U.S. incensed over census
Many choosing to pay $100 fine, not answer 'intrusive' questions
By Julie Foster
As questionnaires from the U.S. Census Bureau begin filling millions of mailboxes around the country for the official decennial head-count, citizens and civil rights advocates are loudly objecting to certain inquiries as violations of privacy and irrelevant to the legitimate purposes of government. The U.S. Constitution directs Congress to perform a census every 10 years "in such manner as they shall by law direct." Over the years, Congress has passed laws allowing various questions to appear on the census form that are not relevant to obtaining an accurate number of citizens.
Inquiries into an individual's race, for example, are used in conjunction with occupation information to determine compliance with equal opportunity laws, according to the Census Bureau.
One in six families is receiving a "long form" of the census containing 52 questions, several of which pertain to individuals' industry, occupation and income.
Job-related information is "used to formulate policy and programs for employment,career development
, and training," according to Bureau documents, and is "needed to measure compliance with anti-discrimination policies."
Statutory authorization for the use of such statistics exists in regulations for agencies from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Federal Reserve to Housing and Urban Development and the National Endowment for the Arts. All lay claim to a need for census data.
Census Bureau Director Kenneth Prewitt starkly revealed the administration's perspective on the purpose of such data collection.
Census results "affect power, money, group interests, civil rights; in short, who gets how much of what," he told the press in his plea to Americans to participate in what he calls a "civic ceremony."
"And that's exactly what's wrong with the Census," said Libertarian Party Director Steve Dasbach, in reference to Prewitt's statement. "The government uses Census information to dole out an estimated $180 billion in taxpayers' money, to justify and expand wasteful government programs, and to allow politicians to discriminate against Americans based on their racial or ethnic background," he said. Steve Dasbach, director of the Libertarian Party
Dasbach believes racial statistics provide the "blueprint for race-based government programs, like the mandatory 10 percent minority set-aside for federal highway projects, quotas for college admissions, and even decisions on whom to hire and fire."
Government pork spending is one of the party's chief objections to the superfluous questions, but the census itself is a waste of tax dollars, a party spokesman said.
George Getz, press secretary for the Libertarian Party, told WorldNetDaily 218 million forms are being mailed, and officials expect a 61 percent return -- down from a 65 percent return rate in 1990. Though the administration is aiming for 70 percent compliance, return rates fall short of achieving an accurate count, he said.
One tactic employed by the Bureau to increase compliance is constant reassurance that all information collected will be kept confidential.
"Anyone who believes that census information will be used for census purposes only probably believes their Social Security number is being used for Social Security purposes only," quipped Getz.
"Government is going out of its way saying that [alternate] use of census information is illegal, but so is taking FBI files," he continued.
"The government doesn't have a good track record for protecting privacy," he said. "There's a hint of irony in that this is one of those very few constitutional things the government does, but they've even managed to corrupt this."
The American Civil Liberties Union, which prides itself on a track record of protecting citizens' right to privacy, commends the Census Bureau for its "excellent past record of protecting the confidentiality of individual persons."
The ACLU does not object to the collection of race-related data, but points out a limitation on the manner in which it may be obtained.
"The government may mandate collection of information pertaining to race and ethnicity matters only where it is assembled in a manner which protects the privacy of individuals by separating the racial or ethnic information from personal identifying information such as name and address," states the ACLU's written policy. "Beyond this information, however, a citizen's right to privacy overrides the government's right to information."
When identities are not separated from racial qualifiers, the ACLU demands that compliance with race-related questions be strictly voluntary. However, separation of information categories does not occur, and yet WND was told by the Bureau that all questions must be answered by law.
The ACLU also objects to all questions related to religious belief or affiliation -- a seemingly obvious area where citizens have an impenetrable right to privacy, though Census Bureau employees appear to disagree.
WND asked the Bureau if full-time ministers are required to answer job-related questions on the census form, since answers inherently reveal a religious affiliation. Asking not to be quoted, staff immediately replied that everyone is required by law to answer every question on the survey regardless of what their answers may reveal about religious affiliation.
However, upon further discussion, the Bureau employee conceded that listing a religious denomination or organization as an employer could fall into a "gray area" of Title 13, Section 221 ( c) which states: "No person shall be compelled to disclose information relative to his religious beliefs or to membership in a religious body."
Census officials would have to review its policy for clergy, WorldNetDaily was told.
Dasbach characterizes the current census as "offensive," and urges citizens not to answer questions unrelated to a strict population count.
"Refusing to answer such questions," he said, "is a good first step towards ending such government racism."
Indeed, WorldNetDaily has received a flood of letters from readers outraged by the very personal questions government is asking. Many have decided not to participate beyond indicating the number of people in their household.
Title 13 also states, "whoever, being over eighteen years of age, refuses or willfully neglects" to answer every question on the form "shall be fined not more than $100." Deliberately false answers incur a fine of up to $500.
A growing number of citizens are opting to pay a fine rather than disclose personal information to government bureaucrats.
The Drudge Report quotes a Capitol Hill source as saying, "The census count is already breaking down. People are in revolt! Calls are flooding into our office. ... They are very upset about the intrusive nature of the questions, such as how a person gets to work, whether they have any disabilities, how many cars they own, what their income was and who they work for!"
Likewise, many WND readers have indicated their willingness to pay the fine as a trade for maintaining privacy.
"It's time for some polite, patriotic civil disobedience," said Dasbach. "If you care about privacy, genuine equality, and old-fashioned American liberty, the arrival of the Census form is your chance to literally stand up and be counted. Tell them how many people live in your home, and that's all."
"Maybe $100 is a small price to pay for making a principled stand for privacy and freedom," he concluded.