Pariah

Going to see this movie today:

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Irony at its finest

Santorum wants to impose ‘Judeo-Christian Sharia’

By Dean Obeidallah, Special to CNN
updated 2:30 PM EST, Thu January 5, 2012
 Rick Santorum bows his head in prayer during a campaign rally in Iowa this week.
Editor’s note: Dean Obeidallah is a comedian who has appeared on Comedy Central’s “Axis of Evil” special, ABC’s “The View,” CNN’s “What the Week” and HLN’s “The Joy Behar Show.” He is executive producer of the annual New York Arab-American Comedy Festival and the Amman Stand Up Comedy Festival. Follow him on Twitter.

(CNN) — There are two Rick Santorums: The first one I might not agree with, but the second one truly scares me.

“Santorum One” pushes for less government regulation for corporations and shrinking the federal government. You may or may not agree with these positions, but they are both mainstream conservative fare.

Then there’s “Santorum Two.” This Santorum wants to impose conservative Christian law upon America. Am I being hyperbolic or overly dramatic with this statement? I wish I were, but I’m not.

Plainly put, Rick Santorum wants to convert our current legal system into one that requires our laws to be in agreement with religious law, not unlike what the Taliban want to do in Afghanistan.

Santorum is not hiding this. The only reason you may not be aware of it is because up until his recent surge in the polls, the media were ignoring him. However, “Santorum Two” was out there telling anyone who would listen.

He told a crowd at a November campaign stop in Iowa in no uncertain terms, “our civil laws have to comport with a higher law: God’s law.”

On Thanksgiving Day at an Iowa candidates’ forum, he reiterated: “We have civil laws, but our civil laws have to comport with the higher law.”

“Imagine if either of the two Muslim members of Congress declared their support for a proposed American law based on verses from the Quran. The outcry would be deafening, especially from people like Santorum.”
Dean Obeidallah

Yes, that means exactly what you think it does: Santorum believes that each and every one of our government’s laws must match God’s law, warning that “as long as there is a discordance between the two, there will be agitation.” I’m not exactly sure what “agitation” means in this context, but I think it’s a code word for something much worse than acid reflux.

And as an aside, when Santorum says “God,” he means “not any god (but) the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” So, if your god differs from Rick’s, your god’s views will be ignored, just like the father is on “Keeping Up with the Kardashians.”

Some of you might be asking: How far will “Santorum Two” take this? It’s not like he’s going to base public policy decisions on Bible passages, right?

Well, here’s what Santorum had to say just last week when asked about his opposition to gay marriage: “We have Judeo-Christian values that are based on biblical truth. … And those truths don’t change just because people’s attitudes may change.”

Santorum could not be more unambiguous: His policy decisions will be based on “biblical truths,” and as he noted, these “truths” will not change regardless of whether public opinion has evolved since the time the Bible was written thousands of years ago.

Imagine if either of the two Muslim members of Congress declared their support for a proposed American law based on verses from the Quran. The outcry would be deafening, especially from people like Santorum.

One of the great ironies is that Santorum has been a leader in sounding alarm bells that Muslims want to impose Islamic law — called Sharia law — upon non-Muslims in America. While Santorum fails to offer even a scintilla of credible evidence to support this claim, he continually warns about the “creeping” influence of Muslim law.

Santorum’s fundamental problem with Sharia law is that it’s “not just a religious code. It is also a governmental code. It happens to be both religious in nature and origin, but it is a civil code.”

Consequently, under the Sharia system, the civil laws of the land must comport with God’s law. Now, where did I hear about someone wanting to impose only laws that agree with God’s law in America?

So, what type of nation might the United States be under Rick Santorum’s Sharia law?

1. Rape victims would be forced to give birth to the rapist’s child. Santorum has stated that his religious beliefs dictate that life begins at conception, and as a result, rape victims would be sentenced to carrying the child of the rapist for nine months.

2. Gay marriages would be annulled. Santorum recently declaredthat not only does he oppose gay marriages, but he supports a federal constitutional amendment that would ban them, invalidating all previous gay marriages that have legally been sanctioned by states and thus callously destroying marriages and thrusting families into chaos.

