[lg policy] Oklahoma: The Language Police: Bills would enact new restrictions on speech

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Wed Mar 16 14:49:37 UTC 2011

The Language Police: Bills would enact new restrictions on speech

by Kate | March 14th, 2011 |

State Question 751 passed last fall with 75 percent of voters agreeing
to amend the state constitution to make English Oklahoma’s official
language.  The amendment, currently being challenged in district
court, formally recognized English as the common language in which
official state business shall be conducted.  Two identical bills
introduced this session designed to implement the new amendment, HB
2083 and SB 905, go well beyond what voters approved in State Question
751 and enact sweeping and intrusive changes meant to preserve and
enhance the role of official English:

    For purposes of this section, “preserve and enhance the role of
English as the official language” means an affirmative obligation of
strict compliance with the letter and spirit of the Oklahoma Official
English Implementation Act including, but not limited to, promoting
the use of English by all persons in Oklahoma and avoiding the use of
languages other than English for official actions.  This obligation
shall be presumed to be superseded if use of a language other than
English is specifically required by federal or state law or is
permitted by the Oklahoma Constitution, but only to the extent
necessary for an individual circumstance, and not as a general policy.

The ‘Oklahoma Official English Language Implementation Act’
acknowledges Oklahoma’s history with “persons from diverse linguistic
backgrounds” and carves out particular exceptions for Native
languages.  The obligation to use English-only can also be superseded
if “specifically required” by federal or state law.  The problem with
this presumably well-intentioned exception is that federal law, in
most instances, doesn’t explicitly require that anything be offered in
another language.  Instead, federal agencies have issued a loose set
of guidelines to their respective state counterparts based on
Department of Justice guidance, asking that each agency make a
determination for itself whether or not using a language besides
English is necessary. Read the rest of this entry »


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