Proposed Language Bill Violates California Constitution

ProEnglish Says Proposed Language Bill Violates California Constitution

January 18, 2010
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Presented by ProEnglish

ARLINGTON, VA – “Legislation re-introduced by California State Senator Leland Yee that gives a person’s choice of language the status of a protected civil right violates California’s constitution and threatens employers with litigation should it become law,” says Jayne Cannava, the executive director of ProEnglish, an Arlington-based organization that advocates for making English the official language of government operations.

California’s constitution was amended in 1986 by an overwhelming 73 percent majority to make English the official language. Section 6 (c) states …“The Legislature and officials of the State of California shall take all steps necessary to insure that the role of English as the common language of the State of California is preserved and enhanced. The Legislature shall make no law which diminishes or ignores the role of English as the common language of the State of California.”

“By giving the choice to speak another language the status of a protected civil right, the California Legislature would make a law that violates its constitutional duty to preserve and enhance English’s role as the common language of California,” says Cannava. “In such circumstances, ProEnglish would have little choice except to challenge the Legislature’s unconstitutional action in court,” she continues.

“State Sen. Lee is justifying his bill as an attempt to make employers demonstrate ‘business necessity’ before implementing English language workplace rules,” Cannava says. “But in fact his bill would go far beyond that to infringe on the freedom of numerous institutions like private and parochial schools, non-government organizations, associations and voluntary and religious groups to have any policies regarding language. That’s a key reason why former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed the bill when it passed in 2009.”

“Civil rights bureaucrats are not competent to judge an employer’s business necessity. In a free society employers should be able to decide what constitutes a business necessity, and they often need to impose such rules to deter employees from harassing other employees in a language they don’t understand, to deter drug abuse or other illegal acts,” Cannava notes.

“Furthermore, California’s economy is suffering. Is now the time to burden California taxpayers with this costly legislation?” Cannava asks.