English as official language is ruled unconstitutional (Oklahoma)

Alkistis Fleischer fleischa at georgetown.edu
Thu Apr 4 22:19:35 UTC 2002

English as official language is ruled unconstitutional

The Oklahoma Supreme Court has ruled a petition to make English the official
state language is unconstitutional.

The court has stated the initiative infringes on the right of free speech,
on the freedom to petition the government for redress and on the
policy-making function of the state legislature.

The proposed statute would have banned state money from being spent on
translations of public documents or providing services in different

It called for conducting all state business in English only.

People who speak foreign languages criticised the measure, saying it was
offensive and would harm services for immigrants.

"It was such a terrible initiative that would have created a total
second-class citizen based on how people speak," said lawyer James Thomas
who represented those opposed the petition.

Supporters of the petition declined to submit briefs to the court before the

The court said 22 other states have laws adopting English as the official
language but are "non-prohibitive, brief and symbolic."

"We're all for English," said Sebastian Lantos, vice president of the
Tulsa-based Coalition of Hispanic Organisations. "It's a gluing element of
our society, but we had problems with the word only.'"

Last updated: 11:02 Wednesday 3rd April 2002
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