The Washington Times
April 4, 2000

Census long form asks too much personal data

By Michael Farris
The Washington Times
April 4, 2000

Home-schoolers, like many Americans, find the long form of the 2000 census confusing and invasive. According to the Orange County (Calif.) Register, more than 600,000 people have called the Census Bureau, mostly to complain about the invasiveness of the long form.

My family filled out and returned the short form, which mainly asks for your name, address and race. I am sure some federal law requires the compilation of racial statistics, but we should ask ourselves, “What kind of a government compiles data on race?” The answer is clear: “One that intends to make decisions along racial lines.”

The only way we can ensure that we live in a colorblind society is to refuse to gather data about the race of Americans. Any law that needs these numbers to work properly is morally suspect and undoubtedly unconstitutional according to the original intent of the 14th Amendment. The long form asks for much more than race. How many bedrooms? How many bathrooms? What’s your income? How much is your first mortgage? How much is your second mortgage? How long does it take you to commute to work?

Let’s take the example of commuting to see the fruitlessness of trying to use such information for any valid governmental purpose.

The point of gathering information about commuting, ostensibly, would be to help decide where to build more roads and public transportation. But to do this, you would need far more information than merely how long it takes to commute to work.

If it takes the average American 28.6 minutes to commute one way, where do we build more roads to cut that average trip to 22 minutes? Well, you could look at that information a bit more locally. If it takes the average Virginian 29 minutes to commute, where do the new roads go? If it takes the average Fairfax County resident 45 minutes, do we build more roads from Springfield to Tysons Corner or from Great Falls to Washington?

Unless you know the origin and destination of the trip, average commuting times will not contribute to any intelligent decisions about where to build new roads.

Home-schoolers are particularly concerned about questions concerning education. For starters, how are we supposed to answer the question of where our children attend school? In some states, the law explicitly says that home-schooling is not considered attendance at a private school. The Census Bureau appears to want us to answer that our children attend a private school.

Many home-schoolers believe their children do not “attend” any school and so are answering “none of the above” on the question. A straightforward question on home-schooling would have been both clear and scary.

Why is it any business of the federal government where your children attend school? That is, why does the government need to know if it wants to comply with the Constitution?

I just can’t imagine what federal purpose information about bathrooms and bedrooms can serve. Liberals have screamed for years about keeping government out of the bedroom; now they want to watch us in the shower.

We have received all the assurances that this information will be kept confidential. Why do the words “no controlling legal authority” keep running through my mind whenever I hear such assurances?

Perhaps this thought arises from the sordid history of the Census Department and its supply of detailed racial data on Japanese Americans that was employed in that despicable chapter of history when Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s administration ordered the imprisonment of thousands of American citizens with the wrong color skin.

The threat of jail didn’t seem to stop the misuse of FBI files by the Clinton administration. Why should we believe there will be no misuse of this data by this or a like-minded future administration?

Actually, we only have ourselves to blame for the invasiveness of this census. The reality is that the census is only a symptom but not the true disease. The real illness is a federal government that has gone so far outside its constitutionally enumerated powers that it believes it needs to know how many bedrooms you have, how many bathrooms you have and the amount of your second mortgage.

If the federal government didn’t have unconstitutional programs, it wouldn’t ask unconstitutional questions.

Michael Farris is the father of 10 home-schooled children and president of the
Home School Legal Defense Association

Copyright 2000 News World Communications, Inc. Reprinted with permission of The Washington Times. Visit our web site at http://www.washtimes.com.