3. Santorum would ban all federal funding for birth control and would not oppose any state that wanted to pass laws making birth control illegal.

4. No porn! I’m not kidding. Santorum signed “The Marriage Vow” pledge (PDF) authored by the Family Leader organization, under which he swears to oppose pornography. I think many would agree that alone should disqualify him from being president.

To me, “Santorum Two” truly poses an existential threat to the separation of church and state, one of the bedrock principles of our nation since its inception. Not only did Thomas Jefferson speak of the need to create “a wall of separation between church and state,” so did Santorum’s idol, Ronald Reagan, who succinctly stated, “church and state are, and must remain, separate.”

While there may be millions of Americans who in their heart agree with the views of “Santorum Two,” it is my hope they will reject any attempts to move America closer to a becoming the Afghanistan of the Western Hemisphere.

Tent city to be evicted

Lakewood Tent City, A Last Resort For The Homeless, Faces Eviction

Lakewood Tent City
First Posted: 1/5/12 03:53 PM ET Updated: 1/5/12 04:03 PM ET, The Huffington Post

LAKEWOOD, N.J. — It was not long ago that most Americans would envy Marilyn Berenzweig.

A textile designer, she earned $100,000 a year and lived a comfortable New York City life with her husband, a former radio producer. They paid $2,000 month for their apartment, kept a vegan diet, and had had a soft spot for pet birds — ultimately collecting so many that they devoted a room to housing them.

But her world came crumbling two years ago when she lost her job in the recession. Like many of the jobless, Berenzweig couldn’t fund her old lifestyle with meager unemployment payments. She downsized. She moved from place to place. Eventually, she left the city altogether.

Today, Berenzweig eats, sleeps and entertains in a two-person tent in the middle of the woods. On her recent 61st birthday, she was one of dozens of people, from the chronically homeless to former professionals like herself, who have come to call such places home.

“We’re too young for Social Security and too old to to be trained for another job,” she said recently, standing by a makeshift kitchen table under a tarp outside her tent. “So here we are.”

Five years before members of the “Occupy” movement began camping across the country in parks from Wall Street to Main Street, a handful of the downtrodden and jobless set up in secluded woods on the outskirts of Lakewood, a township just 70 miles south of New York City near the Jersey Shore. They didn’t do it by choice, but as a last resort.

Today, the camp is home to almost 80 people, led by a former electrical contractor-turned-pastor who left a modest life to take his ministry on the dirt road. They live with little electricity and without a modern sewage system. Instead, they use propane tanks for heat and a pump that sends water to a generator-powered washing machine and shower housed in a shack.

The camp runs on donations from churches and temples whose members visit daily, and has survived on a budget of around $1,000 a month. In this thriving community, complete with a chapel, a TV room and bi-monthly Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, new residents arrive every few weeks.

“This camp is for the homeless. It doesn’t matter what caused you to be homeless,” said the Rev. Steve Brigham, who lives in a converted school bus with a desk, twin-size bed and bookshelves from which he doles out supplies like food and propane tanks to residents. Yet, for all the hospitality he’s received from local churches and temples, he has started to have “trouble with the powers that be.”

A Lakewood resident since childhood who was ordained at a local nondenominational congregation, Brigham is talking about his hometown’s government. For most of its years, he said, the township largely ignored the tent city, but now Lakewood is taking Brigham to court to get the camp shut down.

A lawyer for Lakewood did not reply to a request for comment from The Huffington Post, but the township said in court filings that the campers are living illegally on public land. Brigham has responded by suing the township and the Ocean County, saying neither provide any other adequate shelter for the homeless. An eviction hearing is set for Friday, Jan. 6.

“In New York, if it’s below freezing outside, you can go to a shelter. In Ocean County, there is no shelter,” said Jeffrey Wild, an attorney with Lowenstein Sandler, a law firm that has taken up the case pro bono. Wild argues that the county is “required by New Jersey law to provide emergency shelter” and that the homeless have “a right to survive” on public land.

The county contends that it does its part for the downtrodden by renting motel rooms for hundreds of the homeless and running programs offering programs assisting with rent, mortgage and utility payments.

