Are Abel Fields’s Actions Protected by The First Amendment: Analytical Essay

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This case study is on the United States v Abel Fields. Abel Fields is under trial because he is accused of violating the Stolen Valor Act. In 2011, Mr. Fields attended a city meeting on public safety where he told everyone about his extensive military experience which he explained gave him the knowledge to speak on various public safety issues. While speaking on this, he also mentioned that he was also a recipient of the Purple Heart, an honored military award. However, each of these claims was proven to be untrue. Fields never served in the military nor received a Purple Heart. He was convicted under the Stolen Valor Act and charged with a fine. He appealed this decision and argued that the conviction was unconstitutional and violated his first amendment right, the sentence was then overturned. This is a complicated case, but I will use previous court decisions, and precedents, to decide Mr. Fields' fate.

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I will start by agreeing with Mr. Fields' arguments that the Stolen Valor Act is unconstitutional and violates his freedom of speech. This Act is very broad and can set a precedent for blocking ALL forms of expression that disagree with another’s opinion. Where will we draw the line? According to Texas v Johnson, a person’s words and expressions cannot be suppressed solely because others disagree or do not like the point of view. Freedom of speech, however, is not unlimited and can be suppressed but only if it incites violence or is considered defamation. New York Times Co. v Sullivan rules that damages for libel can be recovered only if it can be proved that the statements were made with actual malice- defined as knowledge that it was false or with reckless disregard of whether it was false or not. Were Mr. Fields' claims false? Yes. Did he know they were false when he made them? Yes. But were his claims actually malicious? Did he try to defame someone? No. He made these falsehoods about himself which can be easily reversed. People lie every day, should they all be charged?

According to Gertz v Welch, “There is no constitutional value in false statements of fact.” There are other laws that prosecute those who commit fraud, defamation, or libel with varying standards. I believe the Stolen Valor Act is much too broad and does not take into account varying standards per case. This leaves a potential to trample on a person’s fundamental rights. I hope my decision leads us to make some necessary changes to this act and help it to protect those that have served but also not infringe upon the rights of American citizens.

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Are Abel Fields’s Actions Protected by The First Amendment: Analytical Essay. (2023, September 25). Edubirdie. Retrieved May 26, 2024, from
“Are Abel Fields’s Actions Protected by The First Amendment: Analytical Essay.” Edubirdie, 25 Sept. 2023,
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