Saturday, August 01, 2009

Census 2011 and the religion question

It is confirmed that 'Jedi' will not be an option box in the 2011 census religion question. And neither will Christian denomination:

From the House of Lords' Hansard:

Census Question
Asked by Lord Laird

“To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Written Answer by Baroness Crawley on 24 June (WA 282), whether they will review the census question on religion which currently permits one Christian answer without denominational distinction and lists five other religions; and why that question is as it is. [HL4806]

13 July 2009 : Column WA183

Baroness Crawley: The information requested falls within the responsibility of the UK Statistics Authority. I have asked the authority to reply.

Letter from Karen Dunnell, National Statistician, to Lord Laird, dated July 2009.
As National Statistician I have been asked to reply to your recent question asking whether the census question on religion which currently permits one Christian answer without denominational distinction and lists five other religions will be reviewed; and why that question is as it is. (HL4806)

The religion question was introduced in the 2001 census as a voluntary question and has been designed to collect information on religious affiliation, which is required by many users of census statistics for monitoring equality and planning of services.
Question development for the 2011 census began in 2005. A detailed and lengthy process of user consultation, prioritisation of user requirements and qualitative and quantitative question testing has been carried out to inform decisions on the topics, content and design of questions to he included in the 2009 census rehearsal and 2011 census.

As part of this process ONS has already considered the feasibility of an extended list of Christian denominations in the England and Wales census but rejected this approach for a number of reasons.

Testing of a question with Christian denominations indicated that some respondents may interpret and answer the expanded question differently, which would make it difficult to compare data with those from the 2001 census. Trends in religious affiliation over time are required by many census users, primarily for service planning: three-quarters of the respondents to the 2007 consultation regarded comparability with the 2001 census question as essential.

In addition, different and potentially a higher number of categories would be needed in Wales , which would make comparison across England and Wales difficult.

Furthermore, space constraints on the census questionnaire for England and Wales mean that providing detailed breakdowns of the Christian category would result in losing other questions or compromising the questionnaire design, thereby putting the quality of responses and their comparability with 2001 data at risk.

A key reason for including a question on religion in the 2001 census was to provide statistics on minority religions. This helped to provide benchmarks so that employers and public authorities, for example, could fulfil their duties under the Race Relations Act. The proposed 2011 question lists five other religions in addition to Christian: Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim and Sikh. These religions are included as they are widely recognised as being the largest of the minority religions within the UK , although it is also proposed that there will be a “write-in” option, where those who wish to record themselves under any other religion may do so.

Full details of this consideration are set out in an information paper relating to the development of the 2011 census religion question, which available on the website:

ONS is currently testing a revised wording to the question on religion that asks “Which of these best describes you?” with no changes to the “No religion” and pre-designated religion tick-boxes."

So there you have it. The extent of the Christian majority was never the issue: the question was to determine figures for religious minorities in order that employers and public authorities could fulfil their duties under the Race Relations Act.

Perhaps Baroness Crawley might learn the difference between race and religion, and appreciate that membership of a particular faith group is not necessarily a pointer to ethnicity.


Anonymous Frank said...

In my opinion religious beliefs of any sort are at best irrelevant and at worst devisive.

1 August 2009 at 13:53  
Blogger indigomyth said...

//Perhaps Baroness Crawley might learn the difference between race and religion, and appreciate that membership of a particular faith group is not necessarily a pointer to ethnicity.//

//" may be legitimate for individuals to criticise or be angry at the actions of the Israeli Government but we must never allow this anger to be used to justify anti-Semitism."

It is a nuanced distinction, for how many can be bothered to reason that the Israeli Government does not speak for global Jewry? Or that the Zionists are not all Jews? Or that not all Jews are Zionists?//

1 August 2009 at 14:02  
Anonymous Anabaptist said...

Crannie, you write:
'... the question was to determine figures for ... the Race Relations Act ... membership of a particular faith group is not necessarily a pointer to ethnicity.'

