No, not these Supremes ...
Yes, Dear Readers, yesterday the Supreme Court announced two major decisions that - in true modern-day American fashion - were immediately either strongly supported or bitterly denounced, depending upon the political leanings of the individual doing the shouting.
In the first decision (National Federation of Independent Business et al. v Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services, et. al.) the court upheld the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (or "Obamacare," if you chose to ignore the parts that the GOP used to support, but now doesn't because the President does). You can read the text of the decision here, and I'll write about it in another post; for now, this summary from Mad Magazine pretty much sums up how things won't change as a result of the ruling ...
Today, I want to talk about the other decision, United States v Alvarez ... the one that ruled that the Stolen Valor Act is an unconstitutional infringement on the right to free speech. You can read the full decision here, but - of course - what you really want to hear is what your favorite legal commentator (that would be me) thinks ...
As you know, I am a very strong supporter of our First Amendment right to free speech. I believe that we are best served when all opinions, no matter how odious, are openly expressed so that people can listen to them and make informed decisions. The problem, of course, is that all too few people nowadays are prepared to invest the thinking and open-mindedness needed to make those informed decisions.
The Stolen Valor Act made it a crime to claim the award of a decoration for military service, in particular an award for valor. Writing for the court's majority in striking down the act, Justice Anthony Kennedy said that,
"Though few might find (Alvarez's) statements anything but contemptible, his right to make those statements is protected by the Constitution's guarantee of freedom of speech and expression."
You have a Constitutionally-protected right to lie. This means that the rest of us have a responsibility to listen to those lies and call you out on them.
Of course, if you aren't a truth-challenged megastar like Sarah Palin or Rush Limbaugh, you don't have a huge media machine backing you. And, of course, you can always be charged with racism when you object to a lie that cannot be supported on any other grounds. It's hard to shine the light of truth on a liar, but we need to do it.
Because freedom of speech is a double-edged sword, and we need to ensure that we keep our edge of it well-honed.
Have a good day. Be here tomorrow for Cartoon Saturday ... you'll need it.
More thoughts then.