“Past experiments, including in 1960 and 1970, have demonstrated the difficulty of getting anywhere near a complete and accurate count of private citizens living overseas,” Shelly Lowe, a spokeswoman for the Census Bureau, said Aug. 18.
“The issue is complicated and far-reaching. The obstacles proved insurmountable for the 2010 Census, but we are actively considering how we might count overseas Americans for the 2020 Census.”
Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, has led efforts by fellow members of Congress from the state dominated by Mormons to get missionaries included in the count. They have argued that if the missionaries were included in the 2000 census, the state would have received a fourth seat in the House of Representatives. Instead, that seat went to North Carolina.
Bishop said August 17 that it is a matter of “religious discrimination” to exclude missionaries from the count when workers for the federal government living abroad are included.
“To be able to do this would be very easy administratively and all they have to do is certify that when a group has records that are acceptable that we can use those records,” he said. “And not just the Mormon church, but also a lot of different groups.”
Responded Lowe: “We treat all people the same.”
Census Bureau officials have acknowledged that, over the years, the bureau has varied in its approach to counting Americans living abroad. For example, the 1970 census included “private U.S. citizens living abroad for an extended period,” such as missionaries and religious workers, a bureau document states.
Kim Farah, a spokeswoman for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said the church was not commenting on the bureau’s latest decision. She said an average of 13,000 missionaries from Utah serve abroad at any given time.