U.S. Court: Wearing Unearned Military Medals OK Under 1st Amendment

Stolen valor? Not a problem, says the feds.

Military Times is reporting that a federal appeals court has ruled that free speech under the First Amendment covers people who want to wear military medals they did not earn.

Monday, an 11-judge panel threw out a 2007 conviction against a veteran who violated the Stolen Valor Act by wearing a Purple Heart.

In 2005, Elven Joe Swisher testified in a murder trial and wore the medal on the witness stand. While on the stand, Swisher said he was propositioned by a man who wanted to hire someone to kill a federal judge. Swisher seemed like a good candidate because he had bragged about killing "many men" in the Korean War, of which he is a Marine veteran.

However, he was never wounded, according to the Times, and was honorably discharged in 1957. His papers include no mention of medals received.

The Stolen Valor Act was signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2006, but was struck down by the Supreme Court in 2012 which decided it was against free speech protections. In 2013, President Obama signed a new law proposed by Congress that made it illegal to profit off of a lie regarding military service.

Swisher's conviction included not only wearing a Purple Heart he did not earn, but also a Silver Star, a Navy and Marine Corps Ribbon, and the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal with a Bronze "V," according to the report. That same year, 2007, under a Democratic Congress, a provision was removed that made wearing unearned medals illegal.

And now the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agrees.