Thursday, March 18, 2010

Fill Out the Census...Or Not? What's a Christian To Do?

There's been a lot of questions about whether Christians should fill out the 2010 US Census documents or only give the minimal information, or skip it altogether. One man asked for my views. Here's what I wrote to him.

Thanks for your question and concern to respond to civic issues appropriately. The US Constitution calls for a census count in order to determine representatives in the US Congress, conducted according to the laws established by Congress. There is a lot of hoopla about all the information requested beyond the "How many people live here?" question, and whether that's constitutional or not.

Romans 13 makes it plain that we're to live under the authority of the state. We should take a stand against that which is plainly against God's commands for us -- and expect to participate in civic avenues open to use (e.g., the courts), and potentially suffer the consequences from the state when we do. Paul appealed to Roman law when he demanded a trial.

Please note, too, that the Biblical view would be that we submit to the government authorities as they are, not as we think they should be.

Our submission to the state request to complete a census form does not therefore matter if we think the way the census is set up is beyond the Constitution, or asks for information government authorities should already have, or is inconvenient for us. We can avail ourselves of civic avenues open to us if we believe changes should be made. But I don't think there are good biblical grounds to refuse to participate in the census process.

I will fill out the census form that is delivered to my house, and I will return it as requested.

Our census form came in the mail the other day, and I filled it out. There were questions about how many people lived in our house, whether we owned or rented it, and the race of each person. Despite what I'd heard, there were no questions asking about the number of telephones or TVs or cars we owned, educational background, political party registration, income, health issues, or use of compact fluorescent light bulbs. Took about 5 minutes to complete.

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