Not to be confused with Censer, Censor (disambiguation), or Sensor.

A censure /ˈsɛnʃər/ is an expression of strong disapproval or harsh criticism.[1] In parliamentary procedure, it is a debatable main motion that could be adopted by a majority vote. Among the forms that it can take are a stern rebuke by a legislature, a spiritual penalty imposed by a church, or a negative judgment pronounced on a theological proposition.

Parliamentary procedure

Explanation and use

Censure (main motion)
Requires second? Yes
Debatable? Yes
Amendable? Yes
Vote required Majority

The motion to censure is a main motion expressing a strong opinion of disapproval that could be debated by the assembly and adopted by a majority vote. According to Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised (RONR), it 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."[2] Demeter's Manual notes, "It is a reprimand, aimed at reformation of the person and prevention of further offending acts."[3] While there are many possible grounds for censuring members of an organization, such as embezzlement, absenteeism, drunkenness, and so on, 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 for the meeting; or a motion can be made to permanently remove an officer (depending on the rules of the assembly).[5][6]


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.[7] 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.[8] 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. X, you have been censured by the assembly for the reasons contained in the resolution. I now return to you the presidency."[9]


In politics, a censure is an alternative to more serious measures against misconduct or dereliction of duty.[3][10]


Censure is an action by the House of Commons or the Senate rebuking 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 18 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.

Louis Riel faced Parliamentary censure for his role in the Red River Rebellion, and was expelled from Parliament April 16, 1874.[11]


In Japan a censure motion is a motion than can be passed by the House of Councillors, the upper house of the Japanese Diet. No-confidence motions are passed in the House of Representatives, and this generally doesn't happen as this house is controlled by the ruling party. On the other hand, censure motions have been passed by opposition parties several times during the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) administrations from 2009. The motions were combined with a demand from the opposition to take a certain action, and a refusal to cooperate with the ruling party on key issues unless some actions were taken.

For example, on April 20, 2012 the opposition Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), Your Party and New Renaissance Party submitted censure motions against ministers of Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda's cabinet. They censured Minister of Defense Naoki Tanaka and Minister of Land Takeshi Maeda,[12] and refused to cooperate with the government on passing an increase to Japan's consumption tax from 5% to 10%. Noda had "staked his political life" on passing the consumption tax increase, so on June 4, 2012 Noda reshuffled his cabinet and replaced Tanaka and Maeda.[13]

On August 28, 2012 a censure motion was passed by the LDP and the New Komeito Party against Prime Minister Noda himself. The opposition parties were to boycott debate in the chamber, it means that bills passed in the DPJ-controlled House of Representatives cannot be enacted.[14]


The Senate has censured two Prime Ministers in recent decades that of Paul Keating and John Howard.[15]

The Australian Attorney General George Brandis was censured on 2 March 2015 for his treatment of Human Rights Commission president Gillian Triggs.[16]

United Kingdom

In the UK The Crown cannot be prosecuted for breaches of the law even where it has no exemption, such as from the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act. A Crown Censure is the method by which the Health and Safety Executive records, but for Crown immunity, there would be sufficient evidence to secure a H&S conviction against the Crown.[17]

United States

Censure is the public reprimanding of a public official for inappropriate conduct or voting behavior. When the president is censured, it serves only 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.


To date, Andrew Jackson is the only sitting President to be successfully censured, although his censure was subsequently expunged from official records.[18]

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.[19]

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).[20]

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.[21]

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.[22]

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.[23] The censure was voted 15-0 by the Sheboygan Common Council.

In November 2009, members of the Charleston County Republican party censured Republican Senator Lindsey Graham from the state of South Carolina. The censure was in response to his voting to bailout banks and other Wall Street firms and for his sentiments on immigration overhaul and cap-and-trade climate change legislation.[24]

On December 2, 2010, Democratic Rep. Charlie Rangel from the state of New York was censured after an ethics panel found he violated House rules, specifically failing to pay taxes on a villa in the Dominican Republic, improperly soliciting charitable donations, and running a campaign office out of a rent-stabilized apartment meant for residential use.

