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Clerics’ Census choices seen as ‘inaccurate’

by
24 March 2011

by Ed Beavan

CLERICS will have to decide whether they consider themselves an “employee” or “self-employed” when they fill out their Census forms on Sunday, as there is no option to tick “office-holder”.

Canon Michael Perry, a former Archdeacon of Durham, contacted the Church Commissioners to ask which box the clergy should tick.

In their response, he said, the Commissioners wrote that they “regretted that the Office for National Statistics (ONS) had not included the option of office-holder and that it was up to individual clergy to decide which box they should tick”.

Canon Perry was not sure which he would choose: “I don’t think this is the best way forward, as none of the options are accurate.”

Another cleric, the Revd Richard Selby-Boothroyd, NSM of St Illogan in Cornwall, is frustrated that the form does not allow him to record his self-supporting position in the Church, as it asks questions only about respondents’ “main job”.

Mr Selby-Boothroyd said that this “anomaly” was a “missed opportunity” by the ONS, as it would fail “to gain an appreciation of the extent to which members of the working, unemployed, and retired population are currently delivering voluntary services into the Big Society”. He also regretted that the Census would not be able to record how many people were holding down several jobs.

A spokesman for the Church of England regretted that there was not an office-holder category, and that the clergy “will have to decide whether to tick employee or self-employed, neither of which is accurate, and see what they can do with other answers to clarify”.

Bryan Walker, from the ONS, asked the clergy “to select the answer that they feel most closely fits their circumstances”.

The British Humanist Association is urging those who are not practis­ing a religion, but might consider themselves a nominal member of a faith, to tick the “No religion” box in the faith section (Paul Vallely, Com­ment, 4 March). It hopes that this will help stop the spending of public money on religious groups.

Last month, its advertising slogan “If you’re not religious, for God’s sake say so” was banned after it was deemed offensive.

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