Monday, 14 February 2011

Christians not asked to deny belief

In today's Leicester Mercury Mailbox, a response to the letter published last week on the topic of declaring one's religious affiliation in the census (itself a response to an earlier article about Leicester Secular Society encouraging people to tick the "no religion" box if that's what they are). The letter below is thoughtful and helpful. I hope it's widely read.

Christians not asked to deny belief

Margaret Margaret Jones (Mailbox, February 8) criticises the Secular Society for something which, to the best of my knowledge, they have never said, viz: that they want Christians to deny their religious beliefs.

Having read the article and having seen a photo of the banner (Mercury, February 1) it should be obvious that the appeal to tick the "no religion" box on the census form is aimed at the non-religious and those who think that they must be Christians because they do not subscribe to any other religion.

Many years ago the format of various official forms included a section on "Religious denomination" because the assumption was that everyone was a Christian of one denomination or another. This was changed to "Religion" as other religions were recognised as representing portions of the population.

Today we are more likely to see the option of ticking a box to indicate "None" or "No religion" in this section. This does not deny Christians or any other religious person the option of indicating their religion, whereas previously a non-religious person had to decide whether it was permissible to write the words "no religion" on an official form.

I would like to bet that many people took the easy option and wrote "C of E" because they were not particularly bothered.

In relation to ticking the "no religion" box, Margaret Jones asks: "In order to prove what, exactly, in the next census?" Well, obviously, for the same purpose as the Government wants to know of the diversification of religious beliefs.

All the information from the census is collated to help the Government to formulate national policy and expenditure.

What is the significance of your religious or non-religious beliefs to this process? Perhaps you should ask the Government? All that the Secular Society wish to do is highlight the fact that, because you are legally bound to complete the census accurately, you should be given an official option to indicate "No religion", if that is your choice.

Margaret Jones believes that she has somehow lost the right to declare herself as English instead of British. Why? When asked your nationality just say or write "English". You can always say or write both English and British, unlike most nationalities who only have one option.

Chris Bozzoni, Wigston Magna

Read the letter on the Mercury website, along with comments from other readers:

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