English as Official Language Proposed by Lawmakers

Article excerpt

Though far and away the language spoken by most U.S. citizens, English enjoys no special protection under the law. With the full support-and urging-of VFW members of Congress have introduced legislation to correct this situation.

Soon after the 105th Congress convened in January, VFW Commander-in-Chief Jim Nier wrote a letter to Rep. Bob Stump (R-Ariz.) pledging support for legislation the representative had introduced. Nier also noted that Stump's bill, H.R. 622-Declaration of Official Language Act of 1997was "almost identical in intent and purpose" to VFW Res. 103-Mandate English as the Official Language of the United States, which was approved at the 97th National Convention in August 1996. Stump may not have known of the

resolution's content when writing his bill. But as chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, he is well aware of the strong feelings many of the 2.5 million members of the VFW and its Ladies Auxiliary have for the English language.

The organization's passion for this cause is best illustrated by the grassroots effort of a VFW member in New York.

"After reading an article in VFW magazine, I learned there are 323 different languages spoken in the United States today," said George Parness, mayor of Suffern, N.Y., and a member of Post 2973 in Suffern. "This suggests that a unified language is needed in order to ensure clear lines of communication."

Parness, also a member of the Rockland County (N.Y.) Legislature, sponsored a resolution to declare English the official language of New York. The motion, introduced in December 1996, was approved by the county in a 14-5 vote. It now rests with the state legislature.

'Our Strongest Common Bond'

VFW's position is that while the United States has been enriched by the cultural diversity of its citizens, English, which has no special legal protection, should be mandated as the government's and the nation's official language. …