October 17, 2011

Medal case goes to Supreme Court

Long-time readers will recall my postings titled Hipster Medals Instead of Headdresses and Cooke Defends Medals, Headdresses. In them, I compared wearing Indian headdresses--revered by Indians as a special honor--to wearing military medals--revered by Americans as a special honor. Most Americans wouldn't think of wearing medals, pretending to be soldiers, and mocking our military. Yet they have no compunction about doing the same thing with Indian headdresses.

Now here's a posting that shows exactly how serious Americans consider the falsifying of our military honors. Serious enough to take the case all the way to the Supreme Court--that's how serious.

High court to rule on lying about military medalsThe Supreme Court will decide if telling a lie about yourself is a crime--if the lie claims military medals you didn't earn.

The court said Monday it will rule on the constitutionality of a law that makes it a federal crime for people to claim falsely, either in writing or aloud, that they have been awarded the Medal of Honor, a Silver Star, Purple Heart or any other military medal.

The Stolen Valor Act, which passed Congress with overwhelming support in 2006, apparently has been used only a few dozen times, but the underlying issue of false claims of military heroism has struck a chord in an era in which American soldiers are fighting two wars.

At the same time, the justices have issued a series of rulings in recent terms in favor of free expression, striking down California's violent video restrictions and a federal law involving cruelty to animals. It also upheld the right of protesters to picket military funerals with provocative, even offensive, messages.

The federal appeals court in California struck down the military medals law on free speech grounds, and appeals courts in Colorado, Georgia and Missouri are considering similar cases.

The Obama administration is arguing that the law "serves a crucial purpose in safeguarding the military honors system." The administration also says the law is reasonable because it only applies to instances in which the speaker intends to portray himself as a medal recipient. Previous high court rulings also have limited First Amendment protection for false statements, the government said.
Comment:  Even if the Supreme Court favors the free-speech argument, and you do too, I trust you see the point. People may have the "right" to pretend to be decorated soldiers, but nobody considers it harmless or good. It's a moral offense even if it isn't a legal offense.

The same applies to wearing Indian headdresses. The two cases continue to be exceedingly analogous.

For more on hipster headdresses, see Tribalism Is Trendy and Rap Video on Hipster Headdresses.

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