The following statement is being circulated by the California Council of Churches and will be released to the press on May 24th at a Forum at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco. Please do whatever you can to motivate clergy and church leaders of any faith to fax to the Council their response as signators by May 21st. Additionally, IF YOU ARE WILLING TO SIGN THE STATEMENT THOUGH YOU ARE NOT CLERGY, please DO respond by fax by May 21st, indicating that you are a lay supporter of the statement. Thanks so much. Please post this on list-serves and spread it widely. -- Lois Meyer

May 14, 1998

Dear Colleagues,

Please join California Church IMPACT in a public statement challenging the present political attacks on bilingual education and the efforts to restrict and criminalize the use of languages other than English in California's public schools. 

Beyond contentious issues of the merit or quality of specific bilingual education programs across the state, the present attacks touch on something much deeper than preferred methods of language instruction or differences in political agendas. We believe they probe the very essence of what it means to create and sustain a diverse, humane, and just society where all persons are validated and have voice. 

Is the English language truly the crucial, uncompromising glue which binds us together as a society, so much so that children or adults in our communities who have not yet acquired English must be forced to learn it under extreme, untested, and time-limited conditions? Or does this kind of civic language restriction destroy the respect for diversity and humanity which we preach, and which must be at the base of any just and democratic society? We believe without a doubt that the latter is true.

Please read carefully the enclosed press statement, and fax the sign-up form to me by Thursday, May 21st. A special Forum will be held on Sunday, May 24th, at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco entitled, "The Sacredness of Language: What's at Stake in the Bilingual Education Debate?" We want to be prepared to distribute this statement to the press at that event. If you are willing to speak to the press in the days following the statement's release, please so indicate by adding your telephone number to the response form. 

Faithfully yours,

Scott D. Anderson Executive Director California Church IMPACT

2 Enclosures

A Statement in Support of the Sacredness of the Languages, Cultural Identities, and Humanity of All Persons

As clergy and other religious leaders who seek to live our public and private lives in witness to deeply held moral and religious beliefs and convictions, we the undersigned feel compelled to speak out publicly against the restrictive and dehumanizing efforts in California and the nation to forbid and even criminalize the use of languages other than English in schools and public institutions. 

God’s creation is richly diverse; multiple languages give voice and personal expression to millions of human beings, unique and valuable like ourselves, within this created diversity. 

The United States has always been a nation of immigrants, as well as the globe’s grandest experiment in nation-building across diverse racial, ethnic, linguistic, class, and faith communities. Throughout its history our country has never tolerated the imposition of one official political party or one faith tradition. On what moral grounds, with what definition of justice, would we now impose the restriction of only one language – English – in schools and public institutions?

While a shared language is unquestionably useful for effecting national communication and dialogue, the use of one language should not be radically imposed through measures which are unfounded in research, which jeopardize children’s access to equal education, and which take away parents’ and communities’ rights to choice in the education of their children. Strong democracies are built by binding together in complex, messy, practical and symbolic, but necessarily just ways, the hopes and energies and voices of many diverse persons and communities. They are weakened and finally undermined when these diverse persons and communities are stripped of their voices – that is, their language – which is a key element of their cultural identity and their basic humanity. (END)

Response Form:

Please add my name as signator to the Statement in Support of the Sacredness of the Languages, Cultural Identities, and Humanity of All Persons. 

Name as you would like it to appear (please print): ___________________________

Institution (church, synagogue, judicatory, university, other): ____________________________

Do you wish to have your institution listed with your name? Yes ________ No ________

Are you willing to have your telephone listed next to your name, in order to receive calls from the press about this statement? Yes _________ No ________ 

If YES, please indicate the telephone number to be listed: _________________________

Please indicate here if you wish to sign the Statement as a LAY SUPPORTER rather than as clergy ________

Please fax this response form by Noon, Thursday, MAY 21st to: Scott Anderson California Chruch IMPACT Fax (916) 442-3036

California Church IMPACT 1300 N. Street Sacramento, CA 95814 Phone: (916) 442-5447

Thank you for your support!