By CNN Supreme Court Producer Bill Mears
The Supreme Court on Thursday struck down a federal law making it a crime to falsely claim military medals earned.
The 6-3 ruling was a free speech victory but perhaps in name only - for a onetime California public official who publicly lied about winning the prestigious Medal of Honor.
At issue is the constitutional value of false statements of fact, and whether Congress went too far when passing the Stolen Valor Act in 2006.
The ACLU's deputy legal director, Jameel Jaffer, said the ruling was “right to reject”.
“Perfectly respectable people sometimes lie to protect their privacy, avoid hurt feelings, make others feel better, duck minor obligations, or protect themselves and others from prejudice. If the court had endorsed the government’s sweeping argument, the government could regulate these false statements, and even criminalize them. The First Amendment reserves to individual citizens, not the government, the right to separate what is true from what is false, and to decide what ideas to introduce into private conversation and public debate. Today’s decision is an important reaffirmation of those crucial rights.”
Veteran organizations are disappointed with the decision. Here are some of the statements:
“The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. is greatly disappointed in today’s Supreme Court decision that overturns the Stolen Valor Act of 2005. Despite the ruling, the VFW will continue to challenge far-fetched stories, and to publicize these false heroes to the broadest extent possible as a deterrent to others.”
-Richard Denoyer, Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States Commander in Chief
"While we are obviously saddened and aggrieved by the overall decision in this case, we felt good about the portions of the decision which suggest that a more narrowly tailored bill which incorporates traditional fraud elements would be upheld. Since the vast bulk of the more notorious valor thieves engage in this to gain something of value as a result, they will not be able to claim legal immunity once a new bill is passed."
-Fang Wong, American Legion National Commander