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Are you hearing about the 2020 census in your church? If not, you should be! The “Faith Communities Census Weekend of Action” will take place March 27-29, 2020, around the period when people will be receiving 2020 Census notices in the mail.

Recently, faith leaders from across the country convened at the National Cathedral to discuss what communities are doing to bolster participation in the 2020 Census, a once-in-ten-years event that unfolds nationally. This event was part of the Census Bureau’s outreach to the public to raise awareness of the important role of the faith community in gaining everyone’s participation.

Panelists discuss best ways to engage congregations with the 2020 Census

The census is mandated by the US Constitution and is the primary method for equitably allocating resources across the country. The Census Bureau has acknowledged that faith communities are crucial to gaining full participation in 2020. This year, the census goes full-speed on April 1st.

“There are no more trusted voices than the religious leaders in this nation,” said Dr. Steven Dillingham, Director of the US Census. “By working together, we can communicate the right message and build trust. Because the census is in fact, built on trust and engagement.”

“For every person that’s left out, that’s twenty thousand dollars that your county misses out on,” remarked Hurunnessa Fariad, head of Outreach and Interfaith at All Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS) Center in Virginia. “That’s huge!”

Even as faith leaders spoke enthusiastically about this year’s census, it was noted that many communities find it difficult to trust the government when it comes to sharing their private, personal information. Others articulated the misinformation that is often spread, and the challenges this presents.

“Part of the specific challenges in Latino, Latina, Hispanic Communities are myths about the census,” said Rev. Dr. Gabriel Salguero, president and founder of the National Latino Evangelical Coalition. “Some people think it’s just citizens that are counted. We need trusted brokers: faith leaders and other community leaders who just say ‘No, the census means everyone is counted.'”

Others expressed concern that erosion of trust in government endangers the participation of minority and underserved communities.

“For decades, the black and brown communities have been undercounted,” answered a member of the Census Bureau staff. “We’ve been undercounted decade after decade after decade. And if we allow fear to cause us to be undercounted one more time, we’re putting power in the hands of people we do not want to.”

“The pulpit is an awesome platform to preach and teach about the census. In fact, in the Black community, the pulpit is the one place where people feel that what they receive is authentic and genuine,” stated Bishop Reginald Jackson of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. “John Maxwell, in his book, ’21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership,’ says that everything rises or falls on leadership. And so my comment to my faith partners is what happens with the census, in large measure, depends upon our leadership.”

To find out more about how your faith community can be part of the 2020 Census, please download the Faith communities 2020 Census action guide. The National Council of Churches is a partner with the 2020 Census.