April 18, 2001
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Utah is preparing to
challenge a district court decision that properly found the state's new
official English law constitutional. Utah voters approved the law as
Initiative A on the ballot in last November's election.
Third District Judge Ronald E. Nehring declared the voter-approved
official English statute constitutional but largely symbolic. He ruled
that government employees may speak any language in the course of doing
business, but only communications that are in English are "official,"
while everything else is "unofficial."
Probably the ACLU will include some of the arguments used to
defend Bill Clinton's Executive Order 13166 issued August 11, 2000.
Entitled Improving Access to Services for Persons with Limited English
Proficiency, it requires federal agencies to provide "programs and
activities normally provided in English" to non-English speaking
Clinton's Executive Order was an attempt to elevate the inability
to speak English to a protected civil right (like race, color, sex,
etc.). His Order cannot be justified by any federal law and should be
rescinded by the Bush Administration.
The attempt to undermine English as the official language of the
American government has powerful political motivations. Influence and
political spin are associated with translating laws, official
statements, and campaign positions into non-English versions.
Criticism of the Utah referendum and the court decision upholding
it is part of a national movement to balkanize America by compelling
federal and state governments to carry on official business in foreign
languages. Hundreds of U.S. voting districts have already been forced
by statutes and court decisions to print ballots in foreign languages.
The fraud called bilingual education was massively rejected by the
voters in California and Arizona referenda, but the federal government
still pours millions of our tax dollars into this failed experiment.
It's a lie to call it bilingual, because it doesn't teach two
languages; thousands of immigrant children in public schools are kept
speaking their native tongue rather than learning English.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is harassing
businesses that try to have their employees speak English on the job.
Some U.S. citizenship ceremonies have even been performed in foreign
If an activist court pretends to invalidate the Utah official
English law, it won't be long before we see the other side of the coin:
a lawsuit demanding that the state's business be conducted in foreign
languages. This has already happened in Alabama, where a woman
demanded that she be given the state driver's test in Spanish; her
case, Alexander v. Sandoval, will be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court
The U.S. Supreme Court already held in Employment Div. v. Smith
(1990) that we do not have to provide exceptions from generally
applicable laws for religious practices and customs. It should
certainly follow that a state need not provide exceptions from
generally applicable laws and regulations to accommodate languages
other than English.
English is becoming the language of the 21st century world and
this is no time to discourage U.S. residents and immigrants from
learning English. English is now the second most widely spoken
language in the world, with only Chinese dialects spoken by more
English is overwhelmingly the second language of choice worldwide.
English is the official language of the European Central Bank and the
working language of the Asian trade group ASEAN.
In multilingual continental Europe, a fierce battle over language
popularity appears to be ending with English emerging as the standard.
Switzerland has three official languages, German, French and Italian,
but it recently adopted English to be taught to all as the second
language rather than one of its official languages.
The Germans have given up trying to persuade more Brits to learn
German and are now promoting English as the language of the 21st
century, with lessons for children as young as six. Germany's leading
newspaper produces an eight-page English edition and declared that
"English is going to be the lingua franca of the century."
English has exploded in popularity since the advent of the
internet and about 80 percent of the internet uses English. Our
language has tremendous advantages for internet use: a smaller
alphabet than most major languages, no accented or pictograph
characters, easy interchangeability of nouns, verbs and adjectives, and
little variance in form for pronouns and verbs.
It is a great mistake to think that requiring English is
detrimental to immigrants. Official English requirements have an
enormously positive impact on those who learn English and then can
enter the mainstream of American academic and economic life.
As Winston Churchill observed, "The gift of a common tongue is a
priceless inheritance." We shouldn't permit any activist court to
interfere with this heritage.