On January 4, 2010, members of the Lexington County Republican party censured Senator Lindsey Graham from the state of South Carolina for his support of government intervention in the private financial sector and for “debasing” longstanding Republican beliefs in economic competition.[24]

On January 22, 2013, The Arizona Republican Party censured longtime Sen. John McCain for what it called his “long and terrible” record of voting with liberal Democrats.[25]

Roman Catholic Church

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Canon law

In canon law, a censure is a medicinal penalty[26] imposed primarily for the purpose of breaking contumacy and reintegrating the offender in the community.[27]

The ecclesiastical censures are excommunication and interdict, which can be imposed on any member of the Church, and suspension, which only affects clerics.[28]

Theological censure

A theological censure is a doctrinal judgment by which a Church stigmatizes certain teachings detrimental to faith or morals.[29][30][31]

That they are directed at teachings distinguishes them from canonical censures, which are spiritual punishments imposed on people.

Specific theological censures 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. "censure" via The Free Dictionary.
  2. Robert, Henry M.; et al. (2011). Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised (11th ed.). Philadelphia, PA: Da Capo Press. p. 344. ISBN 978-0-306-82020-5.
  3. 1 2 Demeter, George (1969). Demeter's Manual of Parliamentary Law and Procedure, Blue Book, p. 260 (Demeter)
  4. Demeter, p. 261
  5. Robert 2011, pp. 651–654
  6. "Frequently Asked Questions about RONR (Question 20)". The Official Robert's Rules of Order Web Site. The Robert's Rules Association. Archived from the original on 1970-01-01. Retrieved 2016-02-05.
  7. Robert 2011, p. 451
  8. Demeter, p. 263
  9. Demeter, p. 264
  10. Robert 2011, p. 643
  11. Murray Brewster (February 3, 2010). "http://www.metronews.ca/toronto/canada/article/441938--will-we-hear-of-this-in-day-to-come". Canadian Press; republished by Metro News, Toronto. Archived from the original on 4 June 2011. Retrieved 5 February 2010. External link in |title= (help)
  12. The Japan Times Censure motions passed on ministers April 21, 2012 Retrieved on August 29, 2012
  13. The Asahi Shimbun Noda gets rid of censured Cabinet ministers June 4, 2012 Archived June 4, 2012, at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved on August 29, 2012
  14. The Wall Street Journal Japan's Prime Minister Hit With Censure Motion August 29, 2012 Retrieved on August 29, 2012
  15. "Labor as much at sea as the sheep Alan Ramsey - www.smh.com.au".
  16. "Abbott defends Brandis after Senate censure motion". 2 March 2015.
  17. HSE, Enforcement against Crown bodies, Retrieved 5 November 2015
  18. "U.S. Senate: Art & History Home > Historical Minutes > 1801-1850 > Senate Censures President". Retrieved 2006-04-01.
  19. Committee on Standards of Official Conduct Archived March 29, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.
  20. "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?" "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2008-09-28. Retrieved 2008-06-21.
  21. Neil A. Lewis (2007-08-01). "Retired General is Censured for Role in Tillman Case". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-04-08.
  22. Peter Hamby CNN Political Producer (2009-07-07). "South Carolina GOP votes to censure Sanford". CNN.com. Retrieved 2009-12-15.
  23. http://www.sheboyganpress.com/article/20091014/SHE0101/910140455/1062&located=rss. Retrieved October 14, 2009. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  24. 1 2 Phillips, Kate (January 5, 2010). "Senator Graham Censured Again". The New York Times.
  25. "Arizona GOP rebukes McCain for not being conservative enough". CNN. January 26, 2014.
  26. "Code of Canon Law - IntraText". Archived from the original on 2012-05-25.
  27. John P. Beal, James A. Coriden, Thomas J. Green (editors), New Commentary on the Code of Canon Law (Paulist Press 2002 ISBN 978-0-8091-4066-4), p. 1534
  28. "Code of Canon Law - IntraText". Archived from the original on 2008-03-29.
  29. John Hardon, Modern Catholic Dictionary
  30. Joseph Sollier, "Theological Censures" in Catholic Encyclopedia 1908
  31. "Anglicans Online Essays - Pierre Whalon - A Review of Rowan Williams' 'Grace and Necessity'?".
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