Emmett's Virginian Voice
From the Office of Senator Emmett Hanger   September 2017
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"Free Speech" is often bantered around in public opinion and the media; even more so recently after the Charlottesville protests and the tragedies of that day.

Free Speech is spelled out in the First Amendment of the United States Constitution and protects the right to freedom of religion and freedom of expression. It is a core fiber that makes up the fabric of America.

Free Speech allows you and me to practice our religious beliefs without persecution, it permits the media to work without being impeded, and allows anyone to peacefully assemble to speak out on issues important to them.

Free Speech is allowed and even celebrated in our country but it does not mean it comes without consequences. Those who spew anger and hatred will be judged, if not in a court of law, most definitely in the court of public opinion. That's our right. Those who preach against core values of decency, goodness and humanity will find others opposing them with a stronger force of peace and love. And in the end of days, we all will be judged in how we lead our lives. So exercise that First Amendment right with all that in mind. Be the light in the darkness that outshines all. 

We are not Republicans or Democrats, men or women, Christians, Jews or Atheists, blacks or whites...we are humans and Americans. We should be united because here in the US we have the Freedom of Speech, the right to speak out without our government limiting that right and controlling all messaging. 

We are better than what we see playing out around the world every day, and if we don't stand up for it, we will fall harder because the loss of a freedom you once enjoyed is much more profound than never having it in the first place.        
UPCOMING on Emmett's Calendar:
Highlights in September:  
A Layman's Look at the First Amendment:

Adopted into the Bill of Rights in 1791.

Freedom of Religion:
  • The "Establishment Clause" prohibits the government from establishing a national or official religion and prevents the government from showing preference for one religion over another. It sets out the "separation of church and state".
  • The "Free Exercise Clause" allows a person to practice their religion as they wish. Court interpretation of this clause is conflicted because it would seem that a person can practice religion without regard to other laws, so at times the "Establishment Clause" is seen as in conflict with the Free Exercise Clause.
Freedom of Speech / Freedom of the Press
  • Individuals can express themselves without the government's regulation and the Supreme Court has required "substantial justification" for the interference of that right. A person cannot be held liable (either criminally or civilly) for anything said or written about a person or topic, as long as it is "truthful or based on an honest opinion". The Supreme Court has ruled that some speech may be prohibited if it "may cause a breach of the peace or cause violence". For example, you can't yell "fire" in a crowded movie theater to incite fear and panic. There are other rulings that deal with unprotected (or less protected) types of speech and the level of protection depends on the forum in which it takes place.
  • The First Amendment does not offer members of the press any specific special rights or privileges, but the same offered to citizens in general. "It allows an individual to express themselves through publication and dissemination."
Right to Assemble / Right to Petition
  • The "Right of Assembly" permits people to gather for peaceful and lawful purposes. The Supreme Court has recognized that a right to freedom of association and belief is implicit in the First, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments. The government however may prohibit people from knowingly associating in groups that engage and promote illegal activities. Though the "Right to Associate" "prohibits the government from requiring a group to register or disclose its members or from denying government benefits on the basis of an individual's current or past membership in a particular group. There are exceptions to this rule where the Court finds that governmental interests in disclosure/registration outweigh interference with First Amendment rights."
  • We are guaranteed the "Right to Petition" the government to address grievances and seek relief for a wrong through litigation or other governmental action. This pairs with the "Right of Assembly" by allowing people to join together and seek change from the government.
Emmett was named "2017 Mental Health State Champion for Virginia" citing "he understands the needs of those with mental illness in Virginia and disregards party-lines to insure needed legislation is funded and passed." Emmett received this national recognition at the National Conference of State Legislatures' annual meeting held recently in Boston, Mass.

Emmett is an active member of the "Joint Subcommittee to Study Mental Health Services in the 21st Century" and works closely with Chairman Creigh Deeds (D-Bath County) and chairs one of its two subcommittees, "Service System Structure and Financing". He is the Co-Chair of the Senate Finance Committee that handles the state budget and Chairs the Finance Subcommittee on Health and Human Resources which deals with all related programs and funding matters. Over the years, he also has served on the "Governor's Task Force on Improving Mental Health Services and Crisis Response" and patroned numerous bills and budget amendments to improve the mental health services in Virginia for all. He has been key to improving services for crisis stabilization and treatment for our youth dealing with mental health issues and a true advocate for Virginia's facility that treats them, the Commonwealth Center for Children and Adolescents.

MHA was founded in 1909 and is the nation's leading community-based nonprofit addressing the needs of those living with mental illness while promoting the overall mental health of all Americans.

There are examples of peaceful protests in history that made a positive difference. In Washington DC on March 3, 1913, Lawyer Inez Milholland Boissevain led more than 5,000 people down Pennsylvania Avenue becoming one of the most monumental events in granting the right for women to vote.  While a  woman's right to vote  did not come about for another seven years, with the passage of the 19th amendment, this peaceful parade and expression of free speech is still considered pivotal in the final decision.

In Closing:

You can access the  VIRGINIA GENERAL ASSEMBLY WEBSITE for the latest on legislation, committee action, and contact information. This is a very user-friendly resource for day-to-day updates on what is going on during Session and in the interim.  Or go straight to our  LEGISLATIVE INFORMATION SYSTEM  for bill and budget information.  
In addition, our Legislative Information and Constituent Services (LINCS)  staff can provide you with legislation updates, research information, copies of votes, and some educational materials. You can reach that office toll-free at 1.888.892.6948.
Please feel free to contact my Senior Legislative Director, Holly Herman, or me with any concerns or suggestions you may have regarding state matters in the future. My RICHMOND OFFICE staffed during Session will be located in Room E507 of the Pocahontas Building. My Session phone is 804.698.7524 and my mailing address is P.O. Box 396 Richmond, VA 23218. During the interim you can reach me by phoning 540.885.6898 or at P.O. Box 2 Mount Solon, VA 22843. At any time, I can be reached at district24@senate.virginia.gov.

Sincerely ,
Emmett Hanger Signature

Emmett W. Hanger, Jr. 

24th Senatorial District 

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