Wednesday, June 5, 2013
US President Barack Obama on Monday signed into law amendments to the Stolen Valor Act of 2013 (SVA) [HR 258, PDF], which makes it a federal crime to lie about having received a military medal or honor. The amendments narrowed the law's proscriptive scope, prohibiting only persons who, "with intent to obtain money, property, or other tangible benefit," fraudulently hold themselves out to be recipients of certain military honors. . . . The law as originally enacted set forth a blanket ban on all false military representations. However, the Supreme Court invalidated the law, holding that the government cannot punish statements merely because they are knowingly false, which would effectively grant the government authority to "compile a list of subjects about which false statements are punishable" in violation of the First Amendment. The court found that such a governmental power would have "no clear limiting principle." The court's dissenting opinion, however, would have upheld the law as originally enacted in keeping with the tradition of barring other serious untruths, including fraud, perjury and defamation.