HSV Submission 2008 – Census 2011

Activity Type:

HSV Submissions – February 2008

Census 2011

Submitted 29 February 2008 to the Australian Bureau of Statistics

Submission Discussion, 10 February 2009

The religion question in the Census 2011
Here is the current “religion” question and answer section, which we will discuss:
What is the person’s religion?

  • Answering this question is OPTIONAL
  • Examples of “Other — please specify”‘ are SALVATION ARMY, HINDUISM, JUDAISM, HUMANISM.
  • If no religion, mark the “No religion” box.
  • Remember to mark like this:
    • Catholic
    • Anglican (Church of England)
    • Uniting Church
    • Presbyterian
    • Greek Orthodox
    • Buddhism
    • Baptist
    • Islam
    • Lutheran
    • Other — please specify
    • No religion

The Census will have around 50 questions that generate data used mostly by government and businesses for planning purposes.

Answers to the religion question are requested because:

  • religious organisations are the largest providers of services to the community outside those provided by governments;
  • information on religious affiliation is widely used in the religious community, and by government agencies that provide services complementary to those of religious organisations.

The closing date for submissions is 31 March 2008.

Published: Victorian Humanist, February 2008: 4

Draft Submission

Draft submission to Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) on the religion question in Census 2011

We urge ABS to place the “No religion” option at the top of the list, instead of at the bottom. This would bring this question into line with several other questions, which we cite, where the negative response is the first choice offered to respondents.

  • We recommend that the question be rephrased as, “Does the person have a religion?” rather than the current, “What is the person’s religion?” which presumes that all people have a religion, ABS just wants to know what it is.
  • We also suggest that a supplementary question be asked, “Is the person an active religious participant?”, with a choice of the following responses, Weekly, Monthly, Occasionally or Never.
  • We argued that the question as currently asked inflates the numbers of Christians and underestimates the number of those with no religion. We cited several sample surveys and other social indicators that show a sizable minority (around 40%) of Australians to have no religious affiliation.

The closing date for this submission is 31 March 2008.

There is still one unresolved issue with the form of the “religion” question. It currently includes in the question instructions for “Other, please write in”, “Humanism” as an example. For most people this implies that ABS considers Humanism to be a religion. However, that is not the case: Humanism is categorised as Non-religion. HSV still needs to decide whether we want to request that Humanism as an example of an answer to a question which asks “What is the person’s religion?”, should be removed.

Published: Victorian Humanist, March 2008: 4