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Censure (pronounced /ˈsɛnʃər/) is a process by which a formal reprimand is issued to an individual by an authoritative body. In a deliberative assembly, a motion to censure is used.


In politics, censure is an alternative to more serious measures against misconduct or dereliction of duty.[1][2] Template:Infobox motion

United States

Censure is a procedure for publicly reprimanding a public official for inappropriate behavior. When the president is censured, it serves merely as a condemnation and has no direct effect on the validity of presidency, nor are there any other particular legal consequences. Unlike impeachment, censure has no basis in the Constitution or in the rules of the Senate and House of Representatives. It derives from the formal condemnation of either congressional body of their own members.

Explanation and use

The motion to censure is an exception to the general rule that "a motion must not use language that reflects on a member's conduct or character, or is discourteous, unnecessarily harsh, or not allowed in debate."[3] Demeter's Manual notes, "It is a reprimand, aimed at reformation of the person and prevention of further offending acts."[2] While there are many possible grounds for censuring members of an organization, such as embezzlement, divulging the secret password, absenteeism, drunkenness, and so on, DEM notes that the grounds for censuring a presiding officer are more limited:[4]

Serious grounds for censure against presiding officers (presidents, chairmen, etc.) are, in general: arrogation or assumption by the presiding officer of dictatorial powers – powers not conferred upon him by law – by which he harasses, embarrasses and humiliates members; or, specifically: (1) he refuses to recognize members entitled to the floor; (2) he refuses to accept and to put canonical motions to vote; (3) he refuses to entertain appropriate appeals from his decision; (4) he ignores proper points of order; (5) he disobeys the bylaws and the rules of order; (6) he disobeys the assembly's will and substitutes his own; (7) he denies to members the proper exercise of their constitutional or parliamentary rights.

More serious disciplinary procedures may involve fine, suspension, or expulsion. In some cases, the assembly may declare the chair vacant and elect a new chair; or a motion can be made to rescind the election of an officer.[5]

For examples specific to the United States, see Censure in the United States.


If the motion is made to censure the presiding officer, then he must relinquish the chair to the vice-president until the motion is disposed of;[6] but during this time, the vice-president is still referred to as "Mr. Vice President" in debate, since a censure is merely a warning and not a proceeding that removes the president from the chair.[7] An officer being censured is not referred to by name in the motion, but simply as "the president," "the treasurer," etc.

After a motion to censure is passed, the chair (or the vice-president, if the presiding officer is being censured) addresses the censured member by name. He may say something to the effect of, "Brother F, you have been censured by vote of the assembly. A censure indicates the assembly's resentment of your conduct at meetings. A censure is a warning. It is the warning voice of suspension or expulsion. Please take due notice thereof and govern yourself accordingly." Or, if the chair is being censured, the vice-president may say, "Mr. Mean, you have been censured by the assembly for the reasons contained in the resolution. I now return to you the presidingship."[8]


To date, Andrew Jackson is the only sitting President to be successfully censured, and his censure was subsequently expunged from the record.[9]

On December 2, 1954, Republican Senator Joseph McCarthy from Wisconsin was censured by the United States Senate for failing to cooperate with the subcommittee that was investigating him, and for insults to the committee that was trying to censure him.

On June 10, 1980, Democratic Representative Charles H. Wilson from California was censured by the House of Representatives for "financial misconduct," as a result of the "Koreagate" scandal of 1976. "Koreagate" was an American political scandal involving South Koreans seeking influence with members of Congress. An immediate goal seems to have been reversing President Richard Nixon's decision to withdraw troops from South Korea. It involved the KCIA (now the National Intelligence Service) funneling bribes and favors through Korean businessman Tongsun Park in an attempt to gain favor and influence. Some 115 members of Congress were implicated.

On July 20, 1983, Representatives Dan Crane, a Republican from Illinois, and Gerry Studds, a Democrat from Massachusetts, were censured by the House of Representatives for their involvement in the 1983 Congressional page sex scandal.[10]

On July 12, 1999, the U.S. House of Representatives censured (in a 355-to-0 vote) a scientific publication titled "A Meta-analytic Examination of Assumed Properties of Child Sexual Abuse Using College Samples," by Bruce Rind, Philip Tromovich, and Robert Bauserman; (see Rind et al. controversy) which was published in the American Psychological Association's "Psychological Bulletin (July 1998).[11]

On July 31, 2007, retired Army General Philip Kensinger was censured by The United States Army. The censure came after misleading investigators of the Pat Tillman death in 2004.[12][13]

On January 24, 2008, Republican Douglas Bruce from Colorado Springs, Colorado was censured by the Colorado House of Representatives for kicking a newspaper photographer during a morning prayer session, and refusing to apologize.[14]

On July 6, 2009, Republican South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford was censured by the state GOP executive committee for traveling overseas on tax payer funds to visit his mistress.[15]

On October 13, 2009, Mayor of Sheboygan, WI Bob Ryan was censured due to a YouTube video that showed him making sexually vulgar comments about his sister-in-law taken at a bar on a cell phone.[16] The censure was voted 15-0 by the Sheboygan Common Council.

