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A pastor who received an urgent package in the mail from the U.S.
Census Bureau
containing pamphlets and
mini-sermons for his congregation is outraged at what he perceives to be
government intrusion into church affairs.

Last week, Federal Express delivered an overnight letter to Pastor
Albert Hitchcock of Wiser Lake Chapel in Lynden, Wash. The return
address was “Bureau of the Census” in Jeffersonville, Ind., and inside
were two high-gloss report folders titled, “Census 2000 information for
congregations” — one in English and the other in Spanish.

The folders contained announcements and messages for the next six
weeks to be printed in church bulletins and announced to church members
during worship services. Pamphlets, more than a hundred to be passed out
to parishioners, were accompanied by a letter from Census Bureau Chief
Kenneth Prewitt.

“Census 2000 must enlist strong partners to achieve the most accurate
and complete census possible,” the letter states. “Your dedication to
your congregation and your community as well as your credibility
throughout the community makes you an ideal partner for this critical
endeavor. By helping us spread the word that the Census is important
and safe, you will play a key role in making Census 2000 a success.”

Hitchcock is incensed.

“Almost every day I read something wherein the Church is being told
to stay out of government’s business — indeed out of the public square
altogether,” the pastor told WorldNetDaily. “If I put out voting guides,
I am told I jeopardize our tax-exempt status, for example. So, where
does the Census Bureau think they get the right to commandeer God’s
Church to do [government] business?”

Now retired from military service, Hitchcock emphasized he is not
“anti-government” and that he approves of a census in its “original
context.” But he will not participate in Prewitt’s call to “spread the
word.”

“Printing something in the bulletin means that we endorse it,”
Hitchcock explained. “They presume that they’re going to use my
authority in my congregation to put my stamp of approval on what the
Census Bureau is doing.”

“There’s not a chance I’m going to make these announcements,” he
added.

The bulletin announcement for Sunday, March 19 states: “The
Constitution of the United States mandates a census every 10 years to
determine how many seats each state will have in the United States House
of Representatives. But community leaders use it for everything from
planning schools and building roads to providing recreational
opportunities and managing health care services. Fill out your census
questionnaire and send it back. Include everyone living in your home,
even people who are not related to you. This is your future. Don’t
leave it blank.”

All information included in the package to Hitchcock is printed in
color on expensive, high-gloss paper, causing the pastor to question the
financial efficiency of the Bureau.

Indeed, around the country, charges of waste and bureaucracy are
being leveled at the Census Bureau.

Several tons of census forms paid for by taxpayers are not making it
to the correct addresses. In Central Florida alone, more than 160,000
forms marked “undeliverable” were picked up by a rented truck early
Friday morning to be hauled back to the sender.

In a state with thousands of people moving in and out, it’s perhaps
not unusual for so many forms to contain the wrong addresses. So to
compensate for forms not making it to their destination around the U.S.,
the Census Bureau began hiring “enumerators” and “crew leaders” who will
go door-to-door distributing forms and assisting in their completion.

The Bureau claims it must “fill hundreds of thousands of temporary,
part-time positions to conduct the 2000 census.” The new government
employees began working Jan. 2, and pay scales range from $8.25 per hour
for enumerators to $20.00 per hour for crew leaders.

A Phoenix, Ariz. regional Bureau office fired three of its top
managers this week for recruiting the fewest census workers in a
10-state region.

The office, which serves some of the hardest-to-count groups in the
area, needs 5,080 employees by the end of the month. So far, it has
hired 3,001. Nationwide, it is in the bottom 10 percent in recruiting
efforts among local offices.

According to the Census Bureau, “Most people will be needed for the
largest census operation, Non-response Follow Up, when census takers go
door-to-door to enumerate households that did not respond to the census
questionnaire mail-out.”

Apparently, 3,000 people is not enough to do the job in an area
“often undercounted because residents are transient, little educated or
undocumented,” according to the Arizona Republic.

But more employees may not help government get the answers it wants
to questions on the census form. Many Americans have refused to
participate in the questionnaire beyond indicating the number of persons
in their households. An increasing number of citizens regard personal
questions related to race, occupation, transportation and even
disability as an invasion of privacy, and many are engaging in what
amounts to civil disobedience.

The penalty for not completing the form in its entirety is $100,
according to U.S. Code, Title 13, Section 221.
Proffering false answers renders a fine of up to $500.

Some citizens have even included $100 checks with their forms, on
which they indicate only the number of people in their household.

One census critic called the Census Bureau hotline asking where to
send his $100 fine, as he would not be completing the form in its
entirety. After being transferred to an agency supervisor, he was told
the Bureau had no information regarding fines for failure to
participate, suggesting there is no mechanism in place for collecting
the punitive fee.

Whether Census 2000 employees will attempt to collect fees for
non-compliance remains to be seen, but the Bureau’s solicitation of
assistance from churches has already begun.

Hitchcock interprets that solicitation as a violation of the First
Amendment.

“We have come full circle,” the pastor said. “The Constitution
guarantees that the government will not intrude into people’s religion,
though religion was always free to be the conscience of government. But
now the tables have been completely turned. Churches are to keep their
mouths shut and keep their hands off public life, but the government
feels free to intrude into the Church at will to advance its policies.”

“To assume you can take the authority of ministers of the gospel and
make them pawns of government policy is just a huge presumption on their
part,” Hitchcock concluded.


Related story:

U.S. incensed over census

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