A promotional video for the Census Bureau’s intrusive American Community Survey boasts that the collected information is helpful to private industry, providing confirmation from the federal government itself that the survey is unconstitutional, according to a prominent public-interest lawyer.
The detailed questionnaire demands that consumers answer – under penalty of law – queries about emotional health, mortgages, marital histories, bathing habits, utility bills, personal possessions and the like.
In the video, Target Corp.’s Joan Naymark declares that no one “but the Census Bureau has the resources and ability to collect information from every household across the U.S.” Other corporate officials explain how they are assisted in their product management by the answers required of households who live near their stores.
Even Robert Groves, the director of the Census Bureau, explains in a new letter to John Whitehead, president of the Rutherford Institute, how the ACS “provides important statistical information that promotes legitimate governmental interests.”
“It also provides information that can be useful to private industry, and private entities,” Groves said.
But that boast, according to Whitehead, is just confirmation of the unconstitutionality of the federal government demands for detailed information. The survey goes beyond the original goal of the constitutionally authorized census, Whitehead explained, which was to count the population so that U.S. House seats could be apportioned.
“Surely it cannot be maintained that is a proper use of governmental authority to compel citizens to provide information that assists commercial enterprises in producing profits,” Whitehead said in a letter this week to Groves. “Should the government need such information, there are other avenues by which it can attain it.
“However, to use the ACS as the vehicle for requiring Americans under penalty of a fine to respond to highly personal questions that will be shared with private corporations is a clear violation of Article I of the U.S. Constitution, which requires only that the census be taken every ten years for the sole purpose of congressional redistricting.”
Whitehead, who has campaigned for the federal government to make such demands for personal and private information voluntary or eliminate them entirely, said his organization will not hesitate to go to court if necessary.
“Rest assured that The Rutherford Institute is prepared to pursue this avenue on behalf of a large number of clients if necessary to ensure that the Census Bureau ceases it current practices,” he warned in a follow-up letter to Groves.
“There is no way that those who founded this country would have authorized the federal government to incessantly or perpetually demand, under penalty of law, such detailed information from the American people,” Whitehead said. “Indeed, the American Community Survey contains some of the most detailed and intrusive questions ever put forth in a census questionnaire, concerning matters that the government simply has no business knowing, including a person’s job, income, physical and emotional health, family status, place of residence and intimate personal and private habits.”
He explained that his organization has received a growing number of requests for help from people who object to “both the intimate and invasive nature of the questions on the ACS and the harassing manner in which census workers have carried out their duties.”
In January, Whitehead called on the Commerce Department to either explain how the questions on the ACS relate to the population count authorized every 10 years or stop the survey.
Groves claimed he obtained authority for the ACS and its invasive questions because of the requirement to collect a population count every 10 years and to “obtain such other census information as necessary.”
Whitehead replied: “Your deliberate misreading and obfuscation of these laws amounts to nothing short of a breach of your agency’s legal authority to carry out these surveys. By its own terms, and as quoted in your letter [Paragraph] 193 grants authority for surveys ‘related to the main topic of the census,’ and only insofar as they are ‘necessary to the initiation, taking or completion thereof.’
“In no way can the multifarious lines of questioning contained within the ACS be seen as relating to the main topic of the Census, which is a head count of the populace for the purpose of congressional redistricting,” Whitehead said.
“Furthermore, the judicial decisions that you cite in support of the collection of ACS data do not, in fact, authorize the detailed line of questions contained within the ACS. For example, you cite the Supreme Court’s ruling from 1871 in which the court ‘characterized as unquestionable the power of Congress to require both an enumeration and the collection of statistics in the census,’ as well as a 1901 district court ruling that broadly interprets the census clause in such a way as to allow for ‘the gathering of other statistics, if ‘necessary and proper,’ for the intelligent exercise of other powers enumerated in the constitution, and in such cases there could be no objection to acquiring this information through the same machinery by which the population is enumerated,’” he wrote.
“The judicial decisions you cite do not pertain to a ‘continuous data collection and data dissemination’ activity, as represented by the ACS,” he said. “While Congress may have the authority to require an enumeration of the population, its power to compel citizens to respond under penalty of law to such invasive questions as those found on the ACS is far from unquestionable.
“I can assure you that if you persist in inflicting this survey on the American people, we will not hesitate to take the matter before the courts.”
Additionally, Whitehead has been working with citizens who have complained that Census Bureau employees have been peeking into their windows, refusing to leave when requested and even blocking driveways and other such “harassment.”
He said he’s asking the federal government to stop such behaviors.
In the past year alone, the institute received complaints from 72 individuals who voiced objections both to the contents of the ACS and the harassing manner in which census workers have carried out their duties.
WND has reported on periodic efforts by members of Congress to rein in the invasive questions from the government, including last year’s call by U.S. Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas to crack down.
Congress members have stated that what can be required of Americans is the name of the respondent, contact information, the date of the response and the number of people at the address.
In 2007, when the American Community Survey portion of the Census Bureau’s responsibilities were under way, spokesman Clyve Richmond told WND, “The Census Bureau has never prosecuted anybody [for not answering]. We try to work with people and explain how useful the information is.”