March 4, 2011
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Presented by ProEnglish
ARLINGTON, VA – ProEnglish, an Arlington, Va.-based national organization that advocates for English as the language of government, says today’s affirmation by the Alabama Supreme Court of the state’s policy of giving driver’s license exams in multiple languages is “a blatantly political decision that twists the meaning of words in order to violate the Alabama constitution’s provision that made English the state’s official language.”
The one-sentence ruling affirmed a trial court decision in a case that originated years ago when five Alabama members of ProEnglish first asked the courts to reinstate Alabama’s policy of giving driver’s license exams exclusively in English. There are new plaintiffs now– including Alabama state Sen. Scott Beason– who are represented by the Southeastern Legal Foundation, a constitutional public interest law firm in Atlanta, Ga.
ProEnglish Executive Director Jayne Cannava said, “This is an outrageous decision in which the court majority agreed to suspend common sense, parse the meaning of words, and fantasize in order to violate the state’s constitution and overrule the vast majority of the people of Alabama. It calls into question whether we live in a constitutional republic or an autocracy ruled by activist judges.”
Amendment 509 to the Alabama Constitution was adopted in 1990 by voters in a statewide referendum that won by a 9-1 margin. The amendment reads in part, “English is the official language of the state of Alabama…..The legislature and officials of the state of Alabama shall take all steps necessary to insure that the role of English as the common language of the State of Alabama is preserved and enhanced.”
“Notwithstanding the constitution’s language and plain intent, a majority of the Supreme Court justices decided to accept at face value the state’s absurd contention that letting non-English speaking immigrants take driver’s license exams in their native languages helps them assimilate and eventually learn English since they then can get driver’s licenses, jobs, and shop,” Cannava said.
Cannava praised the efforts of the Southeastern Legal Foundation and the plaintiffs who are now reviewing an appeal, and reminded Alabama legislators that “they still have the power under Amendment 509 to clarify this issue and enact the rules necessary to protect the English language for governmental purposes.”