THE CENSUS CAMPAIGN
Dear Members & Supporters,
Dear Members & Supporters,
I’m writing to ask you to support our local action to help support the British Humanist Association’s 2011 Census campaign. Please read the letter from Dorset Humanists' Campaign Coordinator (below) explaining the campaign and how you can get involved.
We know that religious affiliation in this country was grossly inflated in the last Census by the leading question: “What is your religion?” and the 2011 Census will repeat the same mistake. We are simply asking people who are not religious to tick the ‘No religion’ box.
Please give Dave your help, support and encouragement to ensure that this campaign is a success. We will bring you updates in our monthly Bulletins. Thank you.
David Warden, Chair, Dorset Humanists
You may have read my piece about the British Humanist Association’s "If You're Not Religious For God's Sake Say So" campaign in our January Bulletin. I’m pleased to say that a clear majority of our membership at the January meeting voted to support this campaign. I am now providing further information on the campaign and how we can ensure the non-religious are properly represented.
What is the 2011 Census campaign?
This campaign is to raise public awareness about the 2011 Census religion question. The location of the question within the form (next to the ethnicity question), and its wording, may lead many people to answer the question with their cultural or family faith, even if they have little or no religious involvement or belief.
What is the aim of the campaign?
We wish to encourage people with only a vague cultural affiliation to Christianity to tick "No religion". This ensures data from people who don't actually practise a religion is accurately recorded and does not lead to an inflated focus on religion in public policy.
We are also asking humanists, agnostics and all other non-religious people to tick “No religion” on the Census. We’d rather they didn’t write anything in the “Any other religion” section, as this will split the “No religion” numbers into many subgroups and significantly reduce our chances of getting proper representation for non-religious views.
Why does the 2011 Census matter?
Census data is used by politicians and civil servants to make decisions about public services and resources allocation. Put simply, we don’t want our government believing they have a mandate to increase church participation in politics, segregate our children by faith, or privilege religious groups. The BHA says, ‘the disparity between what most people want in education, equalities and other public ethical issues, as against the perceived need by government to flatter religious groups and churches, is becoming more and more apparent and all the more contestable as the country secularises’.
When is the Census?
The Census will take place on March 27th, so we need to act quickly to achieve our aims.
What can we do?
Our membership has agreed a campaign budget.
However, there are many positive actions that we can all do at no expense. For example:
- Write letters to the media and influential people
- Discuss your views with family, friends, colleagues and neighbours.
- Print and display campaign posters and fliers, where permissible
- Use social media to raise the profile of the campaign
- Post on worldview-related and any influential blogs, explaining why we believe people should tick “No religion” in the 2011 Census.
- If you are a member of a group, or society, you might consider leading a discussion on this topic
Other suggested actions will require financial expenditure. For example:
- Adverts in the local media (e.g. a quarter page in the Echo’s magazine costs around £115).
- Campaigning and Leafleting in local town centres (£25 per person for a Leaflet Distribution Licence in Bournemouth and Boscombe centres, plus leaflet printing costs. Possibly, leaflet costs only in other areas).
- Sponsoring Google Adwords to raise the profile of our website in searches (variable cost)
Please note that only expenses authorised by our campaign coordinators will be reimbursed, as we need to keep close control of costs to remain within our agreed budget.
If you can take on the following roles or responsibilities, please let me know as soon as possible:
- Additional Coordinators – I hope I’m right in assuming that most, or all of you will want to play a part in this campaign and that there will consequently be a considerable amount of coordinating and messaging to be done. Coordinators will preferably be available during the day and have phone and email.
- Spokespersons – Our preference is for volunteers who are BHA members and have a good working knowledge of the BHA, Dorset Humanists and Humanist principles, to talk to the media when the opportunity arises.
- Letter Writers – The BHA have downloadable example letters but newspaper editors, MPs and councillors receiving large numbers of identical letters are probably going to take less notice of them than well-constructed individual letters. Volunteers for this role might also help the group by drafting letters for others to send, in addition to mailing their own.
- Article Writers – Local papers may be interested in Census Campaign related news items for publication. Compose an article for them.
- Speakers – If you would be happy to visit a nearby discussion group to talk about the campaign and why we are recommending the “No Religion” option; or you know of a group that might like a discussion on this issue, please get in touch.
- Street Campaigners – Let us know if you are willing to participate in some active street campaigning and leafleting, and we’ll decide if this is viable.
- Share Your Campaigning Experience – Share your experience of the cost and effectiveness of suggested actions, if you have used any of them for a previous campaign.
Keep us informed
Please keep us informed (email DHcensus(at)hotmail.co.uk or phone Jane 01202 428506.) about any actions you are taking, and copy us in on correspondence if you write to newspaper editors, newsdesks, or influential people, so we are aware of what’s said.
Please try to keep related communication between ourselves brief and to the point, so we can maximise the time we all have available for effective action.
I’m very pleased to have your backing for Dorset Humanists’ involvement in this campaign but an important campaign such as this cannot rely on one person. Please do get involved and support us in any way you can. All of us can inform our family, friends, colleagues and neighbours why ticking “No religion” is the best way to ensure we all have equal rights and principled, evidence-based public policy.
Let’s not be looking back after the 2011 Census results are released, complaining that we aren’t properly represented, and wishing we’d done more about it.
“Don’t curse the darkness, light a candle” – Confucius
Thank you again for your support. Now, let’s make a difference!
To receive a printable copy of this letter please email DHcensus(at)hotmail.co.uk
If you wish to support our campaign, please register your interest, and indicate how you might help to: DHcensus(at)hotmail.co.uk
For further information on the campaign visit http://census-campaign.org.uk/
**Frequently Asked questions (FAQS)
Downloadable PDF factsheets, fliers and letters can be found at:
The latest British Social Attitudes survey, conducted in 2009, shows only 43.7% of people claiming to be Christian while 50.7% say they are non-religious. Around 5% belong to non-Christian religions, almost half of these Muslim. BSA survey results can be downloaded here (see pages 70 and 71 for religious data): http://www.natcen.ac.uk/media/606622/bsa 2009 annotated questionnaires.pdf