March 29, 2011
Irish Times: Think carefully before answering census question on religion
by Brian Whiteside
The Irish Times
RITE AND REASON: The census looms and included in it we have Question 12, which deals with religion. “What is your religion?” it asks boldly, assuming everyone has one. It lists the options: Roman Catholic, Church of Ireland, Islam, Presbyterian, Orthodox; it then gives a space, two rows of boxes, for “Other, write in your religion.” Then, under these two rows of boxes, comes option 7: “No religion.”
One would have thought a more sensible way of framing the question might have been to start by asking: “Do you have a religion?” This could have been followed by a number of options for those marking the Yes box whereas those opting for No would go straight to the next question. But this suggestion, made by the Humanist Association of Ireland (HAI) following an invitation by the Central Statistics Office (CSO) for suggestions regarding possible improvements in the census, was rejected on the basis it would make historical comparisons difficult. This must certainly mean not many suggestions would be adopted.
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