Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Lying may be distasteful, but it's also a right

by Ken Paulson

USA Today
September 8, 2010

Xavier Alvarez never played hockey for the Detroit Red Wings.

He wasn't secretly married to a Mexican starlet.

And he certainly wasn't an ex-Marine who had been awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.

But Alvarez claimed to be all three. And it was the lie about his military honors that led to his being charged with a felony under the Stolen Valor Act of 2005.

Now Alvarez can claim — truthfully — that he is a subject of a potentially pivotal First Amendment case in federal court. In a 2 to 1 decision, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the Stolen Valor Law, saying it violated the First Amendment. The court showed no sympathy toward lying, yet it was reluctant to give the government too much latitude in punishing untruthful speech.

"The general freedom from government interference with speech ... w