November 22, 2005
Chancellor Opposes Proposal to Make English Official Language for Government Acts
Expressing concern that it will "make it harder for newcomers who are building our economy to use our legal system," and calling it "unnecessary," Philadelphia Bar Association Chancellor Andrew A. Chirls has announced the Association's opposition to Pennsylvania House Bill 2089 (printer's number 2879), which would establish English as the designated language for official acts of government in the Commonwealth.
Chirls detailed the position of the 12,000-member Association in a Nov. 10 letter to members of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives State Government Committee.
"The City of Philadelphia has a highly visible cultural and ethnic population," Chirls wrote. "Americans of Italian, Chinese, Korean, Hispanic and Russian descent have built strong and vital neighborhoods in which English and other languages function hand-in-hand. During my past year as Chancellor, I have tried to emphasize this diversity and promote our legal system to the various populations. Despite the presence of these and other bilingual communities in Philadelphia, there is no question that English is still the predominant language and is the language one must master to take advantage of the American way of life. Clearly, there is no language that rivals English in that respect."
The City of Philadelphia has attempted to promote economic development through attracting international businesses to the region. House Bill 2089 will "send the wrong message to these international companies seeking to locate facilities in the United States," the Chancellor said.
"These companies will choose other states where the states are open to persons who speak other languages. House Bill 2089 will hurt Pennsylvania's ability to create jobs," said Chirls.