FAQ

When is the Census? How do I fill it in?

The Census is held once every ten years. In the UK you will be sent Census forms in March 2011 for completion ideally on 27th March. More information.

I was christened as a child/went to a Christian school/ have Christian parents– does that make me a Christian?

If you do not believe in a Christian God, or participate in any religious practices now (e.g. choosing to take part in religious worship) then it is unlikely that you fit into the Christian category. People’s beliefs change over time and being recognised into a particular religion (even through a formal channel such as a Christening) does not mean that you have to tick that box in the Census if you no longer believe or practise. See “Cultural Christians” – Why you shouldn’t just tick ‘Christian’.

The question is not compulsory – shouldn’t I just refuse to answer it at all?

You can do, if you feel that that is the right thing for you to do. But we are encouraging people to tick the ‘No Religion’ box if they are not religious as this will lead to more accurate results and better evidence to use in policy making. See Why should I answer the question at all?

What do other surveys say?

Other surveys give a completely different picture to the Census about the religiosity of the UK. The 2001 Census gave very low results for non-religious people and very high numbers of Christians. We know that the question that people are asked changes the way they answer. (See Our campaign so far.) We know that the Census is not accurate because of all the other surveys that give different results.

I am Jewish by ethnicity, but do not practise any religion. Should I tick Jewish?

The ONS has admitted that the question is a proxy for ethnicity. Writing in ‘secular Jew’ or ‘non-religious Jew’ in the religion section may be counted as being of the Jewish religion. The ethnicity question does not have a Jewish box but it does have an ‘any other white background’ box which allows you to write in ‘Jewish.’ Doing this and ticking the ‘No Religion’ box in the religion section is therefore the best way to be counted as a non-religious Jew.

What does this all mean for Sikhs?

UK law recognises Sikhism as both a religion and an ethnicity. If you are a practising Sikh, you can tick the ‘Sikh’ box under the religion question. However, if you consider yourself ethnically Sikh but non-religious, writing in ‘secular Sikh’ or ‘non-religious Sikh’ in the religion section may be counted as being of the Sikh religion. The ethnicity question does not have a Sikh box but it does have an ‘any other Asian background’ box which allows you to write in ‘Sikh.’ Doing this and ticking the ‘No Religion’ box in the religion section is therefore the best way to be counted as a non-religious Sikh.

Is there a Humanist box to tick?

No, Humanism is not one of the worldviews listed which has its own box. Instead, Humanists have two options. You can tick the ‘No Religion’ box or tick the ‘Other’ box and write in ‘Humanist.’ Either way, you will be counted in the ‘No Religion’ category for the top-line results. However, in more detailed analysis, writing in ‘Humanist’ may actually damage our argument as only very few people will write it in (it’s not a religion, after all!). This might make it look like there are only a few thousand Humanists, when we know there are millions of broadly humanist people in the UK! It is therefore best from our perspective to tick ‘No religion.’

I am a Humanist, should I write that in the ‘other’ box?

Even if you tick the ‘Other’ box and write in ‘Humanist’ you will be counted in the ‘No Religion’ category for the top-line results. However, in more detailed analysis, writing in ‘Humanist’ may actually damage our argument as only very few people will write it in. This might make it look like there are only a few thousand Humanists in the UK, when we know there are millions! It is therefore best from our perspective to tick ‘None.’ See Why not write ‘Humanism’ on the Census form?

I believe in some kind of higher power but not in any organised religion – what should I tick?

This may be a very personal question. You may believe in some kind of higher power but without believing that any “religion” as such can speak for you. If so, then ticking ‘No religion’ may be appropriate.

I’m an agnostic – is there a box for me to tick?

No, but you can tick ‘other’ and write it in if you want to. If you are agnostic on the question of God but otherwise non-religious, we would say you should tick the ‘No Religion’ box if you don’t practise and don’t believe that any religion can speak for you.

I wrote in ‘Jedi’ last time- should I do this again?

We understand that many people wrote in ‘Jedi’ as a form of protest at being asked about their beliefs.  We are encouraging people to tick the ‘No Religion’ box instead for 2 reason: 1) In the top line analysis, a ‘Jedi’ would be counted as ‘No Religion’ anyway, 2) the more people who explicitly identify as non-religious, the better change we have of ensuring secular services and policy. See Jedi knights?!

Someone else in my household may fill in the form for me – how do I make sure my identity is recorded the way I want it to be?

Part of the census form is filled in by one person and relates to the whole household. However, there is also a part of the form that can be filled in by each member of the household which only refers to your information.  The question on religion is on this part of the form so you can fill in this part yourself or ask the person filling in the rest of the form to fill in your information correctly.

Can I put a different answer to the one I ticked in 2001?

Of course! However you answered in 2001, you can still tick ‘No Religion’ in 2011.

What if I live overseas?

If you live overseas, you cannot fill in a census; for the census functions as a tool for the government to find about about people living in the UK.  If you are staying abroad for less than 12 months, a census should be sent to where you ordinarily live.

What is happening in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland?

Wales and Northern Ireland are included in the census which covers England, and so all residents will all be asked ‘What is your religion?’.  In Scotland, the question is slightly different: ‘What religion, religious denomination or body do you belong to?’.  However, this too is a leading question, and so similar problems occur: see the page on the Scottish version of the Census Campaign for more information.

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