U.S. Census unlinks to Catholic “research center” after FFRF complaint (July 2, 2012)

FFRF was contacted by a curious researcher in November 2011 who “wanted to look up religion statistics and tried www.census.gov,” the U.S. Census website. The census stopped collecting religious statistics in 1936, but provides links to “more information.” These links included the Hartford Seminary and the Glenmary Research Center (GRC). The link to the GRC in fact linked to Glenmary Home Missioners, a Catholic missionary organization “dedicated to establishing a Catholic presence in rural areas and small towns of the United States where the Catholic Church is not yet effectively present. Glenmary missioners strive to proclaim and witness to the Good News of Jesus Christ and the power of God’s love, mercy and justice.” GRC “supports and assists Glenmary Home Missioners by providing applied research to Glenmary leadership, individual missioners, Church leaders and the wider society. The GRC operates under a mandate from the Glenmary Executive Council.”

FFRF attorney Andrew Seidel wrote Dr. Robert Groves, Director of the Census Bureau, a letter on May 22, 2012: “The Glenmary website provides little statistical information and, given the goals quoted above, it is clear that demographic research takes a backseat to winning converts.” Seidel argued that by linking to the GRC, “the U.S. Census Bureau appears to be endorsing Christianity, and specifically Catholicism.” A statistics hound himself, Seidel made a secular suggestion: “There are numerous other organizations and studies the website could mention in place of this proselytizing sectarian one. The Pew Forum on Religion & the Public Life provides a significant amount of excellent information on religious affiliation, demographics, regions, beliefs and practices, and even individual topics. This would provide citizens with more information and eliminate the appearance of religious endorsement.”

After numerous follow ups and phone calls, the Census’ Web and Social Media Branch reviewed all the links to religious information — and as of July 2, removed them all. Accepting Seidel’s suggestion the Census now links to the Pew Research Center.

Freedom From Religion Foundation