For Immediate Release
ACLU Says Supreme Court Was “Right to Reject” Stolen Valor Act as Unconstitutional
Justices Rule Some False Statements Are Protected by First Amendment
WASHINGTON - The U.S. Supreme Court ruled today that a law that makes it a federal crime to lie about receiving medals for military service is unconstitutional.
The justices decided that the Stolen Valor Act, which makes lying about receiving medals a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in prison, or up to a year for lying about receiving the Medal of Honor, violated First Amendment protections against free speech.
Jameel Jaffer, ACLU deputy legal director, said the ruling, which affirmed a decision by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, was “right to reject” the government’s arguments that false statements are categorically unprotected by the First Amendment.
“While it is true that some false statements lack social value, many others, such as those meant to be satire or parody, serve important social interests. Many other false statements are important to individual autonomy interests that the First Amendment has long been understood to protect,” Jaffer said.
“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.”
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) conserves America's original civic values working in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in the United States by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.