“Amid many other Census concerns – including the non-arrival of requested paper forms – question 19 in Tuesday night’s Census has caused particular community angst,” FamilyVoice research officer Ros Phillips said today.
“Until now there has been little controversy. But this year, the religion question (19) – and its implications for the funding of school chaplains and faith-based charities, as well as tax-exempt status for churches – has been the focus of an atheist campaign to manipulate responses.”
The religion question is the only one that is not compulsory. It lists six Christian denominations and three non-Christian religions, with spaces for “other”. But this year for the first time since “No religion” became an option in 1991, it has been listed at the top – the result of a quiet campaign by the Atheist Foundation of Australia in 2012-13.
“Putting ‘no religion’ first does not make logical sense,” Ros Phillips said. “In questions with multiple choices, the ‘none of the above’ option is always listed last.
“But the atheists appear to hope that by putting ‘No religion’ ahead of any other option, they will win the ‘donkey vote’ – and ultimately force governments to end any subsidy or recognition for the huge amount of public good done by faith-based community organisations.
“They have also mounted an advertising campaign in supermarket car parks and elsewhere, urging people to mark the ‘No religion’ box.
“The problem is compounded by the fact that many non-denominational Christians mark ‘No religion’ because they have faith in Christ, but don’t belong to a particular denomination. To them, ‘religion’ means ‘denomination’,” she said.
Ros Phillips is encouraging Australians with some kind of religious faith or belief to make sure they answer the religion question – by marking one of the six boxes for Christian denominations, or writing “Christian” or their denomination or belief in the spaces provided for the “other” option.
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