Welcome to the Census Campaign. On this new blog we’ll keep you up to date with the campaign progress and news related to the Census 2011 and religion/non-religion in society and the media.
On Monday the BHA previewed The Census Campaign for members and supporters via the BHA e-bulletin (register). Here’s the text of the editorial:
Today we announce both our October membership drive and give you a sneak peak at The Census Campaign, launching on Wednesday.
Representing you well…
You may remember that we ran a membership drive in February. With the help of existing members we doubled our growth for the month, with many existing supporters joining us as members. Whether you’re already a BHA member or a supporter thinking about joining find out how you can help promote the membership drive this month (there are prizes to be won!)
The headcount is not important for its own sake. We know that we represent the views of many broadly humanist people in the UK, but it is members, first and foremost, who contribute to our work, support us with campaign actions, and inform the direction we take together as an association.
We do our best to represent you, in other words.
That’s why we also care about misrepresentation of humanists and all non-religious people. We’ve been defending secularism and secular people against a number of odd charges in recent weeks. But over many, many months we’ve been campaigning on what is meant to be the most “representative” of all measures: the census.
… Representing you badly!
The 2001 census introduced a new question on religion. It was a single, closed, leading question – “What is your religion?” – which produced a very high measure of religiosity compared to all other surveys. Millions of people were counted as religious when their “religion” was only a nominal, cultural affiliation, or just a habitual response to ticking “Christian”. In comparison, for example, to the Social Attitudes Survey, the census cuts the number of non-religious people in half!
As members will know from the members’ newsletter, we worked hard to change the religion question. We held several face to face meetings with the Office of National Statistics (ONS) producing, at first, positive responses. Our work was used in parliamentary and select committee sessions on the religion question. The National Statistician admitted that “really” the question should be changed.
But in the end we were given a terribly counter-productive reason as to why the question for 2011 will remain as it was in 2001. We’ll talk about that more as our campaign hots up.
The Census Campaign, launching this week, will promote the most effective way for non-religious people to respond to the flawed religion question in the census.
We also want to raise public awareness about how the bad data misrepresents us and how it is used by government to make bad decisions about public services and resource allocation both nationally and locally.
The talks are over. We exposed hypocrisy but the religion question remains unchanged, so without a major change in public awareness half of all non-religious people will again go unrepresented. So now our campaign goes public. We’ve built a highly interactive website which will allow many people to contribute to our census campaign. We have designed resources for groups and individuals to act locally and the means for everyone to promote The Census Campaign.
We’ll let you know mid-week when the site goes live. Stay tuned!
And now here we are.