law makes sense. It will then be in line with state fraud statutes. Making it a federal crime to steal valor AND to actually obtain something of value, or cause someone quantifiable harm, is a reasonable law. (For example, if an employer hires one person over another in reliance of the fraud's misrepresentation of his military record (stolen valor) the other person who did not get hired has been harmed. The person who lied about their service or awards has harmed someone by his getting the position.
OK, that's all I wanted to say. By the way, got this link from SCOTUS Blog.
Posted by: ItsMichaelNotMike | Jul 12, 2012 2:18:58 PM