In total, 2,200 people take part such programs and other social services in Ocean County each night. But homeless advocates say many of the homeless aren’t accepted into the programs, whether due to disqualification or lack of resources. Between January 2009 and August 2011, 3,774 applications for emergency assistance were denied by the county, which has a total population of 576,567. A January count found 45 people who were unsheltered and homeless in the county, but advocates believe the number is higher.

“The county is not saying homelessness is not an important issue. We spend millions on the homeless,” said Jean Cipriani, an attorney who represents the Ocean County Board of Social Services. She added that the county, which spends $20 million each year on services for the poor, also has its hands tied because of the same recession that has led many to reside in the tent city to begin with.

Tim Wible is one of those residents. After 17 years, he recently lost his position as a carpenter. Living on $140 a month in general assistance and $200 a month in food stamps in addition to his meager savings, he barely made ends meet until he missed an evaluation appointment. Then, the money was cut off and he had nowhere to go.

“I’m looking for work every day, but it’s hard because I don’t have my IDs. So first I’m trying to get those,” said Wible, 43.

On a recent night, a Wible held hands with campers as Brigham led them in prayer after a visitor donated roasted chicken and pumpkin pies for dinner.

“Father, we thank you for this food that you have given us today. We ask you that you would bless the hands that made it. We ask that you would bless us all that we may accomplish thy will and pleasure,” the group chanted.

Wible said being a part of the camp has brought him closer to God.

“I’m not really a religious man, but I’ve started to go to services here with Steve. You wouldn’t believe how many people he’s helped,” he said. “I haven’t a clue what I would do if they shut this place down.”

200,000 and counting…

U.S. adds 200K jobs in Dec; unemployment rate drops to 8.5%

By Michael A. Fletcher, Updated: Friday, January 6, 9:11 AM, The Washington Post
The nation’s gloomy jobs picture continued to brighten in December as employers added 200,000 jobs, pushing the unemployment rate down to 8.5 percent, the Labor Department reported Friday.

Private employers added 220,00 jobs, moving the total of private-sector jobs created in 2011 to 1.9 million. Governments, particularly at the local level, cut jobs, holding overall job growth for the year to 1.6 million.

Still, the jobless rate has declined by 0.6 percent since August, and it now stands at its lowest level in nearly three years.

The improvement in the labor market is surely welcome news for President Obama, who has been widely criticized for the nation’s poor labor market. With the 2012 presidential campaign intensifying, Obama has struggled to win public approval for his handling of the economy, and steady job creation can only boost his political standing.

The upbeat jobs report capped an up-and-down 2011 for the U.S. labor market.

After brisk growth in the beginning of the year, the labor market stalled in the wake of higher energy prices, the Japanese earthquake and the political fight over raising the nation’s debt limit. But the job market improved significantly in the final quarter of the year.

Even with the positive report, stubborn problems remain. Some 5.6 million Americans — 42.5 percent of the unemployed — have been jobless for more than six months, a figure that was unchanged in December.

Also, minority joblessness remained at catastrophic levels: the black unemployment rate was 15.8 percent in December, and the jobless rate for Hispanics was 11 percent.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) cheered the report, even as he noted that the nation’s labor market remains troubled.

“It’s good news that more Americans found work last month despite a sluggish economy, but both parties must come together and do more to address the ongoing uncertainty that small businesses face,” he said in a statement. “Today marks the 35th consecutive month of unemployment above eight percent, and too many Americans continue to struggle to find their next job.”

The jobs report builds on a several new indicators pointing toward an economy on the upswing.

The government reported Thursday that claims for unemployment benefits declined in the final week of December, moving the average over the past four weeks to its lowest level in more than three years.

The Institute for Supply Management reported this week that its employment index for December was 55.1, the highest reading since June. A reading above 50 means that more companies are creating jobs than cutting them.

The nation’s factories have added more than 300,000 jobs since the beginning of 2010 — about 13 percent of what was lost during the recession — marking the first sustained increase in manufacturing employment since 1997, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Auto sales in December were up, continuing their substantial improvement from the summer. And for all of 2011, vehicle sales rose 10 percent.

