“Our friend Paul Weyrich at the Free Congress Foundation had a distressing story last week for anyone who is concerned about the future of the English language in our country. It’s a story about a charity whose good works exemplify Christian-based dedication and compassion. It’s a story about an employer who tried to do the right thing — to encourage its employees to learn and speak English. And it’s a story of a misguided federal agency that is using taxpayers’ money to punish those who encourage English, rather than reinforcing English as the language of American success and cultural unity.

Government Lawyers Sue the Salvation Army for Requiring English

The Salvation Army operates thrift stores across the United States. In keeping with its mission to help the less fortunate, these stores both cater to lower income customers and often employ people who might have difficulty finding work elsewhere. The Salvation Army has a policy that requires its employees to speak English on the job. In a 2003 opinion, a federal judge in Boston approved of the policy as a legitimate business practice. The next year, a Salvation Army store in Framingham, Mass., did what I think most of us would agree was the right thing to do: It gave two of its employees who spoke very little English a year to achieve a level of English proficiency required to do the job.

It’s important to note that the Salvation Army didn’t summarily fire these two employees. Quite the opposite. Counting the five years they had already worked there, the employees had a total of six years to learn English. But when they had failed to do so by 2005, they were let go.

That’s when the U.S. government sued. That’s right. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), a taxpayer-funded government commission, is suing the Salvation Army, a private, charitable, religious, non-profit group. The government is alleging that the Salvation Army discriminated against the two employees by requiring them to speak English on the job, thus inflicting “emotional pain, suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, embarrassment, humiliation and inconvenience.”

Now ask yourself two things: Why is the government undermining the efforts of charities to encourage people to learn English? And doesn’t it have better things to do with our tax dollars?

I am all for being bilingual. I know a little Spanish and am currently trying to learn Japanese but this whole I can live and work in America without knowing a shred of English is pathetic. I would never live, work or even visit a country without learning enough of their native language to get around easily. And I sure in the hell would learn it if I lived there for 5+ years! Is telling people who come here to work in our country that they have to learn our native language really that horrible of a thing to ask? No!

1 Comment

  • Reply
    May 4, 2007 at 4:36 pm

    As a former worker in the Health care field, I can say that language barriers are not only difficult in every day situations but so important in situations regarding ones health!

    If you can’t communicate your illness/problem, if it isn’t something obvious.. it will take the MD’s evaluation and perhaps tests to determine what may be going on.. even then, there’s no guarantee (unless it’s something obvious like a pregnancy, trauma and what have you).

    I am all for those who immigrate to the USA (any country) but at the very least, it’d be beneficial to the person and to those who don’t speak their language, if they know at least the basics. Just for every day and emergency situations, at minimum.

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