US Removes the Word 'Lunatic' From Federal Law

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US Removes the Word 'Lunatic' From Federal Law

December 18, 2012

By Ofer Tirosh


While it may sound a bit like an internet hoax, the US House of Representatives recently voted to remove “lunatic” from various sections of the federal law. Meanwhile, the word “idiot” was allowed to stay.  The vote ended up nearly unanimous, with only one vote “no” from Texas Republican Louie Gohmert.  

So why was the word “lunatic” such a big deal anyway? The 21st Century Language Act of 2012 states that language that promotes the stigmatization of mental health illnesses in Acts of Congress should be removed.  Specifically, this vote was taken to remove language from 1947 that said, “The words insane and insane person and lunatic shall include every idiot, lunatic, insane person, and person non compos mentis.” Additionally, it would remove language from a 1962 banking law.  

 Representative Bobby Scott of Virginia recently stated his support of the act by saying, "The term lunatic holds a place in antiquity and should no longer have a prominent place in our U.S. code."

Meanwhile, Gohmert, supported his “no” vote by stating, “Not only should we not eliminate the word lunatic from federal law when the most pressing issue of the day is saving our country from bankruptcy, we should use the word to describe the people who want to continue with business as usual in Washington,” Gohmert said in an e-mailed statement.”

Hmm, there’s some food for thought. Is removing antiquated words from federal law a pressing issue today or are there more important things at hand?


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