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Chavez Quits U.S. English Over 'Repugnant' Memo

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Former White House aide Linda Chavez resigned as president of U.S. English last week, saying that an official of the organization had made "repugnant" statements about Hispanics and other ethnic groups.

Ms. Chavez left her position with the group, which wants to make English the official language of the United States, after a memorandum written by its chairman, John Tanton, was made public.

The memo was not connected with U.S. English, according to Tom Olson, public-affairs director for the organization. But he said Ms. Chavez was offended by its warnings about possible threats posed to non-Hispanic whites by rapid population growth among some racial and ethnic groups.

The memorandum also suggested that the growing numbers of Catholic Hispanic immigrants might affect American principles of church-state separation, Mr. Olson said.

In addition, he said, Ms. Chavez was concerned by reports that a contributor to U.S. English may have advocated forced sterilization in countries with high population growth. But he noted that the reports had not been verified and that the contributor had not been identified.

Although such views "do not in any way affect whether English should be the official language," Ms. Chavez did not want to be "put in a position of defending views that she doesn't agree with," Mr. Olson explained, adding that "she felt the whole controversy was detracting from the issue at hand."

Mr. Tanton resigned as chairman the same day Ms. Chavez stepped down.

National Reputation

Ms. Chavez gained a national reputation as an opponent of affirmative-action quotas when she served as staff director of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission between81983 and 1985. She was director of the White House office of public liaison from April 1985 to February 1986 and became president of U.S. English in August of 1987.

In 1986, she ran an unsuccessful Republican race for a U.S. Senate seat from Maryland.

Ms. Chavez's stature helped bring credibility and public attention to U.S. English, observers said.

"It is going to be very hard to fill that position with someone who is as effective a spokesperson as she was," Mr. Olson said.

Kathy Bricker, the organization's former vice president, has been named executive director of the group, but the group's new chairman, Stanley Diamond, will function as its primary spokesman, according to Mr. Olson. Mr. Diamond, a former aide to ex-Senator S.I. Hayakawa of California, was one of the leaders of a successful campaign last year to make English California's official language.

Initiatives to amend state constitutions to make English the official language are expected to appear on ballots in Arizona, Colorado, and Florida next month.--dg

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