Jewish Congress Opposes Question on Religion in Next U.S. Census

The American Jewish Congress today voiced its opposition to the inclusion of any question concerning religious affiliation or belief in the next U.S. census in 1960. Noting that there have been “increasing demands” for such a question in the forthcoming decennial census, the American Jewish Congress asserted its opposition on the ground that the proposal is “unconstitutional and an unwarranted invasion of the privacy of Americans.” This action, in the form of a resolution, was taken at a meeting of the organization’s executive committee.

In opposing a Federal census question with regard to religion, Rabbi Israel Goldstein, president of the AJC, pointed out that under the Constitution, no person may be compelled to profess a belief or disbelief in any religion. If, however, a question about religious affiliation were to be inserted in the census, all persons would be compelled, under threat of imprisonment, to profess a belief or disbelief in religion. Refusal to answer is a penal offense according to Federal law.

The American Jewish Congress, Dr. Goldstein continued, would be “equally opposed” to the proposal even if persons questioned were accorded the option of not answering. “Whether the procedure is voluntary or involuntary, the religious affiliations or beliefs of the people are not a legitimate concern of a democratic government committed to the principle of the separation of church and state,” he declared. “Never before has our government sought to inquire into the religious affiliations or beliefs of Americans. Inclusion of questions regarding religion in the next Federal census, unprecedented in American history, would constitute a grave and dangerous departure from this tradition, “he pointed out.

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