Too right; and it works the other way round as well: membership of a particular ethnic group should not be connected with religious belief. The assumed connection is used as a means of suppressing expression of Christian belief on the grounds of racial harrassment, and has a close connection to the government's botched and appalling legislation confounding religious and racial hatred (leaving aside the even more botched idea that you can legislate against hatred, or, presumably, in favour of love).

But I am tempted to question why it is so easily and naturally assumed that ethnicity and religion are connected. Whilst there is more than one culprit, I am inclined to think that one of them must be the assumption that there are such things as 'Christian nations', and an established 'church'. Such ideas are bound to foster the view that to be British is to be Christian, and that therefore religion has a national (though not necessarily ethnic) dimension.

All this is tied to the notion of the territorial church, which was the basis of so many religious wars between so-called Christians, and provided the pretext for the almost universal persecution of my spiritual forefathers, the Anabaptists.

It is not surprising that the Anabaptists, understanding the potential for evil of the Christian (i.e. Catholic or Protestant) nation dissociated themselves from territorial religion, refused to swear oaths, and forswore all violence as followers of Jesus. (And please don't try to raise the old canard about Munster, which was a one-off, roundly condemned by all Anabaptists as an abberration from their commonly held views and practices.)

1 August 2009 at 14:10  
Blogger Manfarang said...

Those who register on the Foreign and Commonwealth Locate website are offered the following categories:
Christian Catholic
Christian Orthodox
Christian Other
Christian Protestant

I wonder how many registered under Shinto?

1 August 2009 at 14:20  
Anonymous Anabaptist said...

Interesting, Manfarang. I wonder what ethnic connection there is to atheism or agnosticism. How could being an atheist or agnostic (presumably, therefore fitting into the category of 'None' on the census's pie chart) be associated with an ethnic grouping and therefore satisfy anybody's 'duties under the Race Relations Act'?

1 August 2009 at 14:25  
Blogger Gnostic said...

Will they have a box for "Mind your own bloody business"?

Which will also be my reply if they include a question about financial affairs which was mooted some time ago.

1 August 2009 at 14:40  
Blogger Manfarang said...

Locate is a website for Britons travelling or living abroad where the remit of the Race Relations Act does not extend.
Those foreigners who apply for work permits in Thailand are asked to state their religion on the form. The category of 'None'tends to be greeted with a blank stare.The Thais cannot understand someone not having a religion.

1 August 2009 at 14:55  
Anonymous Anabaptist said...

Thanks, Manfarang, for the clarification. I wonder why application for a work permit should require disclosure of religion.

1 August 2009 at 14:58  
Blogger Manfarang said...

Ours is not to wonder why
but to do or to die.

1 August 2009 at 15:10  
Blogger John Woolman said...

So where does this leave the not insubstantial group of non Christ centred Quakers?

1 August 2009 at 15:25  
Blogger English Viking said...

Anybody who believes that there were just over 1.5m muslims in the UK at the time of counting wants their head looking into.

@FRANK (13:53)

How sad are you, to come to a religious website and complain about people expressing religious views? Atheism rots the mind, apparently.

1 August 2009 at 15:49  
Blogger English Viking said...

@John Woolman (15:25)

What's porridge got to do with it?

1 August 2009 at 15:50  
Blogger Dominic Marchmain, said...

There will of course, Your Grace, be trouble with Unitarians. Whilst they see themselves as Christians and will happily tick the "Christian" box. Objectively, they are not since they do not accept all of the first seven oecumenical councils.

1 August 2009 at 16:12  
Anonymous Orwellian Prophet said...

The pie-chart is interesting. Only 1,591,000 Muslims recorded; perhaps the rest are hiding amongst the Not Stated. 4,289,000 respondents have not answered the question, so the religious affiliation of over 7% of the population is unknown. Add to that innumerable persons who dodge the census because they should not be in the UK at all and the real picture becomes even more opaque.

Given these distortions, such statistics seem to be of little value in helping employers and public authorities fulfil their duties under the Race Relations Act and one has to wonder if there are hidden motives behind the census question. Maybe they are using the data as a broad indicator of the advance of secularisation, the decline of Christianity and the rise of other religions, to see how fast Britain is moving towards a multi-faith position consistent with their multicultural goals.

