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United States v. Alvarez

In United States v. Alvarez, Xavier Alvarez claimed that he was a retired marine who had received the Congressional Medal of Honor in 1987 for being wounded repeatedly by the same person in combat. These claims were made in an attempt to have him gain more respect from his peers. The claim was that Alvarez had violated the Stolen Valor Act of 2005. The Stolen Valor Act of 2005 states that there are protections against claiming to have received some type of military honor, such as the Medal of Honor and other military decorations and awards (GovTrack). The Government stated that there was first amendment value applicable to Alvarez’s false statements, and that his statements caused harm to others. By making this statement, it was argued that the value of the award of Honor would drop and that this type of false speech falls under the same category as speaking falsely on behalf of the government or as a government official. However, since his statements were not made with the intention of financial benefits or special treatment, his false claims may not be illegal because they were made for the purpose of gaining respect. The case was decided 6-3 in favor of Alvarez. The Supreme Court ruled the Stolen Valor Act unconstitutional in violation of the First Amendment. Justices Kennedy, Roberts, Ginsburg and Sotomayor joined in a plurality opinion. The plurality stated that freedom of speech under the First Amendment protects lying and false statements. Although the lies are frowned upon and socially unacceptable, the First Amendment protects those types of statements. With the application of strict scrutiny to this case, the Justices within the plurality found that the Stolen Valor Act was very broad and if it had more specific restric... ... middle of paper ... ... to Barnum, people who have awards such as the Purple Heart and Medal of Honor effect not only those who hold them, but those that see others wearing them. Being a decorated veteran will change another person’s perspective of someone, even without meeting him or her previously. Barnum argues that these lies are detrimental to society and the government needs to do its job to protect its symbols and awards (Barnum, 849). Works Cited Speech Restrictions That Don't Much Affect the Autonomy of Speakers [comments] Constitutional Commentary, Vol. 27, Issue 2 (Fall 2011), pp. 347-360 Volokh, Eugene 27 Const. Comment. 347 (2010-2011) False Valor: Amending the Stolen Valor Act to Conform with the First Amendment's Fraudulent Speech Exception [article] Washington Law Review, Vol. 86, Issue 4 (December 2011), pp. 841-874 Barnum, Jeffrey C. 86 Wash. L. Rev. 841 (2011)
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