Since 2006, lying about military valor—claiming to have received a prestigious medal, for instance—could result in prosecution. But that could change after this Wednesday, when the Supreme Court reviews the Stolen Valor Act. Proponents of the law, which include the Obama administration, say it prevents fraud. Such liars are "impersonating somebody else," says a woman whose college essay pushing for the law made its way to Congress. But civil liberties groups, writers, and media outlets including the AP are concerned about the limits the Stolen Valor Act places on free speech—and the fact that it can turn people into criminals for things they say, rather than do.
These groups fear a slippery slope toward further government regulation of expression. Fake boasts of military prowess have prompted a number of embarrassments: Lawmakers have voted to name post offices in honor of people who have falsely claimed awards; and the Air Force named an award after a man who lied about World War II experiences. A federal appeals court in San Francisco ruled the law unconstitutional, but one in Denver upheld the legislation. (Read more US military stories.)