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Courts to decide whether First Amendment protects lies about being a war hero

Military officials said they had no record that he served. He has pleaded not guilty, and a judge is considering whether to throw out the charge.

Lawyers challenging the act say that lying about getting a medal doesn't fit any of the categories of speech that the U.S. Supreme Court has said can be banned: lewd, obscene, profane, libelous or an imminent danger to others, such as yelling "fire" in a crowded theater.

Doug Sterner, a military historian, said the law embodies the wishes of the nation's first commander in chief, George Washington. Sterner said Washington created the Purple Heart, the nation's first military decoration, and wrote, "Should any who are not entitled to these honors have the insolence to assume the badges of them, they shall be severely punished."

"I think that speaks to the intent of the framers," Sterner said, "that George Washington saw this kind of lie outside the scope of this freedom-of-speech issue."

-- Associated Press

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