The British Humanist Association (BHA), the national charity representing and supporting the interests of ethically concerned but non-religious people in the UK, has today launched ‘The Census Campaign’.
This is five months to the day before the next decennial population census of Great Britain asks people to make a voluntary declaration of their religious profession.
Under the tongue-in-cheek slogan, ‘If you’re not religious, for God’s sake say so!’, the campaign seeks to raise awareness of the potential dangers and damage arising from the non-religious not being accurately recorded by the census.
The BHA strongly feels that the 2001 census, the first to include the question about religious affiliation, ‘produced inaccurate and misleading data on religion, grossly undercounting the number of non-religious people and greatly inflating the number of Christians.’
According to BHA’s Chief Executive, Andrew Copson, ‘these misleading statistics are used to support policies that entrench religious privilege and increase discrimination on grounds of religion in our society …’
The BHA press release also quotes BRIN’s David Voas as saying: ‘In 2001 people tended to treat the census question on religion as a question about ethnic heritage. Their answers were interpreted very differently, though, by churches, journalists and policy-makers. Which box you tick on the census form may seem trivial, but the results do make a difference in public life.’
Following a preview to BHA supporters, the Census Campaign’s fundraising has already raised nearly 50% of its first target. The proceeds of this ongoing appeal (www.justgiving.com/census) will underpin national advertising.
The full BHA press release, on which this post has drawn, will be found at:
The Census Campaign is also accompanied by an interactive website, which sets out the key arguments why people who are non-religious should respond to the voluntary question on religion, and why many of those who registered as Christians in 2001 (so-called ‘cultural Christians’) should respond by ticking ‘No religion’ in 2011. This is at:
Additionally, there is a presence on Facebook and Twitter:
It remains to be seen what impact the BHA’s campaign will have. However, it will be recalled that, in connection with the 2001 census, a push to persuade people to register as Jedi Knights (of Star Wars fame) had significant effect. In the end, more Jedis than Jews were returned.