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Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB (ACBC/Fiona Basile)

Australian Catholic Bishops Conference President Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB has warned proposed changes to the Census regarding religion could lead to a higher number of invalid responses. Source: The Australian. 

The Perth archbishop said he was “deeply concerned” about the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ move to replace a list of the eight most popular religions and corresponding boxes to tick with the option for participants to write their faith in an empty space.

The Census could also ask Australians if they “have a religion” with a tick box for “no” but not one for “yes”.

Archbishop Costelloe said the ABS appeared to be “seeking to weaken the accuracy of one of these measures by changing the Census question asked of Australians about their faith”.

“The most significant change is the removal of tick box options for people who wish to record their religion,” he says.

“The proposed new question, ‘Does the person have a religion?’, can be answered by a tick box for ‘no’, but there is no tick box for ‘yes’. Instead, the ‘no’ tick box is followed by a space where a person who has a religious belief can write in their religion.”

The concerns come as faith groups wait for the Albanese Government to push ahead with a religious discrimination bill. The number of Australians identifying as not having a religion soared in the last Census to 39 per cent.

Archbishop Costelloe said: “Reformulating the question as ‘does the person have a religion’ effectively destroys the measure of culture and identity as it changes the question to whether a person holds religious beliefs or not.

“This will result in the loss of a sense of religious heritage as the new format attempts to divorce religion from culture and tradition, presuming that this is no longer significant.”


Census changes ‘to dilute religion’, says Catholic archbishop (By Rhiannon Down and Paul Garvey, The Australian)

Changing measure of faith will weaken census data (By Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB, The Australian)