There's a lot of rhetoric about Metro Nashville Councilman Eric Crafton's bill making English the official language of Metro Government. A lot of rhetoric and not once have I seen anyone print a copy of the legislation so we know exactly what we're talking about. One of my first rules is to go to the source not some warmed over biased treatment. Well here is the bill. Tuesday evening it will have its first of three required readings. Note that the TCA quoted should be 4-1-404 not 104:
ORDINANCE NO. BL2006-1185
An Ordinance amending Chapter 1.04 of the Metropolitan Code of Laws declaring English to be the official language of the Metropolitan Government, and to require that all government communications, publications and telephone answering systems be in English only.
WHEREAS, Tennessee Code Annotated § 4-1-104 [should be 4-1-404] establishes English as the official language of the State of Tennessee, and requires all communications and publications produced by governmental entities to be in English; and
WHEREAS, the Council now desires to designate English as the official language of the Metropolitan Government for purposes of government publications and communications.
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT ENACTED BY THE COUNCIL OF THE METROPOLITAN GOVERNMENT OF NASHVILLE AND DAVIDSON COUNTY:
Section 1. Chapter 1.04 of the Metropolitan Code of Laws is hereby amended by adding the following new section 1.04.070:
"1.04.070. English the official language of the metropolitan government.
A. English is hereby established as the official language of the metropolitan government.
B. All communications, publications, and telephone answering systems of metropolitan government boards, commissions, departments and agencies shall be in English only."
Section 2. This Ordinance shall take effect from and after its passage, the welfare of The Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County requiring it.
Sponsored by: Eric Crafton, Michael Craddock
and here's the actual Tennessee Code, enacted in 1984, which is the precedent for this Metro bill:
English is hereby established as the official and legal language of Tennessee. All communications and publications, including ballots, produced by governmental entities in Tennessee shall be in English, and instruction in the public schools and colleges of Tennessee shall be conducted in English unless the nature of the course would require otherwise.
Further the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services "Guide to Naturalization" states on page 26 (page 30 of this pdf):
According to the law, applicants must demonstrate "an understanding of the English language, including an ability to read, write and speak...simple words and phrases...in ordinary usage in the English language"
I understand that there is tension between our society's heart to extend hospitality and essential services in emergency situations and the practicals of how much and at what cost? The more we try and accommodate various languages the more expensive our government gets and the less new immigrants will assimilate. And certainly any lawyer can tell you that a poor translation can have legal consequences over and above any mishandling of the task. We can go back to the Treaty of Tripoli for an example of a bad translation that is still being thrown at us 209 years later.
One of the very foundational things that unites any country is language. The ability of language to unify a people goes all the way back to the Tower of Babel. No one is suggesting that anyone give up their heritage. No one is suggesting that emergency workers can only speak to their charges in English. I believe what is being said is we've got to set boundaries for the greater good. The State of Tennessee already has this boundary. Metro should follow suit.