House approves bill to criminalize profiting from lies about military service

The House approved legislation on Thursday that would make it a crime to lie about one's military service if those lies result in a financial benefit.

The Stolen Valor Act, H.R. 1775, was approved in a 410-3 vote. It was only opposed by just two Republicans and one Democrat.

The bill is a response to this year's Supreme Court decision that struck down the first version of the Stolen Valor Act, which was passed in 2006. In June, the Court ruled that making it a crime to lie about military service violates the First Amendment, although the court did indicated that the law could be tweaked to make it constitutional.

The sponsor of the new version, Rep. Joe Heck (R-Nev.), said he believes that making it a crime to benefit from lies about military service will allow it to withstand judicial scrutiny.

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"The Stolen Valor Act of 2011 resolves these constitutional issues by clearly defining that the objective of the law is to target and punish those who misrepresent their alleged service with the intent of profiting personally or financially," Heck said during Tuesday debate. "Defining the intent helps ensure that this law will pass constitutional scrutiny while at the same time achieving its primary objective, which is to preserve and protect the honor and integrity of military service and awards."

Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.) said he also supports the bill, and noted that Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote that when false claims lead to a benefit, "it is well-established that the government may restrict speech without affronting the First Amendment."

Passage in the House sends the bill to the Senate, which has yet to indicate whether it will consider the bill. However, Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) has a similar bill with significant Democratic support, and Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) has one that is being supported by Republicans.

— Jeremy Herb contributed.