Media Ethics/Law By Manuel Romero

The United States vs. Xavier Alvarez  Case.

(1st amendment-free speech)

by Manuel Romero

This case dealt with a man named Xavier Alvarez who had lied at a Water District meeting stating that he received a Congressional Medal of Honor because he got injured while in action. Due to a law called Stolen Valor Act, he was indicted. This act made it a federal misdemeanor to lie about receiving military awards and had a special penalty for an individual who lied about receiving the Congressional Medal of Honor. (Harvard Law Review,Vol. 126:176) Initially, Alvarez had argued that this law went against his freedom of speech, but lost. However, it was later overturned by Court of Appeals. It was also confirmed by the Supreme Court which ruled that this type of speech was not unprotected by the  first amendment. One of the judges from the Supreme Court argued that it was written to broadly.

Harvard Law Review argued that while the Supreme Court was correct in declaring that law to be unconstitutional, they should have adopted an approach based on how much harm that lie could have created and argued that the speech “targeted by the act was not so harmful [creating for example, psychological or emotional trauma]”.

It was interesting to note that while that lie was morally wrong, it was still protected by the 1st amendment. Nevertheless, there are types of lies that the Supreme Court has ruled unprotected such as defamation , child pornography, fraud, among others  (Harvard Law Review,Vol. 126:176). My reaction was mixed because I understood (at least somewhat) both sides, and I understand  why individuals who have earn those medal would feel upset.

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