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News Article

Which religion should come first in the Census question?
Tuesday, September 1, 2015

“Many Australians were gobsmacked to hear that the 2016 Census question on religion will now list ‘no religion’ ahead of all other options,” FamilyVoice Australia national research officer Ros Phillips said today.
“The Australian Bureau of Statistics has said that nearly half of the 1000 submissions on the 2016 census called for ‘no religion’ to head the list in the religion question.  This is extraordinary! 
“The question is about “religion”, not about “no religion”.  So the first options should be religions,” Ros Phillips said.  “The huge number of calls for ‘no religion’ to top the list strongly suggests there was an organised campaign, possibly by the Rationalist Society which has been lobbying for this change.  I believe that most Australians would be happy to retain the order of religious denominations as in previous censuses.”
Ros Phillips said the Rationalist Society’s desire to achieve a “donkey vote” advantage by having an effective “none of the above” as the number one choice does not make sense.  “In a multiple-choice question – as this question is – you list various options first, then ‘none of the above’ at the bottom,” she said.  “In any case, people have always been given, first up, the option not to answer the question at all!”
Ros Phillips said the wording of the question is important.  The results are used to inform funding for chaplains, for example.  “The ‘donkey vote’, which the ‘no religion’ option would now receive, could advantage those who want to abolish the vital spiritual support that chaplains provide – both in the Defence Force and schools,” she said.
“Religion is a vague term, “ she said.  “Those who tick the ‘no religion’ box may have a faith in the Christian God or a spiritual being, while not identifying with a specific denomination,” Ros Phillips said.  “No religion does not necessarily mean agnostic or atheist.”
Ros Phillips is urging the Australian Bureau of Statistics to stop the presses that are now preparing the 2016 Census forms.  “The wording of the religion question should be the same as in 2011,” she said.  “It is far more logical,” she said.  


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