On Thursday, several analysts cautioned not to make too much of the good news too soon.

Bernard Baumohl, chief economist for the New Jersey-based Economic Outlook Group, said that regardless of what happens with the December unemployment number, the economy faces major hurdles in 2012.

Europe’s economy is teetering on the edge of recession, and China’s roaring economy is beginning to cool, he said, developments that pose substantial risk to U.S. economic and employment growth. In addition, he said, oil prices are likely to rise next year as tension increases in the Persian Gulf and the broader Middle East.

Meanwhile, he added, business and individual consumers are likely to cut back, after a relative spending binge that helped increase economic growth by an estimated three percent in the final months of 2011. “The recent uptick in shopping, while cathartic, is simply unsustainable,” the firm wrote in its 2012 economic forecast.

Any or all of those factors could slow job growth in the early months of 2012.

“I have my concerns that the pace of job growth will likely slow in the first half of this year as the economy slows,” Baumohl said. “We just do not have a basis for optimism that the economy or job market has turned the corner.”

Washington is boss right now!

Proposal would require private insurers to cover abortions

State lawmakers will be asked this session to require private insurance plans to cover abortion, a mandate that likely would be the first of its kind in the nation.

By Jonathan Martin and Carol M. Ostrom, The Seattle Times
State lawmakers will be asked this session to require private insurance plans to cover abortion, a mandate that likely would be the first of its kind in the nation.

Backed by abortion-rights advocates, the proposal would extend a 20-year-old mandate that insurance plans funded or administered by the state cover abortion if they cover maternity care.

The proposal, still in draft form, comes amid uncertainty about how the federal health-care overhaul, and restrictions on abortion funding, might affect abortion coverage in the state.

State and federal regulations are in play as the state prepares to set up a health-insurance exchange, a marketplace for buyers established by the 2010 federal health-care law.

Supporters of the proposal, including Rep. Eileen Cody, D-West Seattle, said legislation is needed to preserve abortion coverage.

“I don’t want us to go backward. We have a great pro-choice state right now, and I don’t want us to go backward,” said Cody, chairwoman of the House health-care committee.

Details are still being worked out, but federal law requires state-run health-care exchanges to include at least one insurance plan — the federal employees plan — that does not cover abortion. That requirement could give Washington employers or individual buyers opposed to abortion an option.

A coalition of abortion-rights groups plans a news conference Sunday in Seattle to unveil the bill.

Abortions are already widely covered by health plans in the state, not only by the state-funded plans but by most private plans.

Even so, anti-abortion groups said the new proposal would be vigorously fought. “To mandate that we violate our conscience is tyranny,” said Dan Kennedy, CEO of Human Life of Washington. “There’s no subtle or soft way to put the truth.”

Tough issues

The Legislature has not had a full debate on abortion since Democrats gained abortion-rights majorities in the House and Senate. But this new proposal, also sponsored by Sen. Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens, occurs as the Legislature is poised to tackle gay marriage, marijuana legalization and a roughly $1.5 billion budget deficit.

Washington voters approved Initiative 120 in 1991, guaranteeing a woman’s right to abortion and requiring health-insurance programs funded or administered by the state — such as Medicaid — to cover the procedure. Sixteen other states also allow public funding for abortion.

Because federal law bans federal money for abortions, the state uses its own funds to pay for the procedure for Medicaid recipients.

At least 12 states have passed legislation restricting or banning insurance coverage of abortions since the 2010 federal health-care overhaul, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Spokeswoman Megan Dorsch said her staff was unaware of any state that had mandated coverage.

Of the 24,279 abortions performed in Washington in 2008 (the most recent year data is available), about half were publicly funded, according to state data.

It is unclear how many private insurance plans cover abortion. Stephanie Marquis, spokeswoman for the state Insurance Commissioner’s Office, said all individual and small-group plans in Washington already cover abortion. She did not have information about coverage by self-insured plans, usually offered by large employers.

Spokespeople for several large insurers — including Regence and Group Health Cooperative — said most of their plans cover abortion but declined to discuss the proposal.

