Oklahoma lawmakers try for official English law

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at gmail.com
Fri Jan 16 14:19:09 UTC 2009

Oklahoma lawmakers try for official English law
By TIM TALLEY – 1 day ago

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma voters may get a chance to make English
the state's official language, a proposal that was bitterly opposed by
Indian tribes last year. Republican state lawmakers said Wednesday
they will work for a second consecutive year to send the
constitutional amendment to voters. A group of lawmakers led by Rep.
Randy Terrill, R-Moore, author of Oklahoma's sweeping anti-illegal
immigrant law, said they are refiling legislation that was
unsuccessful last year to make English the official language of
Oklahoma government. Lawmakers say the bill is designed to save
taxpayer money and help legal immigrants assimilate into U.S. society.

"As our common American language, English and the 'melting pot'
process it supports has made the United States the most successful
multiethnic nation in history," Terrill said. However, he said
"politically correct multilingualism" has divided the nation into
separate communities within the same geographic location. If approved
by voters, the official English law would end bilingual or
multilingual driver's license tests and prohibit official state forms
or signage in any language but English, unless covered by one of the

Supporters said the bill exempts the languages of Oklahoma's 39
federally recognized tribes and allows the use of both Braille and
sign language in government services. American Indian leaders
expressed opposition to a similar bill last year because it might
change tribal language programs. One of them, Cherokee Nation
Principal Chief Chad Smith, repeated his opposition. "We have Indians
in this state who have lived under a regime of English-only; that was
the rule in Indian boarding schools in Oklahoma for generations,"
Smith said in a statement.

"We've seen what English-only has done to native communities, where
bilingual speakers are rarer today than ever," he continued. "I can't
see that Oklahoma is a better place because whole generations were
punished for violating an English-only policy." The legislation also
contains other exceptions for things like public health and safety as
well as trade, commerce and tourism But Smith said the exceptions do
not make the measure more acceptable. "The fact that the English-only
policy being put forward today will not be applied to Indian languages
does not mean that we think it is OK to do to another people what was
done to our fathers," he said.


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