Activist Jim Boulet RIP

by John Berlau on February 1, 2009 · 1 comment

in Coalitions & Outreach, Odds & Ends

The freedom movement lost a valuable ally way too soon a couple weeks ago. James J. Boulet, Jr., executive director of English First and creator of watchdog web sites such as EEOCWatch.com and KeepRushOnTheAir.com, died of cancer on Jan. 16 at the age of 50.

Jim’s main focus at English First was stopping bilingualism in public policy. The group didn’t take positions on immigration issues, instead focusing on the dangers of a balkanized society that multilingual policies would lead to. His efforts were praised by well known proponents of both open immigration and assimilation, such as columnist Linda Chavez and National Review’s John J. Miller, and the English First web site is emblazoned with the torch of the Statue of Liberty. “Our symbol is the Statue of Liberty torch capturing the spirit of immigrants who learned English and became full members of American society.”

Jim supported initiatives making English the official language of government, but not private businesses or associations, which is a stance that libertarians can go either way on. But Jim also dug through stautes and regulations to warn about bilingual mandates on the private sector, an effort where free-market groups, including CEI, joined him.

For instance, Jim and I exposed a bill from from then-Sen. Paul Sarbanes of Sarbanes-Oxley fame (or infamy) that would mandate documents in multiple languages that stores offering money transfers would have to create and produce. “The cost of complying with this is going to make Sarbanes-Oxley seem like chicken feed,” he told me for an article I wrote about the bill for Human Events. Perhaps because of this exposure, the Sarbanes bill went nowhere.

Jim would also expose the Equal Employment Oppotunity Commission’s intrusive mandates that increasingly prevent private employers from making English skills a job requirement or requiring an English to be spoken in their workplaces. A notorious example Jim brought to light was when the Bush EEOC actually went after the Salvation Army for firing employees who refused to learn English.

And Jim had the foresight last year to recognize the danger of the FCC’s proposed “localism” rule as a back-door Fairness Doctrine that could be used to silence talk radio. His started the web site with the catchy title KeepRushOnTheAir.com, which feautured a petition against the regulation and links to research on the localism rule, such as an American Spectator article written by me and CEI technology fellow Alex Harris on the issue.

Jim also had the great qualities of being a good listener to the ideas of different groups and of bringing a cheerful disposition to an ideological fight. He will greatly be missed.

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