In general, insurers don’t like coverage mandates, but the state already has imposed 14 coverage requirements, including contraception, mammograms, prostate-cancer and colorectal-cancer screenings.

A state “conscience clause” law allows health-insurance plans sponsored by religious organizations to refuse to pay for abortion.

Backers

The new proposal is supported by Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest, NARAL Pro-Choice Washington and Legal Voice. Hobbs said the measure wouldn’t cause “much controversy” because most private insurers already cover abortion, and the issue of state funding was settled with Initiative 120.

“We’re not talking about ending a health-care benefit, or adding one that is not already there,” said Hobbs. “It is ensuring what is already there.”

At this point, nobody knows quite how federal and state laws will affect private health insurers.

Federal funds will subsidize insurance coverage for low-income people who buy insurance on the exchange. But the federal ban on payments for abortion could conflict with Initiative 120’s requirement that state-administered plans cover abortion if insurance plans offered on the exchange are considered to be administered by the state, said Jonathan Seib, health-policy adviser for Gov. Chris Gregoire.

Potentially, the federal government could withhold a portion of the subsidy, said Seib. Given the uncertainty, as well as the state’s history of supporting abortion rights, advocates say a clear mandate — that abortion must be covered if insurance covers maternity — is the simplest solution.

And extending the mandate to all insurance plans, including private insurance, is necessary to maintain consistency of coverage, cost and access across economic classes, said Dana Laurent, political director for Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest.

“We want to ensure equity of all health care, whether it’s inside or outside the exchange,” said Laurent. “That certainly goes for a medical procedure as common as abortion.”

Rumor has it…

Iowa GOP officials don’t think Appanoose County will rewrite caucus history

JENNIFER JACOBS, 10:40 PM, Jan 5, 2012, Des Moines Register

An Appanoose County man told an Iowa TV station today that he thinks there was a 20-vote discrepancy in the count in the town of Moulton – which could tilt the tight Iowa caucuses victory in Rick Santorum’s favor.

But Republican Party of Iowa officials said tonight that they have talked with Appanoose County GOP officials and don’t have any reason to believe the final results in the county will change the outcome of Tuesday’s vote.

Mitt Romney won the Iowa caucuses by the thinnest of margins: 8 votes, out of about 120,000 votes cast.

Edward True, 28, of Moulton, told KCCI that the GOP’s results showed 22 votes for Romney when he thinks it was only 2. True said he and 52 other people caucused at the Garrett Memorial Library.

Iowa GOP Chairman Matt Strawn in a statement tonight said:

“Iowa GOP rules provide for a two-week certification process for each of the 1,774 precincts. The Iowa GOP will announce the final, certified results of the 2012 Iowa Caucuses following this process.

“Out of respect to the candidates involved, party officials will not respond to every rumor, innuendo or allegation during the two week process.

That said, Iowa GOP officials have been in contact with Appanoose County Republican officials tonight and do not have any reason to believe the final, certified results of Appanoose County will change the outcome of Tuesday’s vote.”

Not surprised…

Walmart Blacklisted By Major Pension Fund Over Poor Labor Practices

Walmart
First Posted: 1/5/12 01:57 PM ET Updated: 1/5/12 06:53 PM ET, The Huffington Post

A major pension fund and longtime investor in Walmart has blacklisted the retailing behemoth, citing poor labor practices and the company’s anti-union stance as the driving force behind its rejection.

Walmart typically shrugs off criticism of its labor practices as union-driven propaganda and insists that its employees are happy and well-managed, but investing experts say that when one of the largest pension funds in the world divests, the company would be wise to listen to the message. It’s the same message the American labor movement has been pushing for decades.

On Tuesday, the Netherlands’ biggest pension fund, Algemeen Burgerlijk Pensioenfonds, with more than $300 billion in assets, announced that it was blacklisting the largest retailer in the world for noncompliance with the United Nations’ Global Compact principles. The Global Compact presents a set of core values relating to human rights, labor standards, the environment and anti-corruption efforts. Sixteen other companies were blacklisted along with Walmart, nearly all of them excluded for producing chemical or nuclear weapons that violate the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

ABP said on Wednesday that the decision to pull its investment from Walmart was not hasty. The fund declined to say how much money is involved, but according to ABP records, it had invested some 95 million euros, worth $121 million today, in U.S. Walmart stores as of June 30, 2011. The fund first sent a letter to Walmart executives in 2008, a year after ABP formalized its responsible-investing policy. Four years later, after many meetings with employees and all levels of management, ABP concluded the retail giant was still falling short.