Assuming that there will be a “write-in” option on the 2011 census, where those who wish to record themselves under any other religion may do so, I shall be sorely tempted to record my affiliation as Communicant - Cranmerian Order of the Blogsphere.

1 August 2009 at 16:15  
Blogger Archbishop Cranmer said...

Mr Orwellian Prophet.


The campaign starts here!

1 August 2009 at 16:36  
Blogger Jim Bartlet said...

@Orwellian Prophet

That will be Anglican Conservatism (note the capital C).

1 August 2009 at 17:17  
Anonymous Anguished Soul said...

There should a box for pagan/wicca as apparently that is on the rise too.

1 August 2009 at 19:13  
Blogger Jim Bartlet said...

Is this a new act of Parliament, that all pie charts that reveal blatant lies have to be coloured in blue?

1 August 2009 at 23:13  
Blogger Doubting Richard said...

How on Earth can population statistics help determine employer's compliance with any equality legislation? The number of Muslims (for example) says nothing about the number and quality of Muslim applicants for a job (for example).

2 August 2009 at 00:18  
Blogger Thatsnews said...

She is a bit of a ninny, isn't she?

At various times I have worked with an Indian Christian and a white Muslim. Hated and feared by other Muslims as he was a zealot.

2 August 2009 at 04:08  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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2 August 2009 at 06:40  
Blogger Terry Hamblin said...

What about the JWs, Mormons and Christadelphians. They are clearly not Christians.

2 August 2009 at 17:45  
Blogger peter_dtm said...

may be this is the start of the logical end to the secularisation of the country -

lets get rid of double time on Sundays for non-Christians.

2 August 2009 at 22:31  
Blogger Manfarang said...

Oriental Orthodoxy:Syriac,Coptic, Ethiopian,Eritrean,Malankara and Armenian Apostolic Churches only recognise three ecumenical councils.These are the original Christian Churches so it would be strange to regard them as not being Christian.
Some Unitarians call themselves Free Christian but many would tick the 'other' box.

3 August 2009 at 05:04  
Blogger Manfarang said...

A few weeks ago I visited The Nativity of Our Lady Cathedral,Bang-Nok-Khuek in Samut Songkram province in Thailand.
A splendid Gothic style church with stained glass windows from France.
The church is described as being God's gift to the Catholic people to remind and help them to live peacefully among themselves and others.
According to the last national census,Christians constitute 0.8% of the population of Thailand.

3 August 2009 at 05:47  
Blogger ZZMike said...

In our country, the Census has the object of finding out how many people live at address X ("for all X", as the mathematicians might say).

Whether they own refrigerators or large-screen TVs, whether their plumbing is adequate, the number and kind of vehicles on the premises (all of which are on the Long Form), or whether they go to a church, synagogue, mosque, or leap over fires during Beltane (which are not) are seen as irrelevant by many of us.

Terry Hamblin: "What about the JWs, Mormons and Christadelphians. They are clearly not Christians."

I've never heard of Christadelphians. Are they Christians from Philadephia?

What sort of sieve do you use to define "Christian"? Is it "any believers in some part of the Standard Christian Model, except of course, JWs, Mormons and Christadelphians, and anybody else I happen to suspect"?

3 August 2009 at 22:54  
Blogger Manfarang said...

Christadelphians,Brothers of Christ, base their beliefs on the Bible.There are about 18,000 of them in England.

4 August 2009 at 05:38  
Anonymous len said...

How do you define a christian? many confess as to being christian, but plainly many are not,

I must admit I cannot tell if someone is a genuine 'christian', but the Lord Jesus Christ can,

" But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit, ( 1 Corinthians 6: 17)

This is the true meaning of being a christian, with a reborn spirit, united with Christ.

8 August 2009 at 13:59  
Blogger Botogol said...

@len - by their acts shall you know them

11 August 2009 at 11:09  

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