Court's Ruling to Legalize Military Impersonation Raises Heated Debate in the Basin

By Jen Kastner

NewsWest 9

MIDLAND- As of Thursday, the U.S. Supreme Court now claims it is legal to pretend to be a decorated military veteran. The court determined that criminalizing military impersonators is a violation of freedom of speech rights. The Permian Basin has a heavy military population and most of the ones we heard from are outraged with the decision.

Georgia Scott works at Midland's VFW Post 4149. She's a self-proclaimed military brat who says that nobody should be granted the right to walk our local streets pretending to be veteran.

"You should wait until Halloween to play dress-up or stay in your home and do it. Don't walk around coming off as something that you're not, especially something with this much meaning," she said.

Thursday's ruling struck down the Stolen Valor Act, a law making it a federal crime to lie about being a decorated service person. The court claims it undercuts the First Amendment. Simply put, the courts says you should be given the right to be able lie about your military service, if you wish to do so.

The National First Amendment Center is claiming a victory. President and CEO Ken Paulson tells us, "Do we really want the government to punish us for being able to say something that's not absolutely true, no matter what the subject? People lie all the time. They don't admit it but think about your last high school reunion."

David Cole operates Midland's American Heritage Cemetery and Funeral Home, which has a special focus on veterans.

"As a vet, you've suffered. You've earned the right of that honor and they are, in effect, allowing people to steal that from people. It's reprehensible," he said.

On NewsWest 9's facebook page, the vast majority of comments regarding the story attacked the ruling. One facebook user writes, "Wow. What a slap in the face for all of those that risk their lives for us."

However, a couple folks disagreed.

Another user writes, "So are you suggesting that the Supreme Court outlaw lying? Absurd. This country was founded upon the principle that you could say whatever you wanted to say, regardless of its validity."

Paulson says, "The government can't punish people from bragging and lying about their accomplishments including military achievement."

The new ruling may legalize military impersonation, but it does not legalize the impersonation for means of seeking any sort of profit.

Paulson adds, "You can still prosecute people for claiming to have received a military honor if they use that lie to profit from other people."

Yet some ask, what other reason would you do it for besides to make a quick buck?

Cole said, "I think the only reason someone would want to do that is so they could get some sort of personal gain from it."