Back in 2007, as ABP began to comb through its investments with an eye toward corporate responsibility, the fund was struck by the staggering number of lawsuits and National Labor Relations Board complaints against Walmart, explained Anna Pot, a senior sustainability specialist involved in the decision.

For four years, the fund met repeatedly with Walmart executives, trying to use its shareholder’s influence to persuade the company to improve corporate practices, especially with regard to labor and the environment. There were some signs of improvement along the road: Last year’s ABP Responsible Investment Report noted that “the company has taken steps in the right direction,” pointing to the $100 million Walmart paid to settle court actions in November and December of 2009 alone. It also noted that, based on discussions with management, ABP felt that Walmart had changed its attitude toward unions.

But by January 2012, ABP decided that the company’s time was up.

“There has been a change, but in the end we had to conclude that it was not enough,” said Pot. “We felt that if the workers are not happy, then what does it mean for the company?”

A Walmart spokesperson declined to comment on the divestment, adding that the company never discusses investors’ decisions to buy or sell, regardless of the circumstances.

UNIONS PUSH

Meanwhile, leaders at the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) — one of the key unions engaged in the decades-long battle to organize Walmart’s massive workforce — hailed ABP’s decision as a message to the company and its other shareholders: Treating workers badly is bad for business.

ABP’s decision also might suggest that one of the UFCW’s more recent strategies could be bearing fruit.

After decades of failing to unionize employees at the retail goliath, American labor shifted its strategy. If Walmart’s anti-union apparatus was too powerful for organizers to overcome, they would focus on shareholders and customers instead.

This past fall, a handful of Walmart workers and a union analyst showed up at Walmart’s annual investor meeting to offer an unusual presentation of their own: a union-authored report and testimony from employees designed to convince outside investors that the company’s much-criticized labor practices are diminishing its long-term value.

At the time, Walmart executives dismissed the group’s claims, reportedly calling the employees a “bunch of malcontents” and describing the presentation as an attention-seeking stunt by union organizers to “further their own political and financial agenda.”

But Pot, who attended that meeting, thought it was useful. Although it was not the only factor driving ABP’s decision to divest, it was among them. Also high on the list: a job description found on Walmart’s website last June, seeking a new director of labor relations whose listed duties included “support continued union free workplace.”

Pot stressed that divestment was an action of last resort and that ABP would be happy to reinvest with Walmart should the company show that it was meeting international labor standards. But, she added, referring to the job advertisement, “so long as we see lines like that, we know that is not yet the case.”

MORE SOCIALLY RESPONSIBLE

In the past decade, socially responsible investing (sometimes called activist investing) has become increasingly common. In the U.S. in 2010, nearly one of every eight dollars under professional money management followed some strategy of socially responsible investing. Since 2005, the pool of assets engaged in socially responsible investing has grown by more than 34 percent while the broader universe of professionally managed money has been stagnant, according to a report from the Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investment. This shift has come in part, experts say, because research has shown that good labor practices actually improve a company’s performance rather than dragging it down.

According to research by Wharton finance professor Alex Edmans, companies that appear on Fortune magazine’s annual list of the “100 Best Companies to Work For in America” also earned returns at a rate more than double that of the overall market.

“The perception used to be that socially responsible investors were hippies,” Edmans said. “But they aren’t tree-huggers. They are active money managers with lots of money.”

Still, divesting from Walmart is hardly a widespread phenomenon. In 2006, the Government Pension Fund of Norway dumped more than $400 million worth of Walmart shares, also citing labor standards and union obstruction. But researchers at the UFCW could not name any major U.S. pension funds that had divested.

A spokesman for the New York State Common Retirement Fund said that in the fund’s 90-year history, it has only divested once. In 2009, it pulled some $86.2 million in investments from companies doing business in Iran and Sudan, citing terrorism and genocide, respectively.

