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Aj Congress Urges Public Hearing on Racial, Ethnic Census of City Workers

The American Jewish Congress called today for a full public hearing on an executive order signed Oct. 1 by Mayor Lindsay which requires that the city take an annual racial and ethnic census of its employes. In a telegram to City Council President Sanford Garelik, the AJ Congress voiced “anxiety and concern” that such a census “could be misused to destroy the civil service merit system.” Theodore J. Kolish, chairman of the New York Metropolitan Council of the AJ Congress, warned that “a census in which employes are categorized by race, color or national origin could create new forms of discrimination.”

He said the AJ Congress had been informed by the City’s Human Rights Commission, which is handling the survey, that Jewish city employes would not be counted in the census because it is not gathering information about religious groups. Another spokesman for the AJ Congress said the use of such an ethnic and racial survey “threatens to introduce the new idea that public employment must reflect population breakdown.”

A spokeswoman for the Human Rights Commission confirmed that no religious questions were included in the survey. She said the current census follows the lead of similar federal and state surveys, and a survey conducted by the city in 1963 under Mayor Robert F. Wagner. She said the courts have historically considered all queries about a person’s religion, race, sex and national origin an infringement of privacy, but that when it has been determined that “a long history of discrimination has existed.” then the courts have accepted the use of such surveys for the specific purpose of combatting discrimination. Thus, the Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s annual survey of all employers of more than 25 people asks about the employes racial and ethnic backgrounds as well as their sex.

Though federal, state and city standards prohibit discrimination on the basis of religion, she said, such surveys have not requested information about employes’ religious backgrounds because Jewish and other religious organizations have traditionally opposed the asking of such questions. She said that Jewish organizations might be rethinking their position on this matter and she added that discussions could be held with a view toward changing the city’s survey forms in future years.

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