As census forms arrive on Londoners’ doorsteps, Census Campaign urges non-religious to say so

Billboards carry original message, ‘If you’re not religious, for God’s sake say so’

Census billboard 4 small

As census forms begin arriving on people’s doorsteps in London, two billboards advertising the British Humanist Association’s (BHA’s) Census Campaign are being unveiled.  Bearing the slogan ‘If you’re not religious, for God’s sake say so’, which encountered censorship elsewhere, the billboard outlines a number of ways in which census data on religion has been used; and urges passers-by, if they are not religious, to say so on the census.

The Census Campaign is seeking to raise awareness of the importance of the census data, which is used at national and local level to justify policy and resource allocation.  The campaign also seeks to encourage those who are not religious to say so on the census being held this month, and not to give a religious response by default or through cultural affiliation.

The campaign captured headlines when companies owning the advertising spaces at railway stations rejected the adverts, claiming that they did not want to feature any ‘religious advertising’ and, on the advice of the Committee of Advertising Practice, the slogan ‘for God’s sake’ was refused by media buyers, with claims it may cause ‘widespread or serious offence’. 

However, through an alternative media agency, the BHA had already been able to book two billboards in central London bearing their original message.  Andrew Copson, Chief Executive of the BHA, says of the billboard:

‘We are thrilled to be able to reveal this billboard, which outlines the main messages of the campaign.  We hope that it will help Londoners realise that the way they answer the census question on religion is vitally important and will have tangible effects on their future lives. We are asking people to be honest and if they are not religious, to say so. Ticking ‘No religion’ means that their voices will be heard and we will have a more truthful picture of what people really believe today, which cannot be misused by government and policy-makers.’

The billboard reads: The Census asks you a leading question: What is your religion?  The results from the last Census were used to justify: increasing the number of ‘faith’ schools, keeping unelected Bishops in the Lords, and spending tax-payers’ money on religious organisations.  If you’re not religious, for God’s sake says so.  In the 2011 Census tick ‘No Religion’.

Background Information:

The poster will be displayed at 366 Goswell Road until 13 March and at the junction of Hammersmith Road/North End Road from 14-27 March.

Images of the London billboards can be downloaded at: https://humanism.org.uk/campaigns/census-2011/billboards

Print-quality images of the three prohibited railway posters and a bus displaying the adverts with the alternative slogan can be downloaded at: humanism.org.uk/census-adverts

The British Humanist Association is the national charity representing and supporting the interests of ethically concerned, non-religious people in the UK. It is the largest organisation in the UK campaigning for an end to religious privilege and to discrimination based on religion or belief, and for a secular state.

The Census Campaign website, with links to social media and fundraising sites, is at www.census-campaign.org.uk. British Humanist Association website, with links to supporting surveys on religion and belief, is at humanism.org.uk. British Social Attitudes Survey (BSA) has been published annually by the National Centre for Social research since 1983. The 27th report was published in 2011:

  • Those who profess no religion have risen from 31% to 51% between 1983 and 2009.
  • In 1983 66% identified as Christian, in 2008 the number was 43%. 
  • In 2008 37% of the UK population are sceptical, 35% have definite or doubtful.
  • In 2009 only 17% of the British population attend religious services at least monthly, and only 11% attend at least weekly.
  • Those self-described as members of the Church of England consist of 20% of the population in 2009 (40% in 1983). In 2008, it was found that 49% of this group never attend services; only 8% of people who identify with the Church of England attend church weekly.
  • 62% of people in Britain never attend a religious service.

For further comment or information contact BHA Chief Executive Andrew Copson on 07534 248596, or BHA Head of Public Affairs, Naomi Phillips  07540 257101. 

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