“We have a fiduciary duty, and that is really the main guide for us,” said Eric Sumberg, a press secretary at the Office of the New York State Comptroller.

Most pension funds view divestment as the option of last resort, and a politically charged move. It also means relinquishing the opportunity to perhaps influence change at a company.

“It’s a choice: Do you actively engage with the company or do you pull out?” said Nien-hê Hsieh, an associate professor of legal studies and business ethics and of philosophy at the Wharton School. “At the end of the day, it’s not clear how much of divesting is about effecting change or taking a stand.”

New definition of rape according to the DoJ

Department of Justice

Office of Public Affairs

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Friday, January 6, 2012

Attorney General Eric Holder Announces Revisions to the Uniform Crime Report’s Definition of Rape
Data Reported on Rape Will Better Reflect State Criminal Codes, Victim Experiences

Attorney General Eric Holder today announced revisions to the Uniform Crime Report’s (UCR) definition of rape, which will lead to a more comprehensive statistical reporting of rape nationwide. The new definition is more inclusive, better reflects state criminal codes and focuses on the various forms of sexual penetration understood to be rape. The new definition of rape is: “The penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.”   The definition is used by the FBI to collect information from local law enforcement agencies about reported rapes.

“Rape is a devastating crime and we can’t solve it unless we know the full extent of it,” said Vice President Biden, a leader in the effort to end violence against women for over 20 years and author of the landmark Violence Against Women Act. “This long-awaited change to the definition of rape is a victory for women and men across the country whose suffering has gone unaccounted for over 80 years.”

“These long overdue updates to the definition of rape will help ensure justice for those whose lives have been devastated by sexual violence and reflect the Department of Justice’s commitment to standing with rape victims,” Attorney General Holder said. “This new, more inclusive definition will provide us with a more accurate understanding of the scope and volume of these crimes.”

“The FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) Advisory Policy Board recently recommended the adoption of a revised definition of rape within the Summary Reporting System of the Uniform Crime Reporting Program,” said David Cuthbertson, FBI Assistant Director, CJIS Division. “This definitional change was recently approved by FBI Director Robert S. Mueller. This change will give law enforcement the ability to report more complete rape offense data, as the new definition reflects the vast majority of state rape statutes. As we implement this change, the FBI is confident that the number of victims of this heinous crime will be more accurately reflected in national crime statistics.”

The revised definition includes any gender of victim or perpetrator, and includes instances in which the victim is incapable of giving consent because of temporary or permanent mental or physical incapacity, including due to the influence of drugs or alcohol or because of age. The ability of the victim to give consent must be determined in accordance with state statute. Physical resistance from the victim is not required to demonstrate lack of consent. The new definition does not change federal or state criminal codes or impact charging and prosecution on the local level.

“The revised definition of rape sends an important message to the broad range of rape victims that they are supported and to perpetrators that they will be held accountable,” said Justice Department Director of the Office on Violence Against Women Susan B. Carbon. “We are grateful for the dedicated work of all those involved in making and implementing the changes that reflect more accurately the devastating crime of rape.”

T he longstanding, narrow definition of forcible rape, first established in 1927, is “the carnal knowledge of a female, forcibly and against her will.” It thus included only forcible male penile penetration of a female vagina and excluded oral and anal penetration; rape of males; penetration of the vagina and anus with an object or body part other than the penis; rape of females by females; and, non-forcible rape.

Police departments submit data on reported crimes and arrests to the UCR. The UCR data are reported nationally and used to measure and understand crime trends. In addition, the UCR program will also collect data based on the historical definition of rape, enabling law enforcement to track consistent trend data until the statistical differences between the old and new definitions are more fully understood.

The revised definition of rape is within FBI’s UCR Summary Reporting System Program. The new definition is supported by leading law enforcement agencies and advocates and reflects the work of the FBI’s CJIS Advisory Policy Board.

Click here to read a blog post from Director Carbon on the importance of the new definition of rape to our nation’s law enforcement, and for survivors of rape and their advocates. Click here to listen to the FBI’s podcast .