Secular Party Believes Census Religion Question is Misleading

The Secular Party of Australia has for years lobbied the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) to change the wording and positioning of the religion question in the Census to better capture the true extent of religious belief in Australia.

Now the same flawed question will be used in the 2011 Census.

We urge all Australians to think carefully about how they respond to the religion question in the 2011 Census to ensure we gain an accurate picture of religious belief and practice in Australia.

Because of the way the question is framed many people select the religion of their baptism, family or cultural background, despite not being a religious person at all.

Past results may have been inflated by the fact that the question appeared after a series of questions on ethnicity, which may well have encouraged people to respond more on the basis of culture than actual beliefs.

In the 2006 Census 19% responded ‘No Religion’ and a further 12% did not answer. Other polls and surveys since then suggest that a lack of religious belief could be 50% or higher. This is also supported by the decline in religious attendance and the fact that a majority of marriages have civil celebrants.

Australia is therefore a much more secular than the Census represents.

Apart from the inaccuracy of the data collected on religious affiliation, there are real, practical problems with the use of such data. The Census data on religion says nothing about Australians actual religious practice or beliefs.

However, government agencies use such data in resource allocation. Religious organisations rely on flawed figures to justify their costly and unfair exemptions from taxes and discrimination laws.

Organisations in Australia and around the world are campaigning for the same at Census time. Most outstanding is the British Humanist Association’s campaign titled “If you’re not religious, for God’s sake say so!”

We actively encourage all Australians who do not have religious beliefs to answer the question more carefully this Census.

So if you are not religious, then select ‘NO RELIGION’.

The Secular Party stands for a true secular society in Australia.

Jan 21, 2011