Brief Fact Summary. Levy (Respondent) is an Army physician who is being court-martialed for making disparaging statements about the United States’ involvement in Vietnam.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. The fundamental necessity for obedience, and the consequent necessity for imposition of discipline renders certain military regulations permissible that would otherwise be prohibited by the United States Constitution.
Respondent is the Chief of Dermatological Service at the United States Army Hospital at Fort Jackson. While examining enlistees for combat readiness he would often express a negative sentiment about the war in Vietnam. Particularly, he stated that black soldiers should not fight or join the military because they were subject to discrimination in their own country and were being the first to be killed in Vietnam. Furthermore, he claimed that the Special Forces lied to the soldiers and were murderers.
Issue. Is military regulation of speech constitutionally valid?
Held. Yes. A commissioned officer of the military has the responsibility to act in accordance with and support the efforts of the military in time of war.Dissent.
Justice Douglas: The First Amendment was meant to protect the speech of military as well as civilians. The ruling here allows a complete censorship on all forms of speech not just that which could be disruptive.
Justice Stewart: The military regulation is too vague to upheld as constitutionally valid. Discussion.
The military has the authority to limit speech and opinion of leadership conduct. By encouraging soldiers to be disobedient, Respondent could have disrupted war efforts and derailed the objectives of the military.