Stolen Valor Act

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I see nowhere in the Constitution where the Congress is given authority to tell us we cannot lie, even about whether or not we received a military honor. The Supreme Court agreed last week, and struck down the Stolen Valor Act.

Yes, Congress can make laws about lying in certain cases where it might cause direct harm to someone else (e.g., fraud) or obstruct justice (e.g., perjury). But lying about a medal? While that could cause some hurt feelings and justifiable anger, that's not nearly sufficient to justify a valid law under our Constitution.

Justice Alito recognizes this principle in his dissent, but claims that such lies "inflict real harm." But even if true, certainly they do not always inflict real harm, and the law's language ignored whether or not harm occurred. Alito talks about people who commit fraud with their lies, but that is already a crime, and this law includes all lies, whether they cause such harm or not.

He then says these lies "tend to debase the distinctive honor of military awards," that families are harmed "when an impostor takes credit for heroic actions that he never performed," and that it is a "slap in the face" against people who did serve. None of this is an infliction of real harm. I don't want to get psychoanalytical here, but we control our own feelings. If their lies make you feel bad, that's on you, not them.

It really is just about personal feelings. And there's no implication in our Constitution that protecting personal feelings is sufficient cause to take away our fundamental rights. The KKK has the right to say terrible things about various religious and ethnic groups, causing significant hurt feelings, and most of what they say is lies, too (though granted, it's not the same thing, but the hurt feelings and negative effects on society are significantly worse).

The decision was correct. The conservatives -- usually in the right -- were wrong on this one.

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<pudge/*> (pronounced "PudgeGlob") is thousands of posts over many years by Pudge.

"It is the common fate of the indolent to see their rights become a prey to the active. The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt."

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This page contains a single entry by pudge published on July 5, 2012 8:46 AM.

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