Medal of Honor recipients lament Supreme Court Stolen Valor decision, blame Congress

Caroline May | Reporter

The Supreme Court struck down the Stolen Valor Act last week, overturning the law that criminalized lying about one’s military honors and angering many military veterans.

The Supreme Court is not the lone target of veteran disappointment, however — for some, Congress is the real body to blame.

“I am disappointed by the decision and put the blame on Congress for passing a law with no teeth,” said retired Col. Jack Jacobs, who received the Medal of Honor in 1967 for rescuing wounded soldiers under heavy fire, while suffering from a head wound, during the Vietnam War.

“They could have written a law that would make it difficult for the Supreme Court to strike down over free speech,” he added.

Jacobs, whose reaction was provided to The Daily Caller by the United States United States Naval Institute (USNI), was not surprised about the decision. As a firm believer in the First Amendment, however, he wished Congress had passed a stronger law that did not violate free speech principles.

Daniel J. Murphy, the father of Lt. Michael Murphy — a U.S. Navy SEAL posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions in 2005 saving his fellow soldiers in Afghanistan by sacrificing his own life — and a former New York district attorney, echoed Jacob’s sentiments.

“The law was too broad and needs to be more narrowly tailored and written to address real concerns with folks lying on their official resume and statements to receive a benefit (whether its monetary or enhancing his/her reputation) as opposed to the puffery and exaggeration that goes on about people’s exploits in the war … the barroom braggadocio,” Murphy explained in a statement provided to TheDC by USNI.

According to Murphy, there needed to be a more methodical approach to the legislation.

“In trying to find the right balance,” he added, “it takes time and effort, rather than a knee-jerk reaction about criminalizing all liars through a hastily drawn Stolen Valor Act which failed to pass constitutional scrutiny by the Supreme Court.”

The Stolen Valor Act, passed by Congress and signed into law by then President George W. Bush in 2006, made it a federal misdemeanor to lie about receiving military honors.

In 2007, Xavier Alvarez, a California man who had been falsely identifying himself as a Medal of Honor recipient, was convicted of violating the statute. In a 6-3 decision, the Supreme Court overturned Alvarez’s conviction and the law.

“That decision was a big disappointment,” Retired Marine Col. Wesley Fox — who was awarded the Medal of Honor in 1971 for courage and inspiring initiative during Operation Dewey Canyon in the Quang Tri Province, Vietnam and author of the “Six Essential Elements of Leadership: Marine Corps Wisdom from a Medal of Honor Recipient” — said, according to USNI. “Lies are not only OK but liars are protected by the system. Free speech is not the issue; it is the downfall of our society that is our problem.”

“I have lost plenty of friends in combat, so it is angering and frustrating that seething fools like Alvarez are allowed to besmirch the sacrifice of service.” Jacobs added.

While the court has struck down the 2006 law, there are efforts underway to get a more feasible law on the books.

Last year, Nevada Republican Rep. Joe Heck introduced the “The Stolen Valor Act of 2011” — which makes misrepresentations of military service “with intent to obtain anything of value” a federal misdemeanor. The legislation was referred to the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security on June 1.

Massachusetts Republican Sen. Scott Brown has companion legislation in the Senate. The legislation bill has been pending in the Judiciary Committee since October, with the court’s decision, however, Brown has reinvigorated his push to pass it.

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