Federal ruling: wearing unearned military medals is free speech

Federal Judge Rules Wearing Unearned Military Medals Is Free Speech

NORTHWEST ARKANSAS (KFSM)-- A federal appeals court ruled this week that wearing a military medal you didn't earn is protected under the First Amendment.

The 9th Circuit Court made the decision on Monday (Jan. 11). Local Vietnam veteran Pete Rathmell said he doesn't agree with the decision.

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"It's not an accessory," Rathmell said. "I mean, a person who has that has honor, they've earned it."

Rathmell served in the Navy on submarines from 1966-1968. He has a National Defense service medal as well as a Republic of Vietnam service medal.

"For somebody to wear a medal that they haven't earned to me is disrespectful and cheapens the honor of the person who legitimately earned it," Rathmell said.

University of Arkansas law professor Danielle Weatherby said while the act is frowned upon, it isn't illegal.

"Lies are speech nonetheless," Weatherby said. "We, as a society, don't value one spoken word over another, and that's what the First Amendment is all about."

She said while the ruling doesn't apply to the state of Arkansas, the ruling could be looked at later if a similar situation were to happen in the Natural State as a guideline.

More information on California's ruling can be found here.

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