English Only Update VIII
English Only Bill
Reintroduced in 105th Congress
By James Crawford
January 8, 1997
Losing no time, a leading English-only advocate reintroduced
the "Bill Emerson English Language Empowerment Act" yesterday,
the first day of the 105th Congress. The measure, once again designated
H.R. 123, is sponsored by Rep. Randy "Duke"
Cunningham R-Calif.), the subcommittee chairman who shepherded the bill
Cunningham said the measure "represents a common-sense, common language
policy. The legislation names English as the official language of the Government
of the United States, [and] recognizes our historical linguistic and cultural
diversity, while finding that English represents a common bond of Americans,
and is the language of opportunity in the United States."
It would also outlaw virtually all federal government programs, publications,
proceedings, and services in languages other than English – with only a
few narrow exceptions for national security, language teaching, and the
use of Native American languages. The bill is quite similar to Article
28 of the Arizona Constitution, adopted by voter initiative in 1988
and found unconstitutional by two federal courts, as a violation of the
First Amendment right to free speech. The U.S. Supreme Court, however,
is considering an appeal and could soon overturn these rulings (see
According to its sponsor, H.R. 123 is essentially identical to legislation
of the same title that passed the House last August, except that it drops
a section repealing the bilingual provisions of the Voting Rights Act.
The omission will expedite committee action, Cunningham explained. (If
bilingual ballots were involved, the bill would have to be referred to
the Judiciary Committee in addition to the Committee on Education and the
Workforce.) This would seem to imply an intent to move the legislation
early in this session.
As in the past, it is likely that various other "Language of Government
Acts" will be introduced, including a Senate version. But Rep. Toby
Roth (R-Wisc.), sponsor of the most extreme English-only measure last year,
has retired from Congress. Rep. Bill Emerson (R-Mo.), who sponsored H.R.
123 in the past three Congresses, died in 1996 and is memorialized by the
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Copyright © 1997 by James Crawford. Permission
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