Faith Leaders and the 2020 Census

Photo by Enayet Raheem on Unsplash

A few weeks before the world was forced indoors, faith leaders from across the country gathered together on the seventh floor of the Washington National Cathedral. They sat, less than six feet apart, to discuss how they would get their communities involved in a grassroots campaign that would shape the lives of their communities for the next ten years. They came to discuss the 2020 Census 

No one would know then that their lives, and the lives of those they serve, would be upended by a global pandemic. Despite the pandemic, the charge to count everyone living in the United States remains. Since 1780, whether the country faced war, a severe economic depression, social unrest, or a global pandemic, the count continues. 

Our very foundation for a representative democracy rests upon a complete count of the population. Established by the U.S. Constitution, the census count informs the apportionment of the U.S. House of Representatives. This count is then used to inform state redistricting efforts. Therefore, the importance of the census is pretty profound – when you participate in the census, you make your voice count.  

The very tools and Federal programs the country is relying upon during this pandemic is informed by Census data. Whether we are tracking the next “hot spot” on a map or which urban or rural community is experiencing a surge in Covid-19 cases, the data collected through the census makes this possible. Resources that are critically important to vulnerable communities right now– like Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, Medicaid, Unemployment Insurance, and many other Federal programs – are all shaped by the data collected through the census ten years ago.  

Given the many benefits of census participation, it is vital that we achieve a full and accurate count of everyone living in the country. Often where there are more people living in an area, there are more needs. Therefore, during this very fragile time in our nation’s history, it is imperative that faith leaders mobilize to ensure all communities are counted. We need faith leaders to help their communities get the resources they need. That is why the Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom (SOSS), a grassroots interfaith organization of Jewish and Muslim women, with chapters across the country, is getting involved in this effort.  

Faith leaders are trusted voices. They are in regular service to the most vulnerable in our communities, even amidst a pandemic. They have the courage to go where others don’t. They understand how to connect and communicate with their congregations. Faith leaders can directly address their community’s fears about participating in the census and assure them that the census is safe to respond to. They can tell their congregants that questions about citizenship status will not be on the 2020 Census and that all communities are countedThey can explain that data collected through the census is kept confidential and that their personal information will not be shared with the FBI, ICE, CIA, any court of law or with local law enforcement, other Federal agencies, or even their landlords.    

Young and emerging faith leaders – we also need your help. We know you are looking for ways to serve, even from six feet away. At this moment, young people may find themselves trying to understand the relevance and importance of participating in the 2020 Census. You can play a critical role in reminding them over social media that information collected through the census is also used to help enforce anti-discrimination laws, like the Voting Rights Act and the Civil Rights Act of 1964. These laws ensure we have equal employment opportunities and protections in place for all citizens to vote. By making sure everyone is counted, you honor the courageous legacy of John Lewis, whose tireless efforts helped establish these very civil liberties. You can also remind them that Census data ensure all communities have better access to educational resources like the Federal Pell Grant.  

Love your neighbor, make sure they’re counted. The role you play can make a significant difference in whether your community’s voice is heard and their needs are met – not just today, but for the next ten years.  

Shagufta Ahmed is a board member of the Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom (SOSS) and a federal employee. The views expressed in this article are those of the author herself and do not necessarily represent the views of the United States government. 

If you are looking for a way to become an interfaith leader, work for racial equity and build bridges, please check out our free curriculum "We Are Each Other's" and start your interfaith leadership today

more from IFYC

Modah Ani is said immediately upon rising essentially before we get out of bed and should be the first words we utter every morning. When we recite Modah Ani we are essentially thanking God for giving us another day. We wake up grateful instead of...
"The incident comes amid a rise in hate crimes against Asian Americans."
Besides any role models we find in our beautiful faith traditions, we serve as inspirations to one another. I firmly believe we can support our neighbors by stepping up to do our part in the fight against Covid-19.
Ghana received 600,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine on Wednesday and the Ivory Coast took delivery of 504,000 on Friday.
Through her reporting, Segura, 31, an opinion editor at National Catholic Reporter, has realized her faith has given her the language to talk about “why every person mattered” and “why God called us to care for the planet."
A suburban Texas church is helping a nearby mosque recover from the devastating snowstorms that hit last week.
Political scientist Henry Brady explores how trust has broken down in the U.S. and what we can do about it.
"Intel, which ranked second on the REDI Index last year, overtook Google, last year's top company, by 10 points in 2021. Intel’s public conference on religious inclusion earned it the extra boost."
"The letter says its signers feel compelled to condemn such expressions, "just as many Muslim leaders have felt the need to denounce distorted, violent versions of their faith" in previous years."
During the coronavirus pandemic, Moncayo has led the food distribution program through Mosaic West Queens Church in the Sunnyside neighborhood.
Raja writes about the usefulness or appropriateness of the term "BIPOC" - Black, Indigenous, People of Color- in discourse about race and justice, and how it relates to and reflects the politics of race and racism in the United States.
The river has been important since the dawn of civilization and has served as a commercial hub and lifeline for countless peoples over many millennia. Yet there has always seemed to be a justice that was out of reach for some.
"Many synagogues are leaning into the Purim tradition of giving gifts to friends and the poor— a custom known as “mishloach manot.”
"We know through surveys that people are more likely to like Muslims if they know one personally. But because only about 1% of Americans practice the Islamic faith, many people just don’t come into contact with any Muslims."
Purim tells the tale of Esther, an orphaned girl-turned-queen, how she married King Achashverosh, then saved the entire Jewish community in the ancient Persian city of Shushan, through her bravery and wit.
Higher education remains highly unequal and racial divides persist. How can these realities be explained in a context defined by wokeness?
There are so many forces that pull people apart from one another. Institutions and systems and ways of thinking that want us to feel separated, broken, helpless, and quick to capitalize on moments of weakness. The very thing that brings out...
Others noted Rihanna chose to display Ganesh on Feb. 15, the day Hindus celebrate as Ganesh's birthday, or Ganesh Jayanti. The god of beginnings, Ganesh is honored before starting a business or major project.
Until this year, most schools, states and national high school athletic associations had typically forbidden religious headwear, citing safety concerns, unless a student or coach had applied for a waiver. No waiver, no play.
Do a quick Google or YouTube search for tarot, and you’ll find the two main things people tend to inquire about are love and money. Underlying these inquiries is a belief that a tarot reading can tell the future, which begs the question of whether...
The results are based on responses from some 1,800 Black American adults, including more than 800 who attend a Black church. The California research firm conducted the survey in the spring of 2020.

The opinions contained in this piece are solely the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Interfaith Youth Core. Interfaith America encourages a wide range of views and strives to maintain a respectful tone with a goal of greater understanding and cooperation between people of different faiths, worldviews, and traditions.