Ministers, pastors and local men and women of the cloth the weekend of March 27-29 helped launch the official census day of April 1. Worship Weekend was an opportunity to weave a message about the nationwide count into sermons and homilies.

If the population census seems like a modern invention, consider the Christmas Eve sermon delivered by pastor Byron Mills, reminding his congregation at St. John’s Episcopal Church of the gospel explaining that Mary and Joseph returned to Bethlehem for a population tally decreed by the Romans.

Fast forward to the founding days of our nation: Article 1 of the United States Constitution requires a new population count every 10 years. The updated 2020 tally will determine how many representatives Arizona has in the U.S. Congress and could revise congressional district boundaries.

Globe, Miami and San Carlos Apache Tribe leaders use population data to plan for schools, roads, and emergency services. Businesses study census demographic trends to choose new business openings. Each year, federal agencies distribute hundreds of billions of dollars to communities based on Census Bureau data.

Census 2020 Worship Weekend

So why were local pastors asked to share a message about the 2020 Census in their places of worship?

Faith communities often serve the same people who rely on many of the federal programs that receive funding based on census data: programs that address poverty, hunger, homelessness, child care, emergency services, and public safety.

The U.S. Census Bureau asked faith-based institutions to help promote the 2020 Census, knowing that pastors understand how important a complete count is for their congregation and neighboring community. Religious leaders are trusted voices in their communities and as such, they were critical to conveying the importance of the 2020 Census.

Questions about the

census and religion• Does the 2020 Census ask me to identify my religion? No. The U.S. Census Bureau asks about race and ethnicity in the decennial census, but does not collect information about religious affiliation. U.S. law prohibits the Census Bureau from requiring anyone to disclose religious affiliation.

• Why should I respond to the 2020 Census? Being counted matters for you and your community. The 2020 Census will determine how many representatives our state will have in Congress. Census results will also help determine how billions of dollars in federal funding are allocated to states and communities each year for housing, schools, food assistance, health care and other vital services.

• Is the 2020 Census confidential? Yes. The U.S. Census Bureau is required to protect your privacy and keep your answers confidential. By law, your personal information cannot be used against you or anyone else by any government agency or court, and it can’t be accessed by any police department, DHS, ICE, FBI or CIA.

• What segments of the U.S. population have been historically hard-to-count? Members of racial and ethnic minority groups, people who rent their home, rural residents, non-English speakers, households with children under age 5, and people living in complex households.

Faith-based organizations serve communities across the United States, including many of those hard-to-count populations, and play an integral role in spreading the word about the importance of the 2020 Census.

For non-English speakers, the census has print and video language guides in 59 languages, including American Sign Language and Braille; plus large-print guides, too.

Contact the reporter at tmcquerrey@payson.com

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