May 9, 2001
The Supreme Court's decision in the seatbelt/handcuff case grabbed
the headlines, but the ruling the same day about Alabama's English-only
law was every bit as important. The high Court barred a private right
of action to challenge this first-to-reach-the-Court of the 25 state
laws designating English as the state's official language.
The case called Alexander v. Sandoval involved a Spanish-speaking
woman, Martha Sandoval, who demanded that Alabama give her the state
driver's license test in Spanish. Alabama refused, based on the
section added to Alabama's Constitution in 1990 declaring English "the
official language of the state of Alabama."
Sandoval mounted a class-action lawsuit, citing Title VI of the
Civil Rights Act of 1964 and claiming that "language" should come under
the statute's prohibition of discrimination on the basis of "national
origin." She won in the District Court and the Eleventh Circuit Court
of Appeals, but the Supreme Court reversed.
The Supreme Court's ruling was on the single issue of an
individual's right to sue under the Civil Rights Act based on
"disparate impact" rather than on intentional discrimination, and did
not reach any of the issues involved in the importance of the English
language. However, the effect of this decision is that laws that
require the English language do NOT violate anybody's civil rights, and
no one can claim he is discriminated against because federal and state
governments and public schools exclusively use the English language.
Bill Clinton attempted to elevate the inability to speak English
to a protected civil right under the Civil Rights Act with his
Executive Order (EO) 13166 issued last August 11, followed by Janet
Reno's 15 pages of "guidance" published in the Federal Register four
days before they left office. This EO requiring federal agencies to
provide "programs and activities normally provided in English" to non-
English speaking residents was based on the lower court decision in the
Sandoval case, which the Supreme Court has now reversed.
Congress should immediately rescind Clinton's unconstitutional
attempt to create new law and the regulations that followed, and defund
the busybody bureaucrats in the various departmental civil rights
divisions who are trying to enforce what the Supreme Court has now
It is so encouraging to read Justice Scalia's rejection of
judicial activism: if Congress didn't write an individual's cause of
action to challenge a state law, then the courts "may not create one,
no matter how desirable that might be as a policy matter." Five cheers
for the five Justices who participated in that important pronouncement,
rejecting Justice Stevens' complaint that it has been "normal practice
for the courts to infer" what Congress intended.
The Sandoval decision is completely consistent with a recent line
of Supreme Court decisions. In Scalia's refreshing rhetoric, "Having
sworn off the habit of venturing beyond Congress's intent, we will not
accept respondents' invitation to have one last drink."
Driving home this point (in the hope that activist judges will
catch on), Justice Scalia continued: "It is most certainly incorrect
to say that language in a regulation can conjure up a private cause of
action that has not been authorized by Congress. Agencies can play the
sorcerer's apprentice but not the sorcerer itself."
The time is now ripe for Congress and state legislatures to cut
off the funding from all government agencies and public schools that
are relying on Clinton's Executive Order. Our federal and state
governments and taxpayer-financed schools should speak to us only in
the language of the U.S. Constitution and the Declaration of
Congress can get the new money it needs for the education budget
by eliminating the billion-dollar boondoggle called bilingual
education. It's a costly fraud because, contrary to the "bi" in
bilingual, it doesn't teach two languages; instead it keeps immigrant
children languishing in Spanish-speaking classes for six years or more.
The voters in statewide initiatives in California and Arizona
decisively rejected bilingual education, but federal dollars continue
to sustain this bureaucracy. Test scores last year proved that
children are progressing faster in California schools since they
started English immersion.
Foreign language ballots for U.S. elections are provided in more
than 375 voting districts. There's no good rationale for this unless
the Democrats are trying to enable non-citizens to vote.
To become a naturalized citizen of the United States, our laws
require the applicant to demonstrate the ability to read, write and
speak simple words in ordinary usage in the English language. Since
only citizens can legally vote, there is no need for foreign language
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is starting to label
it workplace "discrimination" for employees to be required to speak
English on the job and to customers. Nobody has yet calculated the
horrendous litigation costs this will impose on small businesses.
Winston Churchill observed that "The gift of a common tongue is a
priceless inheritance." It's our task to safeguard that inheritance.