British Humanists want accurate census

and are hoping those who fill out their census information later this month take extra care when they get to the lines about religion. They’ve got a site up to promote their project (The Census Campaign) and I quote from British Humanist Association in October:

Announcing the new campaign, BHA Chief Executive Andrew Copson said, ‘There were more Jedis than Jews counted in the 2001 census, but just as inaccurate a result was the conclusion that 77% of us are religious and only 15% of us are not. These misleading statistics are used to support policies that entrench religious privilege and increase discrimination on grounds of religion in our society and it is vital that the 2011 census results in accurate data for that reason alone.

‘The flawed wording and the positioning of the religion question in the Census in the context of ethnicity encourages people to respond as if they have a religion, and especially over-inflates the “Christian” category. People are counted as Christians who may never have been in a church, who don’t believe in god and who, if asked, “Do you have a religion?” would say, “No”.

The signs and banners they wanted to put up to state their concerns were going to read, “If you’re not religious for God’s sake say so” but according to Independent, that wording has now been changed to “Not religious? In this year’s census, say so” which is a better way to make their case, if you ask me. It’s less goofy and more straight forward and doesn’t make it look like god might actually exist to swear by.

The Carrick Gazette reports that starting today bus ads will be up in

London, Manchester, Leeds, Newcastle, Birmingham, Cardiff and Exeter.

Three posters planned for display at railway stations with the original wording have been refused by companies owning the advertising space who viewed them as too likely to cause offence and will now be circulated online, the BHA said.

Andrew Copson, BHA chief executive, said: “This censorship of a legitimate advert is frustrating and ridiculous. The blasphemy laws in England have been abolished but we are seeing the same principle being enforced nonetheless.”

The BHA argues that the result of inaccurate census answers to these religion questions will create misconception over the number of Christians there actually are. The end result of that might be more money earmarked for faith schools and public religious groups. Policy makers, churches and journalists will never take the data and interpret it as merely “an indicator of broad cultural affiliation,” as it’s phrased on their site.

It does start to sound like the questions will be easy to “get wrong” as it were, and rather than get answers that reflect what people think and do today they’ll wind up being answered as what people think they ought to think and do. People shouldn’t think they need to affiliate with a particular religion just because they went to church once. People shouldn’t have to answer in a way that leads them to pick an affiliation if they don’t actually have one. It’d really be interesting to see how that section is worded.

And it turns out that wiccans and pagans are concerned about the wording of this census, too, and for a similar reason. I wonder how many people will put “Druid Network” as their religion this time around.

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