Saturday, August 4, 2012

Rep. Steve King (R-IA) Tells Us: 'You'd Better Watch Your Language!'

For Rep. King's Edification
Yes, it's another English-only bill, introduced by another ignorant Republican congressional nut-job.  As told to us by Gabe Rottman, legislative counsel to the ACLU, H.R. 997, the “English Language Unity Act of 2011,” does at least four things:
  • It makes English the official language of the United States. ...
  • It requires all "official functions" of the U.S. government to be performed in English. This means, among many other things, tax documents, voter guides and probably signage in federal buildings. ...
  • It imposes a "uniform language testing standard" for naturalization. That is, it imposes a heightened language test for citizenship beyond what immigrants have been taking for generations. Anybody seeking U.S. citizenship would now have to "understand generally the English language text of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the laws of the United States made in pursuance of the Constitution." ... [Jeebus! is there anyone alive who can claim to do that? - SB]
  • Finally, ... it appears to bar members of Congress or any other officer or agent of the federal government from "officially" conversing in any language other than English (but said member or officer may converse "unofficially" in another language).
Please read the full version of Rottman's worthy sarcastic rendering, followed by his concise history of court rulings on language restrictions in American history (the short version: the gummint can't do it).

This bill is clearly unconstitutional under the First Amendment, as I don't have to tell you if you're reading this site. Rep. King should be censured for even introducing it; hell, he should be tarred, feathered, dipped in boiling oil and ridden out of town on a rail. Instead, House Judiciary Committee ranking minority member John Conyers (D-MI) approached the legislation with the (ahem) seriousness it deserves: he delivered his response in Spanish, a premeditated act which would have been illegal under the terms of the bill. Bravo, Rep. Conyers! (If this bill passed, could I legally say "bravo" in an official context?)

AFTERTHOUGHT: a bit of exploration reveals that Rep. King introduces this piece of dog-shit in every session of Congress... and still he gets re-elected. His constituents' ignorance is understandable (if regrettable) in these days of paranoia; King's own ignorance, on the other hand, is abominable and inexcusable.


  1. "Jeebus! is there anyone alive who can claim to do that?"

    Antonin Scalia claims he can. And there you have in a nutshell everything wrong with this particular of the bill.

  2. Constance, if an applicant for American citizenship were to read the Declaration, the Constitution and the laws from the point of view of Antonin Scalia, we should summarily reject their application. One Antonin Scalia is already one too many!

    Both sides of my family immigrated here something well over a century ago. Back through my grandparents' generation, they became farmers, ministers, schoolteachers, road builders, and other kinds of useful citizens. Their ancestry had no significant influence on any of this, or on their firm commitment to America as an ideal. Would my ur‑ancestors have been able to pass this test? Probably, but if not, I might be as Dutch today as I appear in my facial features. Sometimes, when I read the likes of Rep. King, I wish things had gone that way...

  3. I am totally in favor of making King's standard a requirement before running for a Federal office, but that would require a Constitutional amendment.

    If you have access to Samuel Johnson's 1755 'Dictionary' and the unabridged Oxford English Dictionary you would have the resources to mostly understand the documents, and long as you didn't require things to use modern spelling and grammar standards, and knew that the definitive understanding of the meaning of the Constitution is only set by unanimous Supreme Court decisions [if they weren't unanimous, they are obviously in doubt].

    Right after Congress proves they can do it, then we can talk about everyone else.



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