2022 census and religion

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Sir, – Good to see at least some changes to the religion question in the 2022 census. People are now being asked “What is your religion, if any?” and “No religion” is no longer at the bottom of the list.

The CSO says the question is about your beliefs at the time of the census, and so a number of ongoing campaigns are asking people to tick ‘No religion’ if you currently practice no religion.

Why is this important? Census results on religion are often cited as justification for continued religious influence over public services, such as education and health, although results from the religion question may be unreliable for a number of reasons.

First, you can’t extrapolate to say that even those who still practice a religion want public services to reflect their beliefs – for example, successive polls find that a majority no longer want faith-based schools and that many religious parents choose multi-denominational schools. We also know that Irish citizens have voted overwhelmingly in referenda for changes that would not be in line with religious beliefs. Second, the form states that “the head of household or any adult member of the household present on census night” should complete it. This means that what is likely to be an older cohort completes census forms on behalf of all household members, with no obligation or instruction to ensure they ask each individual what they want to record on his beliefs.

Until the CSO required each adult in a household to complete their own section and sign it to that effect, with enumerators to explain this, and the religion question asked “What is your current religion, if any”, the census results will be far from accurately reflecting the current religious beliefs of Irish citizens and we will continue to have publicly funded services which do not meet the needs of a large part of the population . – Yours, etc.,

Michelle Rogers,

Bray,

Co Wicklow.

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