Petition 80562

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Diverse Languages in USA (80562-C1-R72)

Delete Resolution 261 and incorporate into Resolution 72  
The United States is a land whose inhabitants are enriched by diverse traditions, languages, and cultures. While English is the most commonly used or "primary" language of the country, there have always been other languages present throughout the history of the nation. Native American languages and Spanish were already spoken when the first English colonists arrived. Throughout that same history, there have been various efforts to prescribe the use of English and to proscribe the use of other languages. These efforts sometimes resulted in legislation that had the effect of legalizing discrimination against various language minority groups, as was the case for German, Swedish, French, Greek, and Italian immigrants who came to this country in great numbers during the nineteenth century. However, such legislative attempts were eventually overcome by the constitutional principles of equal rights for all. The acknowledgment of English as the primary language of the United States does not deny the right and contribution of other languages or the inherent right of people to retain and speak their mother tongues. In recent years, there have been renewed efforts in different parts of the country to make English the official language of the nation. Notwithstanding their unsuccessful attempts to pass a constitutional amendment, we are now seeing concerted efforts to bring the same policy to state and local levels. We are concerned that the movement to declare constitutionally English as the official language of the nation is not based upon any real need but, in fact, may be motivated by an effort to deny the pluralistic foundation of the country and to deny the dignity and wholeness of persons from different racial and ethnic groups who rightly considered their languages an integral part of their cultures. We fear the real purpose of some may be not so much to make English the official language of the  
One particular area of concern is the attempt to remove bilingual education. Education has played a very important role in the development of this nation. To have access to it and to receive a sound education are considered inalienable rights of all children. Bilingual education has been and is a critical tool to ensure these rights for non-English-speaking children living now in the United States of America. It has been an instrument of education for children to make the transition from their native tongues to English (without abandoning their native tongues) while at the same time staying at the level correspondent to their age. Bilingual education does work. There are thousands of living examples of bilingual education successes. They are students who learned English in bilingual classrooms and who continue to achieve to the highest of academic and professional standards.
U.S. as to make English the exclusive language of the nation. For example, t The re is an English-only "movement" that has gained more national recognition. Organizations such as "U.S. English" and "English First" continue gaining support through active national activities and local English-only campaigns. In addition to promotion of their principles through the media, they are also involved in various legislative and lobbying activities. These includes efforts to pass a constitutional amendment making English the official language of the United States, opposition to federal legislation for bilingual education, voting-rights bills, and the FCC licensing applications for Spanish-language broadcasts.  
The se efforts and their implications are English-only movement is another manifestation  
of the systemic racism that has infected this country for generations. The English-only movement blames the deterioration of the American fabric on immigration and the use of languages other than English. It contends that the nation's unity rests upon the use of an official language. It defines multiculturalism and multilingualism as "anti-unity." Consequently, the movement, if successful, could further discriminate against and segregate the racial and ethnic population of the United States. Essential information such as: 1) numbers for the 911 emergency telephone number , hospital emergency rooms, police, firefighters, 2) hospital emergency rooms, medical and legal forms, police, firefighters, language services, bilingual education, and interpreters in the judicial system might be denied. As Christians, we believe that we are children of God, created in God's image, and members of the family of God. We believe that diversity is a gift of the creative genius of God and that languages are an expression of the wisdom of God. We believe that competence in the English language is important to participate fully in the life of the United States, but we also acknowledge the fact that we live in a global context, the global family of God, where people and nations experience interdependency at all levels and where the acquisition of a second language represents a better understanding of other people's cultures, hopes, and dreams.  
We believe that our nation needs to take advantage of the rich contributions that the  
ethnic/language groups bring to this country by preserving those languages and encouraging North Americans to learn other languages. We believe that it is the will of God that each human being is affirmed as a whole person and that it is in the acceptance and interchange of our uniqueness that we find oneness— total wholeness— a witness of God’s shalom. We oppose the attempt to rob a person of his or her language as dehumanizing and as a denial of that person's wholeness. We oppose the English-only movement as a manifestation of the sin of racism. Therefore, be it resolved, that the General Conference shall:  

1.     express in writing to the President of the United States its support for practices and policies that permit provision of information in languages appropriate to the residents of communities and its opposition to the movement that seeks to make English the only language of the United States, which movement is discriminatory and racist;  
2.     forward this resolution to members of Congress, governors, and the legislatures of the fifty states and territories;  
3.     commend this resolution to all United States annual conferences for promotion and interpretation within the annual conferences; and  
4.     ask the General Board of Church and Society to make this resolution an urgent item in their agenda for lobbying, constituency education, and advocacy.  
2000 See Social Principles, ΒΆ 162