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Worksheet - How Would You Decide?

Instructions and Answer Guide: Review the arguments below. Identify the arguments that help Alvarez (A) and those that help the United States (US). The answers listed here are merely a guide. Responses should be evaluated on how well participants defend their arguments. Participants may modify the arguments listed here and add their own arguments.

  • Arguments
  • Answer Guide

Arguments: How Would You Decide?

Review the arguments below. Identify the arguments that help Alvarez (A) and those that help the United States (US). Check the answers by clicking on the Answer Guide tab.

  1. False statements about military medals merit no First Amendment protection.

  2. Falsity alone may not be enough to exclude speech from the protections of the First Amendment.

  3. Lies about military service and recognition are not trivial, like lying about one's weight or bowling score. Military-awards programs date back to the days of General George Washington. They stir up deep, patriotic feelings that motivate troops and console grieving families. To condone lying about military recognition cheapens the medals on every soldier's uniform and the heroic acts they recognize and represent.

  4. The Government failed to point to any evidence that the public's general perception of military awards is diluted by false claims, such as those made by Alvarez.

  5. The outrage and contempt expressed for Mr. Alvarez's lies can reawaken and reinforce the public's respect for the Medal, its recipients, and its high purpose.

  6. Military service and honors deserve First Amendment protection from liars.

  7. Suppression of speech by the government can make exposure of falsity more difficult, not less so.

  8. The Stolen Valor Act is too broad. It is an attempt to control and suppress all false statements on this one subject in almost limitless times and settings. And it does not consider whether the lie was made for the purpose of financial gain.

  9. It has long been clear that First Amendment protection does not hinge
    on the truth of the matter expressed.

  10. Criminal punishment for lying is not the best and only way to ensure the integrity, meaning, and value of military medals. The greatest damage done in such lies is to the reputation of the liars themselves, not to the reputations of the real medal holders.

  11. The federal court of appeals ruled that lying about one's military record is protected free speech. However, liars who disrespect those who died to preserve the First Amendment don't deserve its protections in the justice system.

  12. If the government wants to stop people from falsely claiming that they have received military medals, the way to do it is a searchable database that anyone can easily check to see if their claims are true.

  13. The remedy for speech that is false is speech that is true . . . The theory of the Constitution is "that the best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market."

  14. When soldiers follow government orders to protect the United States and the Constitution, the government owes the soldiers' reputations protection from lies that dishonor their service. In other words, when soldiers die for the government, they should be protected by the government.

  15. The First Amendment itself ensures the right to respond to speech we do not like, and for good reason. Freedom of speech and thought flows not from what benefits the state but from the inalienable rights of the person.

  16. The First Amendment protects the right to speak and write whatever one chooses – including, to some degree, statements that may seem worthless or offensive or statements that can be proven false – without cowering in fear of a powerful government.

  17. The Stolen Valor Act does not violate the Constitution. False statements may be protected when laws restricting them might chill protected speech. In this case, the subject matter of the lies does not relate to any protected expression.

  18. There was no malice intended or harm done, since Mr. Alvarez made his false claims when he introduced himself as a new member of the Three Valley Water District Board of Directors in California. Being exposed for lying should be enough punishment and social control for a fabrication of this kind. There is no need for government involvement when the community will enforce social sanctions on Mr. Alvarez.

  19. Criminal sanctions are appropriate in this case. There are numerous laws that punish lying and establish it as a crime, even when there is no proof of harm done by the lie.

  20. Examples of laws that punish lies include:

    • Perjury is punishable in 17 states, even when the lie has no effect on the trial.
    • Nearly all states prohibit "false swearing," a perjury-like statute that treats lying under oath as a crime.
    • Some "obstructing justice" statutes that prohibit lying to police do not require that any actual harm result from the lie for it to be considered a crime.
    • Lying on a military enlistment application is against the law, regardless of whether there are detrimental consequences that come from the government's reliance on the false information.

  21. The First Amendment protects unpopular speech.

  22. There is a slippery slope here: Once one kind of speech is criminalized, there is the risk the government may criminalize other lies. Could a law banning lies on Facebook follow? Could the government criminalize lying about one's age? Does society want to run that risk?

  23. There is no slippery slope here. There is no reason to tolerate false statements about military heroism. Lying about receiving military honors is a carefully defined subset of false statements undeserving of First Amendment protection.

  24. Upholding the Stolen Valor Act could give the government broad and unprecedented censorship powers.

  25. When soldiers die for the First Amendment, they should be protected by it.

  26. The First Amendment itself ensures the right to respond to speech we do not like, and for good reason. Freedom of speech and thought flows not from what benefits the state but from the inalienable rights of the person.

Answer Guide: How Would You Decide?

Answers listed here are merely a guide. Responses should be evaluated on how well participants defend their arguments.

  1. (US)

  2. (A)

  3. (US)

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  5. (A)

  6. (US)

  7. (A)

  8. (US)

  9. (A)

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  11. (US)

  12. (A)

  13. (A)

  14. (US)

  15. (A)

  16. (A)

  17. (US)

  18. (A)

  19. (US)

  20. (US)

  21. (A)

  22. (A)

  23. (US)

  24. (A)

  25. (US)

  26. (A)