On November 11, 2009, US Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina was censured by the Republicans of Charleston County for working with Democrats on climate change legislation.[17]


Censure is a procedure by which the House of Commons or the Senate can rebuke the actions or conduct of an individual. The power to censure is not directly mentioned in the constitutional texts of Canada but is derived from the powers bestowed upon both Chambers through section 17 of the Constitution Act, 1867. A motion of censure can be introduced by any Member of Parliament or Senator and passed by a simple majority for censure to be deemed to have been delivered. In addition, if the censure is related to the privileges of the Chamber, the individual in question could be summoned to the bar of the House or Senate (or, in the case of a sitting member, to that member's place in the chamber) to be censured, and could also face other sanctions from the house, including imprisonment. Normally, censure is exclusively an on-the-record rebuke — it is not equivalent to a motion of no confidence, and a prime minister can continue in office even if censured.

Roman Catholic Church

Ecclesiastical censure

An ecclesiastical censure is a canonical punishment against a cleric which generally involves a prohibition from teaching or publishing.

Theological censure

Theological censure is, in Catholic teaching, a doctrinal judgment by which the Church stigmatizes certain teachings detrimental to faith or morals.

That they are directed at teachings distinguishes them from canonical censures, such as excommunication, suspension, and interdict, which are spiritual punishments inflicted on people.

They are divided into three groups according as they bear principally upon (1) the import, or (2) the expression, or (3) the consequences, of condemned propositions.

  1. A proposition is branded heretical when it goes directly and immediately against a revealed or defined dogma, or dogma de fide; erroneous when it contradicts only a certain (certa) theological conclusion or truth clearly deduced from two premises, one an article of faith, the other naturally certain.
  2. A proposition is ambiguous when it is worded so as to present two or more senses, one of which is objectionable; captious when acceptable words are made to express objectionable thoughts; evil-sounding when improper words are used to express otherwise acceptable truths; offensive when verbal expression is such as rightly to shock the Catholic sense and delicacy of faith.
  3. In the third category fall Subsannativa religionis (derisive of religion), decolorativa canodris ecclesiæ (defacing the beauty of the Church), subversiva hierarchiæ (subversive of the hierarchy), eversiva regnorum (destructive of governments), scandelosa, perniciosa, periculosa in moribus (scandalous, pernicious, dangerous to morals), blasphema, idolatra, superstisiosa, magica (blasphemous, leading to idolatry, superstition, sorcery), arrogans, acerba (arrogant, harsh), etc. This enumeration, though incomplete, sufficiently draws the aim of the third group of censures; they are directed against such propositions as would imperil religion in general, the Church's sanctity, unity of government and hierarchy, civil society, morals in general, or the virtue of religion, Christian meekness, and humility in particular.

See also


  1. Template:Cite parl (RONR)
  2. 2.0 2.1 Template:Cite parl (Demeter)
  3. RONR, p. 333
  4. Demeter, p. 261
  5. RONR, pp. 642-643
  6. RONR, p. 436
  7. Demeter, p. 263
  8. Demeter, p. 264
  9. "U.S. Senate: Art & History Home > Historical Minutes > 1801-1850 > Senate Censures President". Retrieved 2006-04-01. 
  10. Committee on Standards of Official Conduct[dead link]
  11. "Skeptical Inquirer" Vol.24, No.1 Jan/Feb 2000 p20,1 Kenneth K. Berry & Jason Berry "The Congressional Censure of a Research Paper: Return of the Inquisition?"
  12. Neil A. Lewis (2007-08-01). "Retired General is Censured for Role in Tillman Case". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-04-08. 
  13. "Copy of Letter Censuring Lt. Gen. Philip Kensinger". 2007-06-31. Retrieved 2008-04-08. 
  14. The Associated Press: Lawmaker Censured for Kicking Photog[dead link]
  15. By Peter Hamby CNN Political Producer (2009-07-07). "South Carolina GOP votes to censure Sanford". Retrieved 2009-12-15. 
  16. [1][dead link]
  17. [2][dead link]

External links

Template:Parliamentary Procedure

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