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Official Doubts Inclusion of Question of Religion in U.S. Census

August 25, 1966
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

A. Rose Eckler, director of the U.S. Census Bureau, told a House census subcommittee that he doubted the forthcoming national census of 1970 would require citizens to state their religion, although he believed such a question would be valuable.

Mr. Eckler’s statement came in response to testimony by Rep. Cornelius Gallagher, New Jersey Democrat, that Nazi Germany used the census to identify Jews, and “it was just such a system that facilitated the mass murders in Germany during the 1930’s and 1940’s.” Rep. Gallagher, chairman of a House subcommittee investigating invasion of privacy, warned the Census Bureau to beware of invading the individual’s right to privacy in a zealous search for information.

The Congressman said that probing by the Government into religious affiliations was “a dangerous step backward” and “could lead to a secret police state.” He said that “such questions are asked in a census of totalitarian states. They should not be asked by the United States Government.”

“We cannot and should not forget that a census of Jews led to machinery that made possible the Nazi apprehension and murder of many people, ” he declared. Mr. Eckler, commenting on Rep. Gallagher’s assertions, said he anticipated a “storm” of emotional protests on the religious issue.

The Rev. Paul Tanner, general secretary of the National Catholic Welfare Conference, testified today before the subcommittee that “the vast majority of Americans would find no embarrassment or objection” to declaring their religious affiliations in response to the 1970 census. He advocated inclusion of a question to elicit the religious convictions of citizens.

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