Stealing honor - is it constitutionally protected?
Chad Groening - OneNewsNow - 2/4/2010 6:00:00 AM
An organization dedicated to honoring the nation's prisoners of war and missing in action service members is outraged that a federal law against lying about military medals is facing First Amendment challenges. Lawyers in California and Colorado cases have made similar arguments against the "Stolen Valor Act," saying that lying is protected by the First Amendment unless it does real harm.
A California judge rejected the motion to dismiss a charge against Xavier Alvarez of falsely claiming he received the Medal of Honor, the nation's highest military decoration. Alvarez is appealing on free speech grounds. Meanwhile in Colorado, Richard Glen Strandlof is awaiting trial on charges of falsely claiming he received a Purple Heart and Silver Star. He pleaded "not guilty" on both, and the judge has not ruled on motions raising the free-speech argument.
Chuck Schantag, chairman of the P.O.W. Network, one of the groups that pushed for enactment of the Stolen Valor Act, says that what these men are doing is just plain wrong.
"As a veteran of Vietnam who did get wounded in '68, I have a problem with this," he argues. "They want to steal our honor, but they don't want any of the pain it took to get it. And to actually challenge this law as free speech is absolutely ludicrous, unbelievable."
The Network's chairman adds that many of those making the false claims have used fraudulent records to gain V.A. benefits. "We've seen cases where phonies have collected better than a half-million dollars of our tax dollars in benefits," Schantag notes. "To think that I paid tax for all those years just to have it given to some phony...."
The Vietnam veteran concludes it is unfortunate that there are not enough prosecutors willing to file charges against the tens of thousands of individuals around the country he believes are doing this.