By Carol Zimmermann, Catholic News Service     2/27/2020

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Realizing that many people are hesitant to fill out the upcoming census, the U.S. Census Bureau is calling on religious leaders to help promote it. 

“You are your community’s most trusted voice,” Steven Dillingham, Census Bureau director, told a group of interfaith leaders at the Washington National Cathedral Feb. 18, saying his agency depends on them to “to tell your people this is their census” and that an accurate count will provide them with critical public services. 

Census forms will be mailed in late March and the count officially begins April 1. Respondents can call, email or mail their responses. 

Dillingham was essentially preaching to the choir of panelists at the “2020 Census Interfaith Summit” in the cathedral’s auditorium. Members of this diverse group emphasized individual dignity and also the need to be responsible neighbors looking out for their communities through taking part in the census. 

Sister Judith Ann Karam, a Sister of Charity of St. Augustine, who is immediate past president and CEO of the Sisters of Charity Health System, based in Cleveland, said census participation reflected “that every person has the utmost dignity and respect” not just in Christianity but in other faith traditions. 

She said an accurate count is not only necessary for communities’ federal and state funding and congressional representation, but it also will directly impact health care by determining Medicaid funds. 

Other panelists spoke of how they have talked up the census with members of their faith groups and tried to calm potential fears about it. 

Rabbi Menachem Creditor, a scholar in residence with the United Jewish Appeal Federation, said some in the Hasidic Jewish community are resisting the use of technology and therefore hesitant to fill out the forms. 

“For many, it’s hard to feel safe,” he said, which he counters by telling them they won’t receive support if they don’t step forward. “It’s in your self-interest to be brave,” he has said