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Wong to Congress: Pass a new Stolen Valor Act

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Wong to Congress: Pass a new Stolen Valor Act
Photo via Flickr

American Legion National Commander Fang A. Wong is calling on Congress to pass a new version of the Stolen Valor Act, one that would stand up to constitutional scrutiny. The U.S. Supreme Court issued a "plurality" ruling Thursday morning — a 6-3 decision that protects those who lie about their military experiences, including those who falsely claim to have received combat wounds and medals, in order to advance their careers.

"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," Wong said. "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."

The plurality opinion, announced by Justice Anthony Kennedy — who was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor — reasoned that, with only narrow exceptions, content-based restrictions on speech face strict scrutiny and are therefore almost always unconstitutional.

False statements of fact do not fall within one of these exceptions, and so the Stolen Valor Act can survive scrutiny only if it is narrowly tailored to a compelling government interest, the Court held. The majority concluded that the Stolen Valor Act is unconstitutional because the government had not shown that such a statute is necessary to protect the integrity of the system of military honors — the interest the government had identified in support of the act.

Wong said a 2011 revision of the challenged law would pass the constitutionality test. "Congress needs to do whatever it takes to pass H.R. 1775, a 2011 rewrite of the original Stolen Valor Act, which we believe the Supreme Court would accept as constitutional. The justices did not say that the idea is wrong because the idea is not wrong. It’s just a matter of conforming to constitutional parameters."

Associate Justice Stephen Breyer, joined by Associate Justice Elena Kagan, concurred separately, concluding that the Stolen Valor Act, in its current form, applies even in family, social or other private contexts where lies will often cause little harm. Breyer and Kagan argued that the government could achieve its goals in a less burdensome way, and so determined that the Stolen Valor Act, as written, is unconstitutional. Their opinion leaves open the opportunity to revise the act, so it would stand up if challenged in the nation’s highest court.

 

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Larry B.

January 7, 2014 - 1:09pm

Then you have a make believe Brig Gen (Michael Teilman) running around, making speeches as a B.G. who has been awarded the Legion of Merit by a group of self appointed mystery officers. Teilman has never served on active duty other than State Active Duty in California and was terminated for sexual harassment. At one point, and possibly still is, he was in charge of the U.S.O. in the Los Angeles area headquartered at LAX. I believe he has also made speeches to American Legion groups as a B.G..

Rdmesserly

August 4, 2013 - 10:13am

I am for the reason of this act but it should support action against all who falsely claim awards! We have a Secretary of State that claims medals he did not earn! Why isn't any action taken against this fraud?

Karl D. Kayser

November 3, 2012 - 2:48pm

I should do a better job of proof reading. What I meant to say was the liars (and that is what they are) are insulting those of us who have served and bringing shame upon themselves.

Karl D. Kayser

November 3, 2012 - 2:42pm

It is a shame and a pity that we even have to have this law or this conversation. That someone, for ANY reason, would lie about receiving an award that he did not earn or claim to have served when he did not,is not only reprehenseable to me as a veteran, but it is, in my opinion a crime an an insult to those who have served and achieved veteran status but a stain on their own morals and reputation. They should be embarrassed and ashamed.

airdalevet

June 28, 2012 - 9:15pm

A lie is a lie no matter how large or small and no matter what color you paint it. Anyone who believes that telling a lie is Ok is morally bankrupt. That is the problem with our nation today. Too many people believe that lies are ok. Our elected officials lie as a matter of daily life. I am tired of the lies and those that support lies. However, I am a Vietnam veteran who fought to protect your right to like lies.

old man

June 28, 2012 - 8:16pm

Since there is a criminal act called perjury, not all lying is protected speach. One need not be seeking gain or advancement to be guilty, only lie under oath. I understand the sensitivity of restricting free speach, but we clearly have laws that do so already. Since I find false claims to awards and service not earned or accomplished to be disrespectful of those who have done the service and earned the awards, I am more concerned about respecting the service of those who have done so honorably than I am about any minor encroachment on the "free speach" rights of a few liars. I hope that congress will do a better job of respecting the legitimate claims of our veterans than it has done to date.

RGrabber

June 28, 2012 - 8:02pm

All three are unconnected legally. I just think Roberts was the last guy who would vote the way he did on each.

RGrabber

June 28, 2012 - 8:02pm

All three are unconnected legally. I just think Roberts was the last guy who would vote the way he did on each.

John La Rochelle

June 28, 2012 - 7:19pm

The courts' decision on the Stolen Valor Act is completely seperate of its other decisions.

RGrabber

June 28, 2012 - 7:00pm

I now question Roberts. Against the Arizona Law, finds a way (calling it a tax when it is not, by the Presidents own words)to make Obamacare constitional, and now against Stolen Valor. By the way , lies are not legal, just ask Bernie Madoff.

cervenyjr551

June 28, 2012 - 6:57pm

The freedom of speech right does not give liars that right. If you go back to the thoughts and writtings of the founding fathers you will see that speech should be free and but not untruthful. This is in the founding fathers words. Where the hell does the supreme idiots see this otherwise? Freedom of speech doesn't say, you can say anything you want or the court say awhile back you cant yell fire in a full theater. So why is that and todays ruling different from each other. Again the idiot John sided with the other traitors and could care less about USA laws.

Tim Morris

June 28, 2012 - 7:23pm

Sure it does. Nowhere in the Constitution does it say "freedom of truthful speech". It matters not what the Founding Fathers may have said outside of this document. The Constitution is the law of the land, not their letters, thoughts, or wishes.

oldoscar6

July 6, 2012 - 1:57am

Mr. Morris, your statement the "The Constitution is the law of the land, not their letters, thoughts, or wishes." is not entirlely correct. The Founding Father, writers of the Constitution, thoroughly debated the Constituition and its implications. Those letters, thoughts, and wishes are used by Congress and the Supreme Court to interpret the Constituition and make it very relevant to today. The Second Ammendment is applied to each Citizen by the interpretation of what is a militia. The Constitution does not define what a militia is but the Founding Fathers did define what a militia as in documents outside the Constitution, such as the Federalist Papers. I chose the Second Ammendment because that is the easiest to use as an example. Writ of Habeus Corpus would be another example that juris prudence would utilize the letters, thoughts, or wishes of the Founding Fathers to define, utilize and defend.

oldoscar6

July 6, 2012 - 1:57am

Mr. Morris, your statement the "The Constitution is the law of the land, not their letters, thoughts, or wishes." is not entirlely correct. The Founding Father, writers of the Constitution, thoroughly debated the Constituition and its implications. Those letters, thoughts, and wishes are used by Congress and the Supreme Court to interpret the Constituition and make it very relevant to today. The Second Ammendment is applied to each Citizen by the interpretation of what is a militia. The Constitution does not define what a militia is but the Founding Fathers did define what a militia as in documents outside the Constitution, such as the Federalist Papers. I chose the Second Ammendment because that is the easiest to use as an example. Writ of Habeus Corpus would be another example that juris prudence would utilize the letters, thoughts, or wishes of the Founding Fathers to define, utilize and defend.

old man

June 28, 2012 - 8:20pm

Since there is a criminal act called perjury, not all lying is protected speach. One need not be seeking gain or advancement to be guilty, only lie under oath. I understand the sensitivity of restricting free speach, but we clearly have laws that do so already. Since I find false claims to awards and service not earned or accomplished to be disrespectful of those who have done the service and earned the awards, I am more concerned about respecting the service of those who have done so honorably than I am about any minor encroachment on the "free speach" rights of a few liars. I hope that congress will do a better job of respecting the legitimate claims of our veterans than it has done to date.

John La Rochelle

June 28, 2012 - 7:35pm

Right on!!!!

John La Rochelle

June 28, 2012 - 5:50pm

I support Commander Wong. Our reprentatives, mostly lawyers, in Congress should have gotten this right the first time for it to past muster in the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court, in its decision, has even suggested how Congress should address the issue. Get a 'move on' Congress. Despite the recent decisions of the court, I'm having a wonderful day.

Tim Morris

June 28, 2012 - 5:34pm

As well they should have. I didn't serve just so we could sit back and begin to declare constitutionally protected freedoms illegal. Once again Commander Wong is living down to his name and is screamingly, terminally, wrong on this topic.

rwjgiesler

July 1, 2012 - 7:35pm

Timmy, you are playing in the wrong sandbox. You are turning things into right or wrong issues. Besides, although your views my be correct in your own eyes, you seem to also trying to be a legend in your own mind as well. Sooo, since you say you didn't serve in the military, but studied at DLI (I live next to DLI in PG and served 6 yrs in the Army) - trade that stupid hat with a military one, repost your picture with a less arrogant one and Move On! Yea, I gotta say with a bit of shame-your views and methods to support your views suck!

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