The House of Representatives has passed and sent to the Senate the new "Stolen Valor Act of 2011," to stop impostors from falsely claiming military service and the receipt of the Medal of Honor and other medals of valor. It should me voted upon by the Senate, and signed by President Obama, without delay. (Story here)
The American Legion, among other veterans organization, has strongly supported enactment by Congress of a new Stolen Valor Act ever since the 9th Circuit Court of Appeal declared the original act an unconstitutional violation of free speech -- i.e., it held there is a constitutional "right to lie" about military service, and receipt of medals of valor, including he Medal of Honor, the nation's highest medal of valor.
The Supreme Court, in the case of U.S. vs. Xavier Alvarez, upheld that decision (over a stinging dissent), but pointedly noted that a "more narrowly drawn" law would be constitutional. The Court appeared to urge the Legislative Branch to do so to protect against fraudulent claims of military valor by impostors.
The new Stolen Valor Act contains an "intent" element that was not in in the original. That is, it criminalizes knowingly making false claims of military service, service in combat zones, service in "special operations"forces, or receiving the Medal of Honor or other medals of valor, if those claims are made "with intent to obtain anything of value." It provides that it is a defense to a prosecution if the court determines "the thing of value is de minimis."
FAKE MARINE ALVAREZ EXPOSED BY REAL MARINE MELISSA CAMPBELL: SHE IS FIRED
Xavier Alvarez was a minor Democrat Party politician in Southern California who was elected to the Tri-County Water Board headquartered in San Bernardino County in Southern California. Alvarez, to get elected, claimed to have been a retired Marine who suffered many wounds in such heroic combat that he received the Medal of Honor.
However, he was exposed as an impostor by a real former Marine -- Melissa Campbell. Employed as a civilian in the public relations division of Southern California Edison, which has substantial contracts with the Water Board, she exposed Alvarez after he tried to charm her with tales of his Marine service and his alleged Medal of Honor during a public relations event staged by So. Cal Edison for members of the Water Board.
When Campbell revealed she was a former Marine and asked probing questions about Alvarez' claims, he charged that she was harassing him and demanded that she be fired--which Southern Cal Edison did.
However, former Marine Campbell did not retreat from her claims that Alvarez was a fake Marine and Medal of Honor recipient. An FBI investigation ensued, resulting in prosecution of Alvarez. He continued to refuse to resign, and was removed from the Water Board only after his conviction for violation of the Stolen Valor Act.
Alvarez did not deny that his claims were lies, but pleaded guilty on condition he could appeal his conviction on the basis that the Stolen Valor Act was in violation of his right of freedom of speech, i.e., his right to lie.
Although the Stolen Valor Act was ultimately found unconstitutional, as drafted, Alvarez remained in prison upon a conviction for misappropriation of pubic funds as an elected member of the Water Board. I attach hereto a photo of the smiling fake Marine and Medal of Honor winner Xavier Alvarez before his conviction, appearing with a chestfull of medals -- in an Army (not Marine) uniform.
HEED REAL MARINE MELISSA CAMPBELL'S CALL TO PASS THE STOLEN VALOR ACT
As for Melissa Campbell, the real Marine who was fired for exposing the fake Marine, she is a leading figure today calling upon veterans, and all Americans, to demand that Congress act as expeditiously as possible to enact the Stolen Valor Act of 2011, in order to protect the integrity of the Medal of Honor, and the honor of those military heroes who have earned it, from abuse, exploitation, and desecration. The House now has. The Senate should.
Please, heed the call of Melissa Campbell, The American Legion, and other veterans and patriots: Contact your Senators and urge them to act swiftly to pass the Stolen Valor Act of 2011.
THE FOUNDING FATHERS DID NOT CREATE A FIRST AMENDMENT "RIGHT TO LIE"
Finally, allow me, as a career-long civil rights and constitutional lawyer, to express my opinion that it is utterly absurd, and preposterous to believe that General George Washington and the other Founding Fathers intended to create a "right to lie" about military service in general and military valor in particular, when they voted to establish the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.
Only the unelected, unaccountable, life-tenured lawyers sitting as modern federal judges who are amending the constitution to fit their intent, and not the Founding Fathers intent, could be so arrogant as to ascribe such a "right to lie" to the Founding Fathers.
Founding Father Thomas Jefferson was right when he observed: "The Constitution is a mere thing of wax in the hands of the judiciary, which they may twist and shape into any form they please[; ]" and, "It is a dangerous doctrine, indeed, to make the judiciary the ultimate arbiters of all constitutional questions. It will lead to a despotic oligarchy."
(Rees Lloyd is a longtime California civil rights lawyer, a veterans activist, and a member of the Victoria Taft Blogforce who